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Do Vehicular Fumes Confuse Pollinating Insects?

Published: 29th June 2014 09:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2014 09:25 AM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: It is not just humans who face the ill-effects of vehicular pollution. A recent study has revealed that insects, especially bees and moths, get confused while looking for flowers because of exhaust fumes released by vehicles.

According to a group of American scientists who have reported this in Science Online, the fumes from vehicles increase the chances of important pollinators like moths and honey bees starving and affect their capacity as pollinators. This in turn affects crops and other flowers.

According to the study, the moth’s ability to track odour depends on the background and odour frequency. But the increase in pollution level confuses the insect’s brain and it cannot find its way to the flowers. The paper further adds, “Pollinators use their sense of smell to locate flowers from long distances, but little is known about how they are able to discriminate their target odour from a melange of other natural and anthropogenic odours.”

The scientists measured the plume from Datura wrightii flowers, a nectar resource for a species of moths called Manduca sexta and showed that the scent was dynamic and rapidly embedded among background odours. The results show that the mix of odours present in the environment influenced the pollinators’ ability to smell.

They drew similarities between humans and insects and said air pollution is also bad for the health of moths and bees. There are four to five types of vehicle emissions and air pollutants, namely Nitric Oxide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Lead and suspended particulate matter, said  Dr Sumant N Mantri, senior consultant, Respiratory Medicine, Sakra World Hospital.  “People suffer from exacerbation of asthma and pulmonary conditions that lead to upper respiratory tract infections. It also affects people who have pre-respiratory disorders and reduces local immunity in the respiratory tract. Indirectly, it also affects pregnant women and worsens cardiac infections,” Mantri said.

More from Bengaluru.

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