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

The pollutants react with and change the scents of flowers, making them harder to find. “It can just make them not smell anything at all,” said lead author James Ryall.

Perhaps the bees are also confused by the load of particulate pollution that clings to their bodies via static electricity. Read more below.

Air pollution is not just bad for us, it’s bad for our food supply.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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