Does tropospheric ozone, resulting from fossil fuel combustion, disrupt bee pollination?

Science Center Objects

The Challenge: Pollinators such as bees use floral volatiles to guide them to flowers. Tropospheric ozone produced from fossil fuel combustion products can breakdown floral volatiles. Interference with bee pollination threatens habitat quality and biodiversity and the security of the US food supply system. 

The Science: The overall objective is to determine if bees can find a food source by following floral scent trails during high ambient ozone concentrations. Forager honey bees (Apis mellifera) will be trained to associate a floral volatile with food and then their ability to locate a scented food source will be tested under varying ambient ozone concentrations. Data will be collected on foraging success, time to arrive at the scent source, floral volatile concentration distributions in the atmosphere, ambient ozone concentrations, and the weather. A preliminary trial to train bees has been conducted.

The Future: The field study is a first to determine if ambient ozone can interfere with honey bee pollination and it serves as the first step towards future research to determine if and how ambient ozone concentrations disrupt pollination by native pollinators.