As a species, we are not doing right by bees. They work so, so hard to pollinate the plants that form the basis for human existence, and, at every junction, we try to thwart them. A new study, for instance, has found that diesel fumes from cars essentially eliminate bees’ ability to smell flowers. If bees can’t smell the flowers, they can’t find them, which means they can’t feed off them or pollinate them, either.
The researchers found, specifically, that the nitrogen oxides in diesel fumes mingle and react with flowers’ smell chemicals, changing them into other chemicals that are meaningless to bees. The Guardian reports:
The researchers strapped bees down and taught them to associate floral scents with food in the form of a sugar solution. Once the bees learned the connection they began sticking their tongues out in anticipation of food even if it wasn’t offered – an indication that they recognised the smell. When the scent was presented without pollutants, the bees recognised it 98-99% of the time. But after the scent had been mixed with levels of diesel exhaust matching those found by roadsides, the bees only recognised it 30% of the time.
Let’s not even talk about the fact that the scientists had to create some sort of weird bee interrogation chamber to figure this out. Point is, if a bee ever stings you, just remember: you probably deserve it.
Traffic fumes make honeybees unable to recognise flower scent, study shows, Guardian.
Get Grist in your inbox