POLLUTION from diesel fumes could be behind the collapse of honey bee colonies around the world, Hampshire scientists believe.

Researchers from the University of Southampton believe tiny particles emitted from diesel engines could be affecting bees' brains and damaging their in-built navigation skills, stopping worker bees finding their way back to their hives.

Ecologist professor Guy Poppy and neuroscientist Dr Tracey Newman think nanoparticles are one of a number of stress factors which could lead to a tipping point in bee health, which in turn could contribute to bee-colony collapse.

They will now take part in a three-year, £156,000 study to find out more.

Mr Poppy said: “Diesel road traffic is increasing in the UK and research from the US has shown that nanoparticles found in its fumes can be detrimental to the brains of animals when they are exposed to large doses.

“We want to find out if bees are affected in the same way, and answer the question of why bees aren't finding their way back to the hive when they leave to find food.”