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Scent-imental recollections

9 October, 2020

From homemade lasagne to our grandma’s favourite perfume to the unmistakeable sock-like scent of playdoh, we all have evocative smells from our childhood that we can’t get enough of. Turns out, it’s the same for bees. 

Here at Good Business, we often find ourselves fascinated by these puzzling pollinators. And recently, our attention was caught by a new study that could solve a longstanding bee-related bother.  

When farmers want to pollinate a field of strawberries or sunflowers, they rent a swarm of honeybees. But historically, these bees have an unfortunate tendency to buzz off to adjoining wildflower fields instead, leaving the target crops unpollinated and displacing native pollinators in the process. 

Previous research has shown that hives of bees remember the smells of pollen they’ve collected in the past – and are more likely to seek this pollen out again. So researchers wondered whether you could persuade bees to pollinate a certain crop by making it smell more familiar to them.  

The answer? Yes! Bees who became used to drinking water laced with sunflower fragrance were much more likely to seek out and pollinate sunflowers. Fields adjacent to hives given the sunflower solution produced up to 61% more sunflower seeds than fields next to control hives.  

So could aromatherapy bee the answer to relieving pressure on native species whilst also maximising crop yields for the same amount of space and resources? We’re buzzing to find out.

By Sarah Howden

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