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Diesel fumes prevent bees from finding food

A new study proves that diesel exhaust pollution alters half of the most common flower scents that bees need to locate their food

Quelle:: University of Southampton, US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Agriculture

Honey Bee pollinating a yellow flower
Honey Bee pollinating a yellow flower

Prior to the Volkswagen emissions scandal, diesel was hailed as a great environmentally friendly fuel options, with Volkswagen Passat TDI even being named the most eco-friendly car of 2015 by the popular car website cars.com. 

Volkswagen Passat TDI blueMotion car on display at 85th International Geneva Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, 3 March 2015
Volkswagen Passat TDI blueMotion car on display at 85th International Geneva Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, 3 March 2015
Dong liu/Shutterstock

However, the nitrous oxide present in the exhaust gas of diesel vehicles has always been a concern, as exposure to it has been linked to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses in humans.

Close up of a car's fumes emissions in the traffic jam in Milan January 19, 2011.
Close up of a car's fumes emissions in the traffic jam in Milan January 19, 2011.
Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com

Researchers from the University of Southampton now have proof that the nitrous oxide in diesel fumes significantly alters four of the eight most common flower volatiles that bees use to recognize flowers, essentially halving bees' food options.

Flowers next to a major highway
Flowers next to a major highway

Bees use a mixture of olfactory and visual stimuli to find suitable host plants, but rely mainly on their sense of smell to locate food. Thus, pollinators in polluted areas may need to spend more time searching for adequate flowers, which could lead to decreased pollination rates.

Honey bee pollinating a peach tree blossom
Honey bee pollinating a peach tree blossom

This has a damaging effect not only on the size of the bee population, but also the food industry; with nearly 80 percent of food and plat-based industrial products requiring pollination, a service worth more than 3 trillion dollars worldwide. 

Bee hives in a rapeseed field. Rapeseed is used for the production of canola oil, a commonly used cooking oil
Bee hives in a rapeseed field. Rapeseed is used for the production of canola oil, a commonly used cooking oil

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