What does World Car-Free Day have to do with bees? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Bees use their sense of smell to help them find food. Honeybees have 170 olfactory receptors in their antennae. They use their sense of smell for quite a lot, including navigation, social interactions, and most importantly to this topic, foraging.
A study* found that exposing floral chemicals to diesel exhaust pollution lessened the amount of the chemicals, even causing two of them to be completely undetectable. This caused honeybees trained to detect the full synthetic blend of the chemicals to have difficulty recognizing the scent.
This disruption has been found in studies that used new “cleaner” dies that had no sulfur in the fuel. Worse yet, the component in diesel thought to cause this is also in the regular gasoline fueling most of the vehicles we drive daily. That means that an activity that most of us do daily, driving, is harming bees and other pollinators.
So what can we do as individuals? I’ve heard plenty of times that the actions of one person won’t make a big enough difference to bother. I don’t believe that. I think that every little change helps. Not just through the results of said action, but also by setting a great example to others and by living your beliefs.
Walk or take your bike when you can
- It’s not always feasible to walk or bike to the grocery store or a friend's (hello, summer in Florida) but if the weather isn't bad why not?
- Throw a couple of body wipes and maybe some dry shampoo (choose a powder over a spray!) in your backpack or bag if you want to freshen up when you get to your destination.
- This can be your exercise for the day! Two birds and all.
- Choose a shop closer to where you are instead of driving to a shopping center across town.
- This one depends heavily on where you are, but some cities have great public transportation systems. Not only is it better for the environment, but you can use the time not driving to read or get some work done. Win-win!
- Take one car when you can. It’s more fun to travel with others anyway! If you are lucky enough to live close to friends or family you can even grocery shop and take care of other errands together.
- Do your grocery shopping for the week all in one trip.
- While you are out anyway, hit all of the errands or shops you may want to go to at once, while you are on that side of town.
- Try choosing one or two days a week when you don’t use your car.
- Challenge yourself not to go to the grocery store more than twice a week for one month.
- Set a walking or biking goal and use taking care of errands as a way to achieve the goal.
* Girling, R. D., Lusebrink, I., Farthing, E., Newman, T. A., & Poppy, G. M. (2013). Diesel exhaust rapidly degrades floral odours used by honeybees. Scientific Reports, 3. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep02779
Fuel Exhaust Disrupts Scent Signals for Honeybees. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/131003-fuel-exhaust-scent-disrupts-signals-honeybees