- Even mildly dirty air could kill 80% of giant Asian honey bees, a key pollinator in South Asia.
- One of the bees “was covered with all sorts of crud and particles.”
- “This is an important and timely study.”
Bees don’t like air pollution, either.
A new study released this week found that honey bees collected at sites with higher levels of air pollution showed “lower survival rates as well as alterations in flower visitation, heart rate and blood cell counts,” according to a news release.
The research, conducted in India, found that even mildly dirty air could kill 80% of giant Asian honey bees, a key pollinator in South Asia, according to Science magazine.
The study was conducted by scientists from India’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and was published in the peer-reviewed American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The apis dorsata, or the giant Asian honey bee, is not only a common resident of Indian cities but it is an important contributor to India’s food security and ecosystems. This bee produces over 80% of the country’s honey, according to a news release.
Scientists sampled 1,820 giant Asian honey bees over a three-year period across four sites in the city of Bangalore, India, a country with high levels of air pollution that is also a major producer of fruits and vegetables.
An analysis of the bees found damage to their antennae and heart tissue, which the researchers said was due to the air pollution.
One of the bees, which was collected near an industrial area, was covered in small particles that researchers later found to contain lead, tungsten, arsenic and a host of other toxic metals.
Another “was covered with all sorts of crud and particles,” one of the researchers, Shannon Olsson, told Science. “Its body looked like a war zone.”
Overall, the air pollution may not kill bees outright, according to a review of the study in the Conversation. “But like humans repeatedly going to work under heavy stress or while feeling unwell, the researchers found that air pollution made bees sluggish in their daily activities and could be shortening their lives,” the Conversation said.
According to the authors, further studies are needed to accurately assess the impact of air pollution on the natural world and to shape international air quality guidelines.
“This is an important and timely study,” Olli Loukola, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Oulu in Finland who was not involved with the work, told Science. The findings, he said, “are the first to document the impact of air pollution on insects, and they emphasize just how far-ranging the effects of human-caused pollution can be.”
“I think we have to be more worried,” Loukola said.
‘Aggressive’ bees: Joshua Tree National Park officials close popular campground
If you thought July was hot, you were right: It was one of Earth’s hottest months ever recorded
A researcher in Florida recently set eyes on a blue Calamintha bee, a variety that was thought to have gone extinct.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/08/14/air-pollution-asian-honey-bees-harmful-study/3374325001/