Tags: bees | exhausted | diesel | fumes

Bees Exhausted by Diesel Fumes, Can't Find Flowers, Study Says

By Robin Farmer   |   Friday, 04 Oct 2013 05:56 PM

Belching diesel fumes appear to make honeybees exhausted, robbing them of the ability to target and pollinate nectar-rich flowers.

The fumes can change floral odors to undetectable forms for the bees who forage from one flower to another, according to a study in the journal Scientific Reports, which was published Thursday, Reuters reported.

"This could have serious detrimental effects on the number of honeybee colonies and pollination activity," Tracey Newman, a University of Southamptom neuroscientist who worked on the study, told Reuters.

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Learning what throws honeybees off the trail of finding and pollinatating flowers could have major implications for the world’s food supply, the team said. Honeybees pollinate about 70 percent of crop foods across the globe.

But global honeybee populations have plummeted within the past decade or so due to colony collapse disorder, a condition linked with the widespread use of synthetic pesticide and other manmade materials, LiveScience reports.

Researchers suspect diesel pollution may be another culprit.

"We got into this, because we were aware of the impacts of airborne pollutants on human health, so it didn't seem so wild that there may be impacts that extended beyond human health," Newman told BBC News.

Diesel fumes interfere with “the complex relationship" that had evolved between plants and animals, said Guy Poppy, biologist and lead researcher.

"Flowers have evolved to produce chemical mixtures that attract pollinators," he told BBC News.

Study results found gases such as nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which are found in diesel exhaust and other airborne pollution, can degrade floral odors.

Newman's study highlighted "a fresh issue to add to the many problems facing our insect pollinators,” Giles Budge of Britain's Food and Environment Research Agency told Reuters.

But more work needs to be done in the field since the study was conducted in the laboratory, he said.

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