Though its been occurring since the 1940s, bees have been in the headlines a lot recently for the fact of their population’s decline. There have been a number of reasons cited to be the cause of the bee population’s decline — a lack of flora, radiation, parasites, etc. The most recent suspect for it is aluminum pollution.
Aluminum as a Prime Suspect
Aluminum, a chemical element that has also been attributed to Alzheimer’s disease is now believed to contribute to the decline of bees in the world. Biologists at Keele University and University of Sussex are further studying whether this “most significant environmental contaminant” is ultimately the killer of bees.
It’s not unlikely as aluminum, has been a known killer of entire populations of fish. Besides, it’s not as if bees are able to readily avoid aluminum in their day to day lives. According to previous studies, aluminum can actually be found in their nectar, and bees aren’t able to detect it.
By measuring the aluminum content in a bees pupae (the stage before adulthood in an insect’s life cycle), biologists were able to test for this theory. The results revealed aluminum levels in the bee pupae tested ranging from 13-193 ppm (parts per million). To compare, in human brains, aluminum content in excess of 3 ppm “might be considered as pathological with possible contributions towards neurodegenerative disease including Alzheimer’s disease” (PLOS One).
Humans Activity Still Cause of Bees Dying
Humans are not off the hook. Biologists still attribute human activities to the cause of bees dying as the aluminum definitely does not come out of nowhere. Activities such as burning fossil fuels that creates acid rain, and mining aluminum ores to make metals/salts are responsible for the ever-presence of aluminum. And it’s not only bees: aquatic animals, forestry, and our own species have been adversely affected by aluminum in the environment.
Why Alzheimer’s Disease Could Kill Bees
Unfortunately, much like humans, bees are not immune to the increasing presence of aluminum. This could be highly toxic to their survival, because bees are creatures that highly depend on their brains for thriving. Bees rely heavily on high-level cognitive functioning such as memory. An impairment of cognitive functioning could adversely affect their ability to feed, pollinate, etc. While the evidence points toward the aluminum’s high amounts hurting their species, The Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom states that a direct link has not been proven as of yet. Further investigation is necessary in order to affirm this, and save our busy, bumbling dear bees.