Air Pollution Is Confusing Pollinators, Endangering Crops and Flowers

Medscape Staff

February 04, 2022

Air pollution is having a detrimental impact on pollinating insects by affecting their ability to be able to sniff out crops and flowers that need them, according to scientists from the University of Reading, the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the University of Birmingham.

What to know:

  • Common air pollutants from both urban and rural environments appear to change the way plants and flowers smell, affecting the ability of pollinating insects to sniff them and find them.

  • Researchers did their studies in areas where pollution levels were estimated at just 40% to 50% of the limits currently defined as safe for the environment by US law and well under levels found elsewhere in the world.

  • Plant and flower pollination was found to have been reduced by almost a third in areas where diesel fume pollutants and ozone were present.

  • The population of the pollinators themselves has declined up to 70% in some areas because pollution makes it difficult for the insects to locate their food ― pollen and nectar ― leading to up to 90% fewer flower visits.

  • An estimated 70% of all crop species rely on pollination.

This is a summary of the article, "Air Pollution Significantly Reduces Pollination by Confusing Butterflies and Bees," published by Science Daily on January 19, 2022. The full article can be found on

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