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Bees Now Find it Harder Finding Flowers, No Thanks To Pollution

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By Erika John - - 5 Mins Read
A bee sets to perch on a sunflower
Bee on a flower | Unsplash

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to lose your sense of smell as a human? Not being able to detect when something potentially harmful is emitting a foul odor would be concerning, right?


Well, new research suggests that bees are experiencing a similar issue, although it's not exactly their sense of smell that's affected. This loss of perception could be detrimental to their health and well-being.


How bees find flowers has even been truncated due to human environmental activities. According to new research from scientists in the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Universities of Birmingham, Reading, Surrey, and Southern Queensland, the kingdom of the bees is in trouble. They have lost what is equivalent to a sense of smell. 


Apparently, the issue is coming from the ozone. Some of the air pollution effects are having a massive impact on the bees, and their sense of identification has gone down the drain. According to research by these scientists, the ozone drastically changes the size and scent of floral odor plumes given off by flowers.


This occurrence results in bees failing to detect such flowers, even from a few meters away. This is a huge problem, and not many people are talking about it. The scientists discovered what is causing this massive issue with the bees. 


So, ground-level ozone is the most significant contributor to the bees losing their sense of smell of flowers. And the bad thing is that the formation of this ozone results from human activity. Generally, this ozone occurs when nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles and industrial processes react with volatile organic compounds.


A bee pollinating a flower
Photo Credit | Anja/Pixabay


In this scenario, the volatile organic compounds are emitted by vegetation in the presence of sunlight. Professor Christian Pfrang from the University of Birmingham has expressed concerns about the consequences of allowing this to persist for humans. It has been observed that bees, when unable to recognize flowers due to this behavior, can negatively impact food security.


"Our study provides robust evidence that the changes due to ground-level ozone on floral scent cause pollinators to struggle to carry out their crucial role in the natural environment also with implications for food security," Professor Christian Pfrang added. 


Why is this Occurrence Bad for the Environment? 

Bees are vital to our ecosystem and contribute heavily to food production. Losing their sense of identifying flowers and helping in pollination is very bad for the environment. Continuing in this part means the world might drastically increase food insecurity.


Dr Ben Langford, an atmospheric scientist at UKCEH who led this research, said insects like bees play a critical role in providing food for the world. Pollination is an integral part of food production in crops. 


"Some 75% of our food crops and nearly 90% of wild flowering plants depend, to some extent, upon animal pollination, particularly by insects. Therefore, understanding what adversely affects pollination, and how, is essential to helping us preserve the critical services that we rely upon for production of food, textiles, biofuels and medicines, for example," Dr Ben Langford said.