Friday, May 9, 2008

Off topic: Bees are blinded by pollution

This is pretty interesting - remember all those disappearing Bees!

Jose D. Fuentes, Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal at the University of Virginia have come up with a potential explanation.

Links to Virginia press release - from there you can find some audio of Jose Fuentes talking about his group's findings.

Air Pollution Impedes Bees' Ability to Find Flowers
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 5, 2008; Page A03

When the spread of flowers' scents are impeded, bees may be less likely to find and pollinate the flowers. A drop in pollination is reducing crops worldwide.
When the spread of flowers' scents are impeded, bees may be less likely to find and pollinate the flowers. A drop in pollination is reducing crops worldwide.

Air pollution interferes with the ability of bees and other insects to follow the scent of flowers to their source, undermining the essential process of pollination, a study by three University of Virginia researchers suggests.

Their findings may help unlock part of the mystery surrounding the current pollination crisis that is affecting a wide variety of crops. Scientists are seeking to determine why honeybees and bumblebees are dying off in the United States and in other countries, and the new study indicates that emissions from power plants and automobiles may play a part in the insects' demise.

Scientists already knew that scent-bearing hydrocarbon molecules released by flowers can be destroyed when they come into contact with ozone and other pollutants. Environmental sciences professor Jose D. Fuentes at the University of Virginia -- working with graduate students Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal -- used a mathematical model to determine how flowers' scents travel with the wind and how quickly they come into contact with pollutants that can destroy them. They described their results in the March issue of the journal Atmospheric Environment.

3 comments:

Albert said...

Interesting. Whats a little surprising is that the number of bees is currently decreasing if air pollution is a contributing factor. We're told that air quality has been improving. Anecdotally this seems the case in Dublin - there are no big smog clouds like there were in the 80's and lichens seem to be growing again in places where they had died off. But according to media reports the number of bees has rapidly declined in recent years.
Cool blog btw!

Dave said...

Albert,

good point ... I'm not entirely sure but my guess is that not all pollution is the same.

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