A new study from the University of Southampton shows that common air pollutants from diesel exhaust disrupt honeybee’s navigation by affecting their ability to sniff floral scents that help them distinguish and locate flowers.
Indeed air pollution in general is an ongoing problem as it increasingly contributes to allergies, cancers,and our overall well-being.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being challenged anew by eight Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that want “upwind” states to dramatically curb air pollution. The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have signed a petition that would add the nine upwind states—Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia—to the Ozone Transport Region (OTR), established in 1990, to meet the emission control requirements for VOC and NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are found in diesel exhaust).
“Honeybees have a sensitive sense of smell and an exceptional ability to learn and memorize new odors,” says Dr. Tracey Newman, a neuroscientist at the University of Southampton. “NOx gases represent some of the most reactive gases produced from diesel combustion and other fossil fuels, but the emissions limits for nitrogen dioxide are regularly exceeded, especially in urban areas. Our results suggest that that diesel exhaust pollution alters the components of a synthetic floral odor blend, which affects the honeybee’s recognition of the odour. This could have serious detrimental effects on the number of honeybee colonies and pollination activity.”
According to the office of the governor of Rhode Island, “As much as 70 to 98 percent of this ozone air pollution problem is blown in from upwind states—and parts of some downwind states would remain in violation of federal standards even if they eliminated all of the pollution generated within their borders.”
Without concerted and coordinated action, we must as a group of citizens continue to tackle environmental issues. Education is the first step toward affecting change.
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