Diesel exhaust rapidly degrades floral odours used by honeybees

Honeybees utilise floral odours when foraging for flowers; we investigated whether diesel exhaust pollution could interrupt these floral odour stimuli. A synthetic blend of eight floral chemicals, identified from oilseed rape, was exposed to diesel exhaust pollution. Within one minute of exposure the abundances of four of the chemicals were significantly lowered, with two components rendered undetectable. Honeybees were trained to recognise the full synthetic odour mix; altering the blend, by removing the two chemicals rendered undetectable, significantly reduced the ability of the trained honeybees to recognize the altered odour. Furthermore, we found that at environmentally relevant levels the mono-nitrogen oxide (NOx) fraction of the exhaust gases was a key facilitator of this odour degradation. Such changes in recognition may impact upon a honeybee’s foraging efficiency and therefore the pollination services that they provide.