Diesel nanoparticles may disturb bee’s homing device, contribute to CCD

Air pollution from diesel engine fumes may end up in a honeybee’s brain. And for our flower-powered little friends that could be about as bad as it sounds, say a group of researchers from the University of Southampton – led by a Professor in ecology and a neuroscientist.

Diesel nanoparticles bee CCD

It’s been a while since we last added something to our Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) file – that mysterious die-off of bees and bumblebees. Most of the suggested causes deal with bee pathogens and the bee’s immune system (and intuitively make best sense).

We have however also reported on somewhat less conventional theories, like the suggested connection between CCD and cell phones. The diesel theory seems to fit in that category, also because it focuses on the bees’ navigation systems, suggesting colonies collapse not because they get infected with something, but simply because bees get lost in space – depriving hives of both workers and food.

The link between nanoparticle aerosols (from diesel exhaust fumes) and CCD has first been suggested in a 2010 Colony Collapse Disorder progress report (PDF) by the US Department of Agriculture. It suggests the nanoparticles could maybe damage bees’ brains, after which the worker bees fly astray.

The British scientists have now received a fund for a three year study to better investigate this possibility. They add that diesel fumes can have an additional detrimental effect on the bees’ lives, by masking the smell of flowers. [Hmm… does that perhaps sound like the result of a ‘what else have we got?’ brainstorm – an ecologist’s easy attempt to turn a nano-neurological matter into an interdisciplinary academic quest?]

Let’s just hope the people at Southampton will have all the answers before the end of 2014.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org

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