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Earth Science

Air Pollution Can Disrupt Pollinating Insects By Concealing the Scent of Flowers 67

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-smell-you-with dept.
vinces99 writes Car and truck exhaust fumes that foul the air for humans also cause problems for pollinators. In new research on how pollinators find flowers when background odors are strong, University of Washington and University of Arizona researchers found that both natural plant odors and human sources of pollution can conceal the scent of sought-after flowers. When the calories from one feeding of a flower gets you only 15 minutes of flight, as is the case with the tobacco hornworn moth studied, being misled costs a pollinator energy and time. "Local vegetation can mask the scent of flowers because the background scents activate the same moth olfactory channels as floral scents," according to Jeffrey Riffell, UW assistant professor of biology. "Plus the chemicals in these scents are similar to those emitted from exhaust engines and we found that pollutant concentrations equivalent to urban environments can decrease the ability of pollinators to find flowers."
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Air Pollution Can Disrupt Pollinating Insects By Concealing the Scent of Flowers

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  • Easy fix (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We just need to create tiny insect robots to replace the defective real insects.

    • by idji (984038)
      http://www.honeycouncil.ca/chc... [honeycouncil.ca]
      Bees need to fly twice around the word (50,000 miles) and visit 2.6 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
      Your robots are not coming to save us any time soon.
    • I have another easy fix proposal.

      Just calculate the marginal cost of a kilogram of combusted fuel due to pollination problems and, add it to the fuel tax, and spend it on research to drive down the cost of more fuel-efficient cars and hydrogen vehicles.

      • Just calculate the marginal cost of a kilogram of combusted fuel due to pollination problems and, add it to the fuel tax, and spend it on research to drive down the cost of more fuel-efficient cars and hydrogen vehicles.

        I think if you research the actual numbers, you will find that government regulation has done anything but reduce the cost of vehicles.

  • by CycleMan (638982) on Friday June 27, 2014 @01:24AM (#47330585)
    It's been standard knowledge for home gardeners that growing just one thing (e.g. tomatoes or carrots) in a certain space makes it easy for the bugs that feed on it to find it, but if you mix things up then the pests are confused and less successful. To protect against plant-specific pests, put a variety of things together in your garden: flowers, herbs, vegetables. The good pollinators like honeybees will love it; the carrot fly and tomato hornworm moth will have a much harder time finding the carrots and tomatoes to land on and lay their eggs.
    • Shh. If you tell people that they won't know that this has been known since we started agriculture. As a useful tip: Planting tobacco plants mixed with plants that are sensitive to pest infestations will help minimize it.

      • Shh. If you tell people that they won't know that this has been known since we started agriculture. As a useful tip: Planting tobacco plants mixed with plants that are sensitive to pest infestations will help minimize it.

        Dill keeps away rabbits. There's a whole "Amateur scientist" Thing with this. I grow a lot of stuff, and I still constantly finding out new things. The issue is that it's regional... what works here might not work 50 miles away. The Internet is not good at disseminating such specific information. The best suggestion I have is to know other people in your area that do the same thing. Especially old people... Farmers almanac is good to. But keep in mind, there's a lot of BS in both sources as well so be skept

        • Good to know. I've been unable to plant anything because a local rabbit (or family of rabbits) will constantly chew up anything I try planting. Does dill work on chipmunks too? (And, if so, can I sprinkle some dried dill into a chipmunk hole to encourage them to leave?)

          • yes, in my experience Dill keeps away small mammals.

            What works better is a properly raise bed garden. Meaning you build walls above ground to contain the dirt. Then Put wire mesh at the bottom so they cant dig up through. Put down a layer of dirt. Fill it with your favorite mulch/soil. Viola. Make sure its about 2ft high or so, so the rabbits cant just climb up.

            Second solution: A good pellet gun.

            BEST solution (by far) a fenced in yard and a good dog.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Shh. If you tell people that they won't know that this has been known since we started agriculture. As a useful tip: Planting tobacco plants mixed with plants that are sensitive to pest infestations will help minimize it.

        I heard what is better is to plant marijuana between your corn plants.

        • I heard what is better is to plant marijuana between your corn plants.

          That certainly helped keep one kind of major pest away.

      • University of Washington and University of Arizona researchers found that both natural plant odors and human sources of pollution can conceal the scent of sought-after flowers.

        Methodology: mash up some flowers and alfalfa, then put it under your armpit all day in summer. See if the bees want it.

  • are good for something other than driving.
    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday June 27, 2014 @02:59AM (#47330809)

      It's a good idea, congratulations on thinking outside of the box, but electric cars are a bit too cumbersome for that. They'd also need a driver, as tobacco hornworns can't drive.

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        It's a good idea, congratulations on thinking outside of the box, but electric cars are a bit too cumbersome for that. They'd also need a driver, as tobacco hornworns can't drive.

        I meant, use the cars to pollinate the flowers

    • by randomErr (172078)
      To manufacture electric cars you have to use materials that are more costly, harder to mine and toxic (lithium and mercury). So they create more pollution to. Also electric cars have to get there electricity from somewhere that's generating pollution as well. The sum gain of electric cars is about the same as regular cars. The pollution just comes in another form.
  • by tsa (15680)

    That's a pity for the insects, but we live on this planet too, you know. We can't undo all of our pollution.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I disagree. Human being work actually quite well as an air filter. We just need to breathe more to retain as much pollution as we can in our lungs before dying and returning the components to the ground.

      All green parties should be supporting this "Breathe more!" campaign.

  • by itzly (3699663)
    The tomato hornworm moth is a pest anyway. Good riddance.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Friday June 27, 2014 @02:23AM (#47330743)

    Neonicotinoids can cause problems for pollinators by concealing their metabolism.

    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/ne... [harvard.edu]

  • Well, it's a good thing we don't grow a whole lot of food crops in the streets of New York City. For a minute there I was worried.

  • by cmdr_tofu (826352) on Friday June 27, 2014 @08:10AM (#47331649) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure tobacco hornworms are a pest, not a farm-aid. At least if my memory serves me correctly they are BIG critters and demolish tomato plants. Luckily a tiny wasp (bracconid) likes to lay its eggs in the skin of the tobacco hornworm and the hatchlings devour that critter. Whenever I'd find them in my garden I'd toss them into the woods.

    I guess in their moth stage they are pollinators. I did not know this.

  • Parfum can disrupt men by concealing the scent of a woman. Then, when you've had your whole life not being used to it, one drops panties and you're like, OH GOD I CAN'T GO DOWN ON THAT!

    The next day, your bedroom is loaded with Glade Plug-Ins.

  • by vdoogs (765125)
    Anyone else think this is related to the declining bee population?
  • Don't try to grow stuff in urban environments. Growing food on a farm and trucking it in (or better yet hauling it on an electric train) is a far more efficient and greener use of land than single-family homes with back yards.

    "If you love nature, stay away from it." --Henry David Thoreau

  • Potpourri is evil.

It is much easier to suggest solutions when you know nothing about the problem.

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