According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nine of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in India. Yet, researchers have almost no idea how air pollution is affecting non-human organisms. In some of the first research to address the physiological and molecular impacts of air pollution on wild plants and animals, scientists from the Bangalore Life Science Cluster show that air pollution could be devastating for organisms humans rely on most for survival, like the honey bee.
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, and pollinates over 687 plants in Karnataka alone. Seventy-five percent of Indian crop species rely to some extent on animals, and mostly insects, for their production. India is the largest fruit producer and second-largest vegetable producer in the world. Without insect pollinators like honey bees, the yearly mango export would lose over Rs. 65,000 Lacs. The importance of bees and other pollinators to India’s plant biodiversity and agroeconomy cannot be overstated. MORE
Header image: Pseudocolorized, non-coated scanning electron micrographs of two foraging Giant Asian honeybee (Apis dorsata) wing regions, one (top) collected from a low polluted site in Bangalore, India (average respiratory suspended particulate matter, RSPM10 particles < 10 μM at 33.7 μg/m3) and one (bottom) collected from a highly polluted site 7.7 km away (average RSPM10 at 98.6 μg/m3). Note the presence of pollen (top) and RSPM (bottom) in the images. Credit: Micrograph obtained by Geetha Thimmegowda with a Zeiss merlin compact VP microscope at 1 kV EHT and 460X magnification.