How Does Air Pollution Affect Honey Bees?

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  • While air pollution has not been directly linked to the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder (CCD), where honeybees are abandoning healthy hives, air pollution is definitely a stress on the honeybee and is partly responsible for the decline in their numbers. Since 2006, when CCD became evident, environmentalists have been in alarm over the declining number of honeybees and the direct effect this has on the world's crops. As honeybees are one of the main pollinators of humankind's food supply, pollinating 80 percent of the world's crops, this is indeed a reason for alarm.

  • Honeybees have poor vision and are dependent on their sense of smell in finding food. Honeybees go to ornamental flowers as well as the flower buds of fruit trees and crops for the pollen and nectar they depend on. With the increase in smog and exhaust in the air, the spread of the flowers' scent is impeded. As the flowers' scent travels on the wind, it encounters pollutants and is stopped. The scent of a flower used to travel up to 4,000 feet in the 1800s, but in the 2000s, this number is greatly decreased. In highly polluted cities, a flower's scent will only travel 1,000 feet, according to the Washington Post. Natural News reports that the scent is only traveling 200 to 400 feet in highly polluted areas.

  • Honeybees searching for flowers are not finding them due to air pollution. These bees are then unable to bring food to their hives. This results in the hive not reproducing at its normal rate, as well as the flowers not reproducing due to lack of pollination. It becomes a vicious cycle resulting in less honeybees, less flowers and, ultimately, less food for humans.
    Similarly, Natural News reports that due to their sense of smell being compromised by air pollution, honeybees may be finding it more difficult to mate and to defend themselves as well. This would also cause their numbers to decline.

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  • Photo Credit Photograph by Tanakawho; Flickr.com
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