Sublethal effects of air pollution on Giant Asian honeybees

Sublethal effects of air pollution on Giant Asian honeybees

Researchers in India sampled Giant Asian honey bees (Apis dorsata) at locations with varying air pollution levels in Bangalore.

They used scanning electron microscopy to quantify the respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) on the sampled bees. They measured the percentage area covered by particulate matter on the hindlegs, antennae, and wings after allowing bees to groom. They found RSPM present on the edges and upper surface of the wings, the tips of the antennae and the inner and outer cuticular layer of hindlegs.

Using scanning electron microscopy with X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) they confirmed the presence of several heavy metals including arsenic (As), lead (Pb), tungsten (W), aluminum (Al), with the highest number of metallic elements on bees collected from highly polluted sites.

They found that increased particulate matter deposition was significantly correlated to changes in bee survival, flower visitation, heart rate, hemocyte levels, and gene expression related to lipid metabolism, stress, and immunity.

The research highlights the need for more studies to accurately assess the effects of pollution.

Read the paper:
Thimmegowda, G.G., Mullen, S.,  Sottilare, K., Sharma, A., Mohanta, S.S., Brockmann, A., Dhandapany. P.S., & Olsson, S.B. (2020) A field-based quantitative analysis of sublethal effects of air pollution on pollinators. PNAS. 117 (34)

Banner image: Close up of Apis dorsata workers on a hive.
Copyright: Nireekshit. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0