New research shows that fumes from car exhaust can mess with a pollinator's ability to find flowers.
“Pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths use their sense of smell to locate flowers from long distances, but we found that scent from neighboring vegetation, and even pollutants given off from vehicle exhaust, can disrupt the moth’s behavior,” one of the study’s authors, University of Washington biology professor Jeffrey Riffell, said in a press release.
Pollinators across the U.S. are in trouble. While the plight of honeybees poisoned by pesticides has dominated the news recently, many key pollinator species are in decline. Bats are in trouble around the country as the mysterious and deadly fungal infection known as white-nose syndrome continues to spread from cave to cave. Many species of butterflies are also being adversely affected by climate change, which is throwing off the timing of migration, leaving them exposed to severe weather along their flight path. Certain types of butterflies and pollinating birds like hummingbirds are also affected by climate change, as a warming world has caused flowers to bloom earlier in the season, leading to a situation known as resource asynchrony, where birds and butterflies aren’t in the right place at the right time for the flowers they depend on.
On June 20, President Obama announced plans to create a special task force dedicated to helping the nation’s ailing pollinators. The team, led by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, will have 180 days to investigate current and future threats to birds, bees, butterflies and bats, and create a National Pollinator Health Strategy. According to the USDA, one-third of all food and beverages consumed in the U.S. are dependent on pollination.