Defining Pollinator Health: A Holistic Approach Based on Ecological, Genetic, and Physiological Factors

Annual Review of Animal Biosciences

Vol. 8:269-294 (Volume publication date February 2020)
First published as a Review in Advance on October 16, 2019


Evidence for global bee population declines has catalyzed a rapidly evolving area of research that aims to identify the causal factors and to effectively assess the status of pollinator populations. The term pollinator health emerged through efforts to understand causes of bee decline and colony losses, but it lacks a formal definition. In this review, we propose a definition for pollinator health and synthesize the available literature on the application of standardized biomarkers to assess health at the individual, colony, and population levels. We focus on biomarkers in honey bees, a model species, but extrapolate the potential application of these approaches to monitor the health status of wild bee populations. Biomarker-guided health measures can inform beekeeper management decisions, wild bee conservation efforts, and environmental policies. We conclude by addressing challenges to pollinator health from a One Health perspective that emphasizes the interplay between environmental quality and human, animal, and bee health.