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Air Air pollution Confuses Bees and Butterflies


Honeybee on wingstem (photo by Kate St. John)

18 August 2022

We know that air pollution hurts humans. It is also bad for agriculture in an unexpected way. A study published in early 2022 by the University of Reading revealed that air pollution confuses bees and butterflies and reduces their pollination efforts.

Scientists from the University of Reading, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the University of Birmingham found that there were up to 70% fewer pollinators, up to 90% fewer flower visits and an overall pollination reduction of up to 31% in test plants when common ground-level air pollutants, including diesel exhaust pollutants and ozone, were present.

Technology Networks Applied Sciences: Pollination Reduced As Bees and Butterflies Confused by Air Pollution

“Diesel exhaust and ozone pollution can react with the chemicals that make up the floral odors that insects use to find flowers,” said James Ryalls, a University of Reading research fellow and the lead author of a paper describing the research published [19 Jan 2022] in the journal Environmental Pollution. “It can just make them not smell anything at all.”

The Wall Street Journal: Bees and Butterflies Get Confused by Air Pollutants, Posing Threat to Crops

The theory is that the pollutants react with and change the scents of flowers, making them harder to find. Perhaps the bees are also confused by the load of particulate pollution that clings to their bodies, described in the article below.

In any case, air pollution is bad for our food supply.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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