Scientists from Britain’s University of Southampton found diesel fumes may be disrupting the honeybees’ ability to recognize certain flowers and pollinate. Not only does this threaten the survival of honeybee populations, but there are also concerns of a possible global food shortage as a result.
Guy Poppy, an ecology professor who worked on the study, said honeybees must be able to recognize different flowers in order to forage effectively. NOx gas, or nitrogen dioxide, conflicts with their ability to do this. To test this out in the lab, researchers mixed 8 chemicals found in rapeseed oil flowers with air in one experiment, and diesel fumes in the other.
They found six of the chemicals were severely masked when mixed with diesel fumes, and two disappeared completely. Researchers used the same process using just NOx, which is found in diesel fumes, and found it yielded the same results. This leads researchers to believe NOx is a key component. When the mixture was shown to honeybees, they had trouble recognizing it. The results of which indicate that diesel fumes mask the scent honeybees rely on to pollinate.
The results of this study mean many things. It means bee populations will decline drastically and there will no longer be pollination. More importantly, it will create food shortages as well. Bee populations have been declining for a while, but the cause has been hidden from us. Europe has already taken action and banned three of the most widely used pesticides. However, the British government wants to abstain from banning products because the study was only performed in a lab and does not accurately reflect what may be happening in the environment. Therefore, they have deemed it inconclusive.
It is obvious bee populations are in decline and we need to do a better job of making the earth a better place for them to live. This study has highlighted issues that were not there before, but it needs more research in the natural environment.