Italy’s special police force, the Carabinieri, is known for handling high-profile criminals such as the mafia. However, they also are charged with the important responsibility of protecting local forests and the surrounding environment. To do so, the Carabinieri has worked closely with an unexpected group.
For almost five years, the special unit’s headquarters in central Rome has kept several beehives. The bees help the Carabinieri police force monitor the environment as “insect informants.”
According to Lieut. Col. Giancarlo Papitto of the Carabinieri’s forestry and Environment Unit Command, the bees help them “gather useful information, which isn’t normally available, about the atmospheric pollutants that might be present in urban areas, such as dioxins and other substances.”
The bees help inform the police force so that they can gain a better understanding of the state of their environment. The bees can gather vital information on things like air pollution levels.
“This will allow us to have a fuller picture of the situation and help improve urban living and will affect political decisions in a way that will improve the quality of life in our cities and the health of our citizens,” explains General Pietro Antonio Marzo to Euronews.
Why the city and not the country?
Cities are commonly viewed as not as biodiverse as the countryside, however, the President of Italy’s Apiculture Federation Raffaele Cirone begs to differ.
“Cities are naturally rich in biodiversity. If you take balconies, for example, where so many different plants are being taken care of, or gardens and green urban areas, these are filled with species that appeal to bees,” Cirone says. “Both the nectar and the pollen that is being produced in Rome tell us that the city has a great variety of flowers.”
The Carabinieri are not planning on terminating their partnership with the bees anytime soon—quite the opposite in fact. The program has just received a €500,000 investment to extend the beekeeping project to more cities across the country.
“Italy could become the first pilot case and what has been achieved here could be replicated across the rest of Europe,” says long-term Lieut. Col Giancarlo Papitto.