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Bees may be in decline due to aluminium

June 7, 2015

A new study from universities in the south of England has suggested bees may be declining due to dementia caused by aluminium contamination. Bees rely on their brains to navigate to flowers.

BdT Deutschland Biene im Anflug
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Dedert

Biologists at Keele University and the University of Sussex in the UK have found aluminium contamination in bumblebee pupae at levels that would cause brain damage in humans.

In the study #link:http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127665:published in the journal Public Library of Science One,# bees were found not to avoid flowers contaminated with aluminium when foraging for nectar.

The scientists discovered that the pupae contained levels of between 13 and 200 parts per million (ppm) when just 3 ppm would be "considered as potentially pathological in human brain tissue."

Researchers at the University of Sussex on the south coast of England collected pupae from bee colonies and sent them to Keele where the aluminium content was assessed.

The recent, significant decline in bee numbers has been blamed on pesticide residues, but this study suggests that aluminium is also contributing to the decline.

"Aluminium is a known neurotoxin affecting behaviour in animal models of aluminium intoxication," Professor Chris Exley of Keele University said. "Are we looking at bees with Alzheimer's disease?"

jm/bw (PloS)