Are Diesel Exhaust Fumes to Blame for Honeybee Colony Collapse?

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The importance of bees in our food system often goes unappreciated. Just by going about their daily business, these insects are responsible for pollinating three-quarters of the 100 crop species that provide roughly 90 percent of the global food supply. The most recent estimate for the economic value of this bee activity is that it’s worth over $200 billion.

But in recent years, an alarming number of bee colonies across North America and Europe have begun to collapse. As part of the phenomenon, formally known as Colony Collapse Disorder, worker bees fail to return to the hive after their pollen-collecting trips nearby. We still don’t fully understand what’s driving this trend, but the list of culprits likely includes pesticides, viral infections, intensive agriculture and perhaps even the practice of feeding bees high fructose corn syrup in place of the honey we take from them.

New research, though, suggests there may be an overlooked problem: the exhaust fumes produced by diesel-powered engines. As described in a study published today in Scientific Reports, a group of researchers from the UK’s University of Southampton found that the pollution produced by diesel combustion reduces bees’ ability to recognize the scent of various flowers—a key sense they use in navigating and finding food sources.

Written By: Joseph Stromberg
continue to source article at blogs.smithsonianmag.com

8 COMMENTS

  1. I remember reading a few years back that pollution interferes with a bee’s ability to sniff out flowers.

    A study suggesting that diesel fumes in particular may wreak havoc seems logical. When caught in a waft of (even “clean”) fumes, I feel as if I’ve been poisoned. Poor bees :(

  2. I’ve seen other things cited as the cause of colony collapse as well. My feeling is if we ever know for sure it will turn out to be a combination of various pollutants. One more reason (not that we needed more) why we should be investing a lot more money into research and development for clean energy. It’s mind boggling that in the US there are still at least as many incentives to use fossil fuels as renewables For example, we give companies like Exxon huge tax breaks to encourage them to look for new sources of oil — as if record breaking profits, that is quite literal the oil companies have posted profits that are bigger than any other corporation in all of recorded history — aren’t enough.

    • In reply to #2 by Red Dog:

      It’s mind boggling that in the US there are still at least as many incentives to use fossil fuels as renewables For example, we give companies like Exxon huge tax breaks to encourage them to look for new sources of oil — as if record breaking profits, that is quite literal the oil companies have posted profits that are bigger than any other corporation in all of recorded history — aren’t enough.

      “We” do not. “Our” elected by “us”, yet, wholly owned by nuclear & fossil fuel interests, “representatives” do.

  3. There are about 8 hypotheses about what is killing the bees. It could be one of these, or all 8. It seems to me what we need is an experiment where various combinations of the 8 problems are rectified. It would be terrible if we got rid of one toxin unnecessarily.

    We may have already done that partially with some political jurisdictions banning some of the suspected culprits.

    We better get on with it. There is a large section of China without flowering plants. They wiped out the bees which wiped out the plants.

    Bees have been around about 150 million years. They have all kinds of intelligent behaviours hard wired into their tiny brains, including recognising human faces, and comparative evaluation of new nest sites using a largely consensus algorithm. They are not a creature that will have an easy time adjusting to all the hurdles we humans place for them. They don’t have a massive amount of variation and breeding individuals. They are not like regular insects. You might say a hive is the analogy of a single badger.

  4. OK,now be good scientists and use other pleasant and unpleasant odor-masking substances as controls, such as vanilla, chocolate, skunk oil, garlic breath, cooked cabbage, etc., and see whether the bees are fine with those or whether it confuses them as badly as big bad diesel exhaust. I smell a certain tendentiousness here.

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