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You are here: News & Events On the Research Front Bee Health Diesel Fumes Could Be A Factor for Colony Collapse Disorder

Diesel Fumes Could Be A Factor for Colony Collapse Disorder

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Chennai, October 9, 2011: The Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that causes serious decline in bee colonies in several countries, is considered a result of several factors affecting the honey bees. A 2010 report on 'Global Honey Bee Colony Disorders and Other Threats to Insect Pollinators' by the United Nations Environment Programme, lists some important reasons as: habitat degradation, including the loss of flowering plant species that provide food for bees; insecticides, including the systemic ones, which can be taken in by bees in nectar and pollen; parasties and pests, mainly the Varroa mite, Nosema ceranae and viruses, and, air pollution, which may interfere with the ability of bees to find flowering plants and thus food. To this last factor is added one more possibility: scientists from the University of Southampton  are suggesting nanoparticles in diesel fuel may be a contributing factor in CCD. Following is a news release dated October 7, 2011 by the University of Southampton on this subject.

University of Southampton News Release

New Research: are global honey bee declines caused by diesel pollution?

Ref: 11/97 - 07 October 2011

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 diesel engiens could be affecting bees' brains and damaging their inbuilt 'sat-navs'. They believe this may stop worker bees finding their way back to the hive.

The team is also investigating the possibility that nanoparticles 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 estimateed 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 (USDA). 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 diesel fumes may have a dual effect 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 bee colony collapse.

The three year study has been made possible by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant of £ 156,000.