Stop and smell the roses. While you still can.
April 17, 2008 1:33 AM   Subscribe

Flowers are losing their smell. The discovery could be one of several factors in the "colony collapse disorder" that is wiping out honey bees around the world. Even a brief glance at the titles of the news articles on Wiki reads a bit frighteningly, as do the previous mentions here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
posted by allkindsoftime (22 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The flowers are losing their scent
The buzz of bees is diminishing
The stock of the forest is spent
The banquet of fish is finishing
The glaciers are melting and dying
The frogs are all covered in mould
The birds have given up flying
The soil's become sterile and old
Every colourful creature that flew or that crept
Will disappear utterly. Nobody wept
At their fading; no-one will notice until
Every path, every road grows silent and still
If you dwell on the scene, you'll see the decay:
So put the pleasure back into driving by purchasing a new H2 Hummer today.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:46 AM on April 17, 2008 [27 favorites]

Scientists have known for some time that airborne chemicals like ozone, hydroxyl and nitrate radicals -- major components of smog -- alter the chemicals produced by flowers that give them a specific smell. But it had not been known how that affected the trail that helps lead insects to the flowers.

It's not that flowers are loosing their "smell," but that manmade chemicals in the atmosphere are interacting with these molecules after they are released diminishing downwind concentration and making it harder for bees (and other "pollinators") to pick up the scent. Or something.

If you dwell on the scene, you'll see the decay:
So put the pleasure back into driving by purchasing a new H2 Hummer today.

If you dwell on the scene, you might see that you too contribute to the decay.
But blame that guy who drives a big car and you can justify your pollution as quite OK.
posted by three blind mice at 3:05 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

How we tread on this earth--stomp or skip lightly
Is nuanced, gradated, and not a dichotomy.
The positions aren't only "I don't" or "I do"
But 9 to the gallon says "Earth, fuck you."
posted by maxwelton at 3:34 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]

I want to post but have trouble with ryhme
I'll miss the scent of roses
but perhaps there will still be thyme
ah holy Moses
I'm crap.
posted by twistedonion at 4:28 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

This sounds very plausible, but like Monty Python's Camelot, "it's only a model".

But the findings haven't been tested in "the real world," McFrederick said. He and his colleagues hope to do that soon.
posted by Slothrup at 4:45 AM on April 17, 2008

What would you be willing to give away to save the bees? What would you be willing to do without to smell an entire field of wildflowers from half a mile away?
posted by Eideteker at 4:45 AM on April 17, 2008

What a shame, to see bees go,
they work and threaten not.
Their bastardly brethren the wasps, though,
I'd make extinct without a thought.
posted by invitapriore at 4:55 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Maybe the flowers aren't really losing their scents. Maybe we're all just getting used to them.

And you forgot to say that this is George Bush's fault.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:57 AM on April 17, 2008

Why do I get the feeling this is Monsanto's doing?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:10 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

What would you be willing to give away to save the bees? What would you be willing to do without to smell an entire field of wildflowers from half a mile away?

10mpg city/ 14mpg highway.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:29 AM on April 17, 2008

This is interesting. My in-laws just commented the other week that you can't buy flowers with a scent anymore. Flowers are still gorgeous, but smell like crap.
They chalked it up to cross breeding, and I chalked it up my in-laws scent receptors not being what they used to be, but perhaps there's something more nefarious going on.
posted by SPUTNIK at 5:48 AM on April 17, 2008

I'm confused. If that which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet what do we call a rose that doesn't smell as sweet if that by which we call it would smell as sweet?
posted by three blind mice at 6:08 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

This stinks.
posted by konolia at 6:15 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I worked at a florist's one summer, and I noticed that a lot of the flowers and almost all the roses had no smell- the owner told me that people actually breed the smell out deliberately, because it gave people headaches and contributed to their allergies. Unscented flowers are easier to sell to people. I found that hugely unsettling.

It's hearsay, but she did tend to know what she's talking about. She said that all the major companies that grew flowers that would eventually be for sale- and we're talking vast, vast fields of flowers, all over the world- were breeding the scent right out of them. So that could be contributing to this.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 6:30 AM on April 17, 2008

Wow, how many tenses did I just use there.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 6:31 AM on April 17, 2008

I'm eating a peanutbutter honey sandwich right now. That's how I'm helping.
posted by Pecinpah at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2008

Roses are red, Violets are blue,
but if the bees can't find them
we'll all be screwed.
posted by Reverend John at 7:11 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Given that colony collapse disorder is generally discussed with regard to commercial apiculture which transports beehives to the site where fertilization is required I really don't see how this an explanation at all. Bees don't have to find hidden flowers miles away. They are brought right to them by a truck.
posted by srboisvert at 7:42 AM on April 17, 2008

Bees- forever, have been making Honey.
But chemicals, it seems, are making money.
Sense will be forever damned,
As long as Dollars rule the land.
The money flows, as skies grow less sunny.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 8:01 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

I found this is in the discussion page of the Wiki article the OP linked to, and thought it interesting enough to share here:

I did a revealing experiment about 15 years ago. I had been using frames of honey from deadout colonies (in the north) to make up nucs, placing the honey next to the brood for feed for the tiny colonies. When a number of the nucs did poorly, I experimented with them by sorting out frames with an abundance of pollen, and placing them next to young queens that were vigorously laying with a good brood pattern. Within two to three days I observed the previously open brood became spotty, which I lay to toxin in the pollen, possibly from molds, but more likely from stored pesticides from an earlier hit. The pollen caused the death of larvae, which were then removed by the workers. I changed my management practices to sort out and disgard any frames with significant amounts of pollen. With this change, I saw little loss.

It is my observation that a strong colony that sustains a pesticide hit, especially in late season, may appear to recover and do well, only to die during the winter. I suspect that the contaminated pollen is covered by fresh clean pollen during the fall bloom, only to be opened again during winter when the bees are more vulnerable.

Another thing that needs more attention. Some of the modern pesticides appear not to be very toxic to bees, yet they somehow damage the social interaction, leading to slow attrition and death of the colony. Beekeepers may not attribute the death correctly due to the time span involved. I'm not putting this into the article, as it is personal research, but I'd love to see some of the contemporary researchers considering it seriously and working on these angles.


posted by papafrita at 3:40 PM on April 17, 2008

There's something that puzzles me about this. I'm no expert, but it's my understanding that air pollution is much less of a problem today than it was, say, 100 years ago; and that the last 30 years in particular have been associated with a great effort to clean up industry and commerce.

Sure, local pollution around major cities is higher, but that really doesn't convince me as far as the fate of a remote rural bee colony. I just get how the whole bee-flower partnership can survive through the utter filth of the industrial revolution, through the early part of the 20th century when industrual pollution was at its height, keep thriving through the years when the clean air acts etc were introduced, and only now, when the airbourne pollution is so much lower than it was previously, start dying off because of the effects of air pollution.

Am I missing something?
posted by standbythree at 5:16 PM on April 17, 2008

WTF - this is a BS news headline.

At this point the research consists of a mathematical model into which the researchers inserted the known impact of various pollutants on the molecules carrying the scent.
So a few guys built a model that show pollutants could affect flower scents and the writer turned that into "Flowers Are Losing Their Smell." Then the rest of the article describes a completely unrelated study that concluded plant populations were linked to the populations of the bees that pollinated them.

I think a large portion of science journalists have a promising second career waiting for them at The Onion.
posted by junesix at 4:46 PM on April 18, 2008

« Older Chaaaaaaaarrrrrrlieeeeeee!!!!   |   How to paddle your kayak Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments