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A honeybee investigates an oilseed rape flower.

A honeybee investigates an oilseed rape flower. A new study provides evidence of how fuel exhaust changes the chemical composition of floral odors, scrambling the scent signals for pollinators.

Photograph by Nigel Cattlin, Alamy

Helen Thompson

for National Geographic

Published October 3, 2013

To a bee, no two flowers smell quite the same. When honeybees forage for flowers, they search for, learn, and memorize distinctive floral scents and return to the hive to tell other bees what they’ve found through their famous waggle dance.

It is an important ritual that is being disrupted by one of the most pervasive forms of air pollution—diesel exhaust—according to a new study published Thursday in Scientific Reports. The research pinpoints the mechanism by which the fuel-combustion pollutants degrade certain chemicals in floral odors. The absence of those chemicals affects honeybees’ ability to recognize the scent. (See related quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Cars and Fuel.”)

Engine exhaust is hardly the only threat facing the honeybee. It is well recognized that exposure to multiple pesticides can impair bees’ olfactory skills, while ground-level ozone, or smog, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation can also degrade floral odor compounds that bees pick up on. Authorities around the globe are grappling with how to address the little-understood cyclical diseases that are causing colonies to dwindle. (See related, “The Plight of the Honeybee.”)

The new study offers insight into the specific hazard for pollinators from the fumes from cars, trucks, trains, ships, and heavy machinery. Significantly, the study indicates that honeybees haven’t been helped by the "cleaner" diesel now used in Europe and the United States due to regulations that over the past decade removed sulfur from the fuel. The researchers used ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in their experiment. (See related: “Pictures: Cars That Fired Our Love-Hate Relationship With Fuel.”)

Odor Cues

Thousands of chemical compounds contribute to flower odors, so honeybees (Apis mellifera) need a discerning sense of smell. “A honeybee might see a red flower, and say oh is this a flower that I want to visit, and [it] uses odor cues to figure out if it’s worth visiting,” said Quinn McFrederick, an ecologist at Fresno State University in California. Odor cues can tell bees which flowers have the most nutritious nectar and pollen for harvesting.

Scientists have long thought that air pollution masked these key floral scents, but the new study provides evidence of how the exhaust actually changed the chemical composition of the odors. Using an odor palette from a common target for honeybees, oilseed rape flowers (Brassica napus), a research team at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom exposed the compounds to diesel fumes from a generator fueled by ultra-low-sulfur diesel. Almost immediately, the diesel fumes started breaking down two of the flower odor compounds: farnesene and terpinene. After training honeybees recognize the flower scent, the researchers removed both degraded compounds from the mix.

“To our surprise, really, we saw that even changes in one of the very minor constituents of the mixture caused a major change in the responsiveness of the bee to the smell,” said Tracey Newman, a neurobiologist at the University of Southampton and a co-author of the study.

The researchers said one component of diesel exhaust takes the blame for this degradation: NOx gases, compounds that contain both nitrogen and oxygen, reacting with volatile floral odors. Although the scientists used diesel fuel, which powers the majority of cars in Europe and nearly all heavy vehicles around the world, NOx gases also are emitted by gasoline, or petrol, and even alternative fuels like biodiesel and ethanol. (See related, “Biofuel at a Crossroads.”) “The bottom line is I don’t think one can start pointing one’s finger at biodiesel, diesel, or petrol,” said Guy Poppy, an ecologist and co-author on the study. It’s a larger issue with internal combustion engines, he said.

Both the United States and the European Union use nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels as a proxy for all NOx gases and have set limits for the amount of NO2 in the air, but not for nitric oxide (NO) levels. Poppy said, “These are the sorts of emissions that are sometimes left out from the discussions about climate change because these emissions are not ones as heavily associated with greenhouse gases.” (See related “Pictures: A Rare Look Inside Carmakers’ Drive for 55 MPG.”)

Flower Chemistry

Oilseed rape flowers aren’t the sweetest smelling blooms. “They’re actually a bit stinky,” Newman said. But, their odors are very well understood, and these two degraded compounds appear to be a key element of odor communication for bees. Other bee species and other pollinators rely even more heavily on scent over longer distances. So, the findings could have major implications for other pollinators as well, said McFrederick, who was not affiliated with the study.

Interestingly, the degraded compounds in this experiment were present only at low levels, and removing terpinene by itself led to a significant decline in bee recognition in the experiment. “That suggests that that in some way kicks off a particular pathway in the odor perception abilities of the animal,” said Newman.

The researchers’ next step is to look at the impact of diesel on the honeybee nervous system.

How will these findings play out in the real world? “The study clearly illustrates that airborne pollution can perniciously impact the ability of bees to locate food,” said Jose Fuentes, a meteorologist at Penn State University who was not associated with the study. Fuentes spelled out two cautions: The experimental levels of pollutants were high even for urban rush hour; and the impact of the NOx gases might actually be an indirect one. That’s because NOx gases notoriously react with air and sunlight to make ground-level ozone, or smog, which may be the actual culprit in disrupting the floral odor compounds.

Urban environments expose honeybees and flowers to more diesel exhaust, but there are many important factors affecting the success of hives. The kind of neighborhood gardens found in urban and suburban areas also might provide bees with longer lasting food sources than in rural areas. Field studies could shed more light on the impact of air pollution.  “What we need to know is [for] a flower sitting in a field next to a car in a motorway, whether there actually is going to be a plume of smell coming from that flower and whether it’s going to be significantly affected because of the exhaust fumes,” said Poppy. The worst-case scenario would be to find a drastic reduction in honeybee foraging and pollination.

While it’s unclear how much impact diesel pollutants might have on pollination, the new study indicates that exhaust should be added to a growing list of known threats.

“Honeybees living in a modern world face many stresses,” including diseases, insecticides, and atmospheric pollutants, Poppy said. “Probably bees can cope with most of these stresses in isolation or when just two or three of them come together. But, when they all come together simultaneously, one might start to see significant effects and that might explain some of the things we’re seeing … with pollinators being lost around the world.”

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes, starting in the mid-seventies, engaged for several years in the pretense that his company SunWind Ltd was developing a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-powered "windmobile," based on the windmobile invented by James Amick; and that therefore SunWind would be a wonderful investment opportunity.

After SunWind "dried up" in 1983, Goldes embarked on the long-running pretense that his company Room Temperature Superconductors Inc was developing room-temperature superconductors; and that therefore Room Temperature Superconductors Inc would be a wonderful investment opportunity. He continues the pretense that the company developed something useful, even to this day.

And then Goldes embarked on the pretense that his company Magnetic Power Inc was developing "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on "Virtual Photon Flux;" and then, on the pretense that MPI was developing horn-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on the resonance of magnetized tuning-rods; and then, on the pretense that his company Chava LLC (aka "Chava Energy") was developing water-fueled engines based on "collapsing hydrogen orbits" (which are ruled out by quantum physics); and then, on the pretense that he was developing strictly-ambient-heat-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES" (which are ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

But of course, the laws of physics always make an exception for the make-believe pretenses of Mark Goldes.

Goldes' forty-year career of "revolutionary breakthrough" pretense has nothing to do with science, but only with pseudoscience, pseudophysics, and relentless flimflam, in pursuit of loans and donations from gullible people who never mastered physics very well.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Let's look at another example of Mark Goldes' wonderful offerings in "revolutionary new technology:"

The amazing "POWERGENIE!"

One of the most laughable of Mark Goldes' many pseudotypes is his "POWERGENIE" horn-powered generator. The brilliant idea of this revolutionary breakthrough is to blow a horn at a magnetized tuning rod, designed to resonate at the frequency of the horn, and then collect the electromotive energy produced by the vibrations of the rod.

We're not making this up.

POWERGENIE tuning rod engine explained - from the patent:

[The device incorporates] "an energy transfer and multiplier element being constructed of a ferromagnetic substance... having a natural resonance, due to a physical structure whose dimensions are directly proportional to the wavelength of the resonance frequency...

"In this resonant condition, the rod material functions as a tuned waveguide, or longitudinal resonator, for acoustic energy...

"Ferrite rod 800 is driven to acoustic resonance at the second harmonic of its fundamental resonant frequency by acoustic horn 811..."

- But the patent doesn't tell us who will volunteer to blow the horn at the rod all day. Perhaps it will come with an elephant.

Mark Goldes claimed in 2008 that this wonderful triumph of human genius would bring his company, Magnetic Power Inc, one billion dollars in annual revenue by 2012. Magnetic Power is now defunct, having never produced any "Magnetic Power Modules" - just as Goldes' company called "Room Temperature Superconductors Inc" is also now defunct, having never produced any "room temperature superconductors."

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

In Mark Goldes' patent application for his ludicrous "POWERGENIE" horn-powered tuning-rod engine, he described the tuning-rod as "an energy transfer and multiplier element."

But of course, for the tuning-rod to "multiply" energy, it would need to disprove the law of conservation of energy.

Goldes' use of the term "energy multiplier element" reflected his pretense that the "revolutionary breakthrough" of the amazing "POWERGENIE" could disprove the law of conservation of energy, by presenting the world with a working "energy multiplier."

Goldes even claimed in 2008 that the POWERGENIE had been demonstrated already in an electric car, driven 4800 miles by his energy-multiplying horn-powered tuning-rod.

But it seems that most people, for some reason, had difficulty accepting the notion that the law of conservation of energy could be proven false.

And Goldes no doubt noticed that the Second Law of Thermodynamics - that "the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase with time and can never decrease" - is much less clear to most people than the conservation of energy.

So now, after leaving aside the pretense that he could somehow "multiply energy" with a magnetized tuning-rod, Goldes has chosen to focus, instead, on the pretense that he can disprove the Second Law with an engine powered only by ambient heat.

There is no "new science" in any of Goldes' "revolutionary breakthroughs." There is only pseudoscience and pretense - and nothing new, at all.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' proofless claims regarding his make-believe strictly ambient heat engine do not represent any new technology, or even a new pretense - they merely represent a rather old pretense.

"Before the establishment of the Second Law, many people who were interested in inventing a perpetual motion machine had tried to circumvent the restrictions of First Law of Thermodynamics by extracting the massive internal energy of the environment as the power of the machine. Such a machine is called a "perpetual motion machine of the second kind". The second law declared the impossibility of such machines."

"A perpetual motion machine of the second kind is a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work. When the thermal energy is equivalent to the work done, this does not violate the law of conservation of energy. However it does violate the more subtle second law of thermodynamics (see also entropy). The signature of a perpetual motion machine of the second kind is that there is only one heat reservoir involved... This conversion of heat into useful work, without any side effect, is impossible, according to the second law of thermodynamics."

Goldes' make-believe strictly ambient heat engine would be a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, as defined above. Goldes is not developing any such engine; he is merely developing a pretense - as usual.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

The Kelvin-Planck formulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics may be stated as follows:

"No cyclic process driven simply by heat can accomplish the absorption of the heat from a reservoir and the conversion of such heat into work - without any other result (such as a transfer of heat to a cooler reservoir)."

Now, as you will see, the Clausius formulation of the Second Law may be stated with fewer words:

"No process is possible whose sole result is the transfer of heat from a cooler to a hotter body."

In fact, we can show that the Kelvin-Planck formulation may be deduced from that of Clausius. In the words of Enrico Fermi:

"Suppose that Kelvin's postulate were not valid. Then we could perform a transformation whose only final result would be to transform completely into work a definite amount of heat taken from a single source at the temperature t1. By means of friction we could then transform this work into heat again and with this heat raise the temperature of a given body, regardless of what its initial temperature, t2, may have been. In particular, we could take t2 to be higher than t1. Thus, the only final result of this process would be the transfer of heat from one body (the source at temperature t1) to another body at a higher temperature, t2. This would be a violation of the Clausius postulate."

Can anyone make a teapot that boils water by absorbing heat from a slab of ice?

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Max Planck, in his "Treatise On Thermodynamics," explains how the Second Law of Thermodynamics "may be deduced from a single simple law of experience about which there is no doubt." Here is the "single simple law of experience" he proposes:

"It is impossible to construct an engine which will work in a complete cycle, and produce no effect except the raising of a weight and the cooling of a heat-reservoir."

This "law of experience" is very similar to a principle suggested by William Thomson (Lord Kelvin):

"It is impossible, by means of inanimate material agency, to derive mechanical effect from any portion of matter by cooling it below the temperature of the coldest of the surrounding objects."

The "simple law of experience" offered by Planck is therefore commonly known as the "Kelvin-Planck statement" of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But we see from Planck's "Treatise" that Planck himself did not quite regard it as a statement of the Second Law, but rather as a "starting point" or postulate from which the Second Law may be deduced.

Here is Planck's rendition of the Second Law itself:

"The second law of thermodynamics states that there exists in nature for each system of bodies a quantity, which by all changes of the system either remains constant (in reversible processes) or increases in value (in irreversible processes). This quantity is called, following Clausius, the entropy of the system."

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

The Second Law of Thermodynamics rules out strictly ambient heat engines. In fact they are explicitly ruled out by the Kelvin-Planck postulate, which is a sort of corollary of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. You can find thousands of discussions of this topic by physics professors, simply by googling "Kelvin-Planck."

Expecting an ambient heat engine to do any work, with only one heat reservoir, is exactly equivalent to expecting a teapot to boil water by absorbing heat from a block of ice.

Both processes are ruled out by the very same law - the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

"It is impossible for any device operating on a cycle to produce net work from a single temperature reservoir; the production of net work requires flow of heat from a higher temperature reservoir to a colder reservoir."

In a strictly ambient heat engine there are not two heat reservoirs at different temperatures; no reservoir would be available at any temperature other than the ambient temperature. Therefore the engine would have to DECREASE the total entropy - and therefore we know for certain that the engine will disappoint us. It will never be able to do any work.

Flow of heat from a block of ice to lukewarm water would also result in a DECREASE of the total entropy.

Once again: Expecting an ambient heat engine to do any work, with only one heat reservoir, is exactly equivalent to expecting a teapot to boil water by absorbing heat from a block of ice. Anyone who claims to be developing a "prototype" of such an engine is only developing a pretense, and nothing more.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' latest adventure in flimflam is to declare that a "FUEL-FREE TURBINE invented by a Russian scientist runs on atmospheric pressure."

But when we read the patent application, we find that actually the turbine does NOT run on atmospheric pressure - it requires compressed air. This is clearly indicated even in the article by Kondrashov posted by Goldes on his flimflam website. Kondrashov says:

"To create a sample of such an engine, you can use ready-made devices, such as a load-bearing element - a low-power turbine module turboshaft turbine engine, and to compress the air... any type of compressor..."

Kondrashov filed his patent application in 2003. No patent was awarded.

Mark Goldes assures us in his note prefacing Kondrashov's article that "We understand the science behind this jet engine." But since he incorrectly describes it as an engine powered by "atmospheric pressure" - which it certainly is not - in fact he shows that he doesn't even understand that the engine requires a supply of compressed air in order to spin at all.

Although Kondrashov does pretend in some of his statements that the turbine will be powered by "atmospheric pressure," in fact it is evident from his application that the proposed turbine is made to spin only by the use of compressed air.

In his patent application, Kondrashov states:

"To set the above engine in operation, it is necessary to create pressure of working medium (e.g. air) in pneumatic accumulator 18. The compressed air is fed through check valve 19 and/or 20."

Thus, Kondrashov indicates that an external compressor must be used to fill the turbine's compressed air tank before the turbine can be started. But he tries to pretend that once the turbine starts to spin, there will be no further reliance on the external compressor - the spinning turbine itself will compress the air that is making the turbine spin. So despite his own false description of the turbine as making use of "low-grade atmospheric energy," what Kondrashov actually presents in his patent application is a perpetual motion machine in the form of a self-powered air compressor. This is probably the reason why no patent was awarded. It is exactly analogous to trying to use a generator to power a motor to spin the generator to power the motor to spin the generator. It doesn't work.

ciaran payne
ciaran payne

I would suggest that the answer, which is already in development, is Electric Motor drive for all forms of road vehicles, although what to do about aviation and shipping is another matter entirely and it would be interesting to know if they also are a contributory factor to the Bee issues. To progress a solution should be the effort all countries to get behind this research and provide real long term funding soon before it becomes a more  serios issue. 

liz gyno
liz gyno

Can someone plz tell me the solution for this problem? (according the article, what is the solution?)

liz gyno
liz gyno

Can someone plz tell me what is the solution to this problem? (referring to the article)

Weber Chen
Weber Chen

the content of the floral scents in environment is very low. Therefore, the airborne pollution, even at the near zero level might affect the ability of honeybee to forage the scent signals for pollinator.

Allen Schaeffer
Allen Schaeffer

All internal combustion engines emit NOx; it's too bad the story headlines don't better reflect the broader issue at hand here, as noted by the researcher himself.

In the US, the climate change debate is primarily on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as some short-lived climate agents.  NOx, along with hydrocarbons is a primary ingredient of ozone or smog which is certainly a high priority in the US, so NOx is by no means left out of consideration.

Emissions from new diesel engines today are near zero levels for both particulate matter and NOx emissions - from diesel powered passenger cars to heavy duty trucks and buses to off road machines and equipment, marine vessels and generators.

The researchers provided no information about the age or state of condition about the generator used in the study to generate the NOx emissions.  Advanced engine controls and emissions aftertreatment systems in todays new engines ffectively reduce the emissions of these compounds to near zero levels.

More at

Dan Winter
Dan Winter

Phil Callahan proved the smell / olfaction mechanism (including insects) was more infra-red wave mechanics than particulates-  he did this by measuring which infrared frequency transmissivity was damped by the key fuel ketones...  more on callahan:​CALLAHAN/​callahan.html

Their 'field' must be centripetal

Peace Seeker
Peace Seeker

Filmed over a period of a year we follow a few charismatic South African beekeepers as they come to terms with and react to this potentially disastrous infection. The wild South African bees have through the years self managed all previous foreign diseases but little is known on how the bees will react to this new bacterial invasion. The viewer is taken on several personal journeys into learning what actually makes the African bee 'wild' and how has it, until now, managed to be generally unaffected by the rest of the worlds problems.

The film brings forward the dilemmas people are faced with when working with modern day livestock and the constant threat of diseases spreading globally.

A very personal film that allows viewers into a reality of which very little is known publicly.

www (dot) cultureunplugged (dot) com/documentary/watch-online/play/12375

Steve Factor
Steve Factor

Another reason to avoid burning toxic liquids for personal transportation. Use electric vehicles with solar power.

Mark Goldes
Mark Goldes

Breakthrough technologies now being born can end automotive exhaust.

One example is an engine that needs no fuel. A small, desktop, prototype is en-route.  If it performs as anticipated, it opens the potential to replace stationary diesel engines of all sizes with 24/7 power availability. It will also recharge some models of electric cars.

See for more information.

This will open the door to other neglected new science that can provide recharge to all electric cars from on-board systems.

Such cars, trucks and buses, may eventually pay for themselves when parked, by selling electricity. No wires required. See MOVING BEYOND OIL on the same site.

Bees and humans will all benefit from ending the need to burn fossil and radioactive fuel. That achievement is now on the horizon. The necessary work can, and must be, greatly accelerated.

liz gyno
liz gyno

@Weber Chen What is the solution for this problem? (according to the article, what is the solution?)

liz gyno
liz gyno

@Allen Schaeffer What is the solution for this problem? (according to the article, what is the solution?)

Michael MacBride
Michael MacBride

@Steve Factor the toxic waste (both airborne and not) from the creation of the batteries required for your "solar" electric car is as high or higher even then if you just burned the fossil fuel in a new engine. 

liz gyno
liz gyno

@Mark Goldes What is the solution for this problem? (according to the article, what is the solution?)

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