This morning they were mowing the lawn in my condominium. Wanting to leave the nerve racking noise behind, I headed for my favorite wildflower garden at Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. Instead of escaping the roar, I was treated to another dose of lawn mowing there. The weather was perfect for observing pollinators, so I stayed despite my discomfort.
Bumble bees were going about their business, gathering supplies for their brood, apparently unconcerned by the cacophony. I would like to think that they are equally immune to the fumes of gasoline, but suspect that it isn't so. When the noise stopped, I wondered: how long do the fumes remain? How far do they reach? How do they affect pollinators?
Pollinators need odor cues to find their food. Flowers emit scents to entice their favorite pollinators. These aromas are carried by the breeze, creating trails that bumble bees pick up in their wanderings. Studies show that it takes them longer to find these trails when gasoline fumes are present. It may not be apparent to observers, but lawn mowing impairs the productivity of bumble bees and other pollen seekers. Needless to say, car traffic has the same effect.