“Bees suffer dementia due to metal pollution: Aluminium contamination may be behind insect decline
Bumblebees found to be contaminated with elevated levels of aluminium Scientists found they had levels that would cause brain damage in humans Researchers say metal pollution may be contributing to decline of insects.
Bees may be declining because they are suffering dementia compared to Alzheimer’s caused by eating large amounts of aluminium. A scientific study found high amounts of aluminium contamination in bees at levels that would cause brain damage in humans. Bees rely on their tiny brains to navigate to flowers to collect pollen and nectar to eat.
The scientists found that the pupae contained levels of between 13 and 200 ppm (parts per million).
To put it in context, just 3ppm would ‘be considered as potentially pathological in human brain tissue. Previous research has found when bees forage for nectar they do not actively avoid nectar which contains aluminium. Researchers at University of Sussex collected pupae from colonies of naturally foraging bumblebees and sent them to Keele University where their aluminium content was determined. Pesticide residues have been seen as one of the most significant causes of a decline in bee numbers. But the researchers, whose work is published in the journal Public Library of Science One, suggest the possibility that this aluminium is also contributing to the decline.
‘Aluminium is a known neurotoxin affecting behaviour in animal models of aluminium intoxication. Bees, of course, rely heavily on cognitive function in their everyday behaviour and these data raise the intriguing spectre that aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction may play a role in their population decline
ARE BEES HOOKED ON NICOTINE?
Bees may be getting hooked on nectar laced with nicotine-related chemicals in a similar way to how humans are addicted to the drug in cigarettes. Many insecticides contain traces of so-called neonicotinoids, which translates to ‘new nicotine-like insecticides’. And despite not being able to taste them, studies have discovered bees – especially those with parasites – will seek out plants laced with such chemicals. Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain receptors in the nerve synapses of insects. They are more toxic to invertebrates than they are to mammals and birds. Initially, neonicotinoids were used due to their low-toxicity to many so-called beneficial insects, such as bees.”