New research: Are global honey bee declines caused by diesel pollution?

Scientists are investigating a possible link between tiny particles of pollution found in diesel fumes and the global collapse of honey bee colonies.

Professor Guy Poppy, an ecologist, Dr Tracey Newman, a neuroscientist, and their team from the University of Southampton believe that minuscule particles, or 'nanoparticles', emitted from could be affecting bees' brains and damaging their inbuilt 'sat-navs'. They believe this may stop finding their way back to the hive.

The team is also investigating the possibility that are one of a number of stress factors that could lead to a tipping point in bee health, which in turn could contribute to bee colony collapse.

"Diesel road-traffic is increasing in the UK and research from the US has shown that nanoparticles found in its fumes can be detrimental to the brains of animals when they are exposed to large doses. We want to find out if bees are affected in the same way – and answer the question of why bees aren't finding their way back to the hive when they leave to find food," explains Professor Poppy.

Bees are estimated to contribute billions to the world's economy - £430 million a year to the UK alone - by pollinating crops, producing honey and supporting employment. Yet winter losses have led to the loss of tens of thousands of beehives year on year since 2007. The US has seen a 35 per cent unexplained drop in the number of hives in 2007, 2008 and 2009*. Extensive research, including a recent United Nations Report, has so far not identified the cause of bee declines.

The team from the University of Southampton, including biologists, nanotechnology researchers and ecologists will test the behavioural and neurological changes in honey bees, after exposure to diesel nanoparticles.

Chemical ecologist Dr Robbie Girling, adds: "The may have a dual affect in that they may be mopping up flower smells in the air, making it harder for the bees to find their food sources."

Recent research which has revealed more about the effects of nanoparticles has enabled scientists to investigate this possible link to collapse.

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Citation: New research: Are global honey bee declines caused by diesel pollution? (2011, October 7) retrieved 20 July 2019 from
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Oct 07, 2011
"Are global honey bee declines caused by diesel pollution?"

Big Oil Apologists: "No. No!" *shakes head, rocks back and forth, catatonic, hitting self on side of head* "Hot water burn baby!"


Seriously though, I do hope that science will win the race between achieving economically viable green technologies (solar, fusion, etc that are actually cheaper and more plentiful than fossil) and irreversible climate change.

Oct 07, 2011
Common, Diesel has been around for longer than just 2007,2008,2009. It's use hasn't jumped 35% in that three year period. Sure, it might be a contributing factor, but to call it the straw that broke the camels back, without looking to see if the camel is ladened with lead, seems to be a mistake. It's something else. Who knows, maybe it's cell phone networks? - their growth,frequency range and large scale distribution has increased at an near astronomical rate the last five years. Anyway, I hope they sort it out. I love food.

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