A field-based quantitative analysis of sublethal effects of air pollution on pollinators

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Aug 25;117(34):20653-20661. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2009074117. Epub 2020 Aug 10.


While the impact of air pollution on human health is well studied, mechanistic impacts of air pollution on wild systems, including those providing essential ecosystem services, are largely unknown, but directly impact our health and well-being. India is the world's largest fruit producer, second most populous country, and contains 9 of the world's 10 most polluted cities. Here, we sampled Giant Asian honey bees, Apis dorsata, at locations with varying air pollution levels in Bangalore, India. We observed significant correlations between increased respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) deposition and changes in bee survival, flower visitation, heart rate, hemocyte levels, and expression of genes related to lipid metabolism, stress, and immunity. Lab-reared Drosophila melanogaster exposed to these same sites also exhibited similar molecular and physiological differences. Our study offers a quantitative analysis on the current impacts of air pollution on insects, and indicates the urgency for more nonhuman studies to accurately assess the effects of pollution on our natural world.

Keywords: apis; behavioral ecology; ecosystem services; insect physiology; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Cities
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Ecosystem
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • India
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Pollination / physiology*


  • Particulate Matter