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Dementia: Likely Another Bee Decline Cause, Say Experts

Jun 08, 2015 02:14 AM EDT
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It seems that bees really can't catch a break! Not only are they suffering at the hands of climate change, industrial pollutants, disease, and questionable pesticides, but now new research has found evidence that aluminum, of all things, could be sparking Alzheimer's-like symptoms in pollinators.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal PLOS One, which details how trace levels of aluminum present in acid raid can eventually contaminate the flower nectar that bees and other pollinators rely on to survive.

Past studies have shown that nearly one in 10 been species in Europe alone face immediate extinction, and while the jury for the European Union remains out concerning pesticides, it's certainly no secret that heavy metal pollutants are a problem for the natural world. That's why researchers from Keele University and the University of Sussix in the United Kingdom decided to turn their attention to what they call "the most significant environmental contaminant of recent times."

"Bees rely heavily on cognitive function and aluminium is a known neurotoxin with links, for example, to Alzheimer's disease in humans," the researchers wrote.

It stood to reason then, that acid rain - a difficult to measure and control by-product of industry - could influence how bees foraged or functioned within a colony.

According to the study, the research team collected pupae samples from colonies of foraging bees around the UK. They found that many of the pupae were heavily contaminated by aluminum - a factor that could influence the bees' behavior and potentially even their development.

However, it's important to note that unlike other studies involving plant toxins or even other metal contaminants, no unusual behavior has been tied to worryingly high aluminum levels just yet.

Still, the researchers are quick to point out that aluminum contamination being so commonplace among pollinators is worrying enough, and certainly warrants further investigation.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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