A team of researchers has been conducting a number of tests on the effects of diesel exhaust fumes on the foraging of bees for nectar. The test results show that a group of chemicals known as NOx (mono-nitrogen oxide) react with the scent-producing chemicals in flowers. NOx degrades these odour chemicals and bees are much less responsive to their smell.
Scientists involved in the study say that these results are evidence that air quality must be improved. Lead researcher Dr Guy Poppy told BBC News that this airbourne pollution interferes with the “complex relationship” between plants and animals.
“Bees need to decipher the chemical messages they’re getting [from flowers] to be able to home in on the flowers they know will give the best yield [of nectar],” said Dr Tracey Newman of the University of Southampton, who was involved in the research. When bees are unable to decipher these messages, they are less able to efficiently forage for nectar. This affects their ability not only to find nectar but to perform the much needed “pollination service”, which has an estimated value to UK food production of hundreds of millions of pounds per year.