Dementia cited as possible cause of bee decline in study

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Dementia May Be Part of What's Killing Off the Bees

A new study suggests that the mysterious disappearance of the Earth's bees may be in part because they are developing dementia.

According to the new research dementia caused by aluminum found in nectar may be a culprit. Aluminum is considered a neurotoxin and some have linked it to Alzheimer's disease in humans, although that hasn't been definitively proven.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, said in human brains, aluminum content above 3 parts per million could lead to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found aluminum levels in bee pupae that ranged between 13 and 193 parts per million.

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Dementia cited as possible cause of bee decline in study
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close up of honey bees flying
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HOMESTEAD, FL - MAY 19: A honeybee is seen at the J & P Apiary and Gentzel's Bees, Honey and Pollination Company on May 19, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama's administration announced May 19, that the government would provide money for more bee habitat as well as research into ways to protect bees from disease and pesticides to reduce the honeybee colony losses that have reached alarming rates. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A bee collects pollen in a sunflower field, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, near Lawrence, Kan. The 40 acre field planted annually by the Grinter family draws bees and lovers of sunflowers alike during the weeklong late summer blossoming of the flowers. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The researchers in the study described aluminum as the "most significant environmental contaminant of recent times," adding to a long list of research citing aluminum's harmful effects.

The levels of aluminum present in acid rain are known to be incredibly harmful to certain species of fish, and the EPA warns it can even completely eliminate a species from a specific body of water.

The damage done to soil has also been linked to deforestation because it robs the soil of nutrients the vegetation needs in order to grow.

Aluminum in acid rain can also cause crops to deteriorate or stop growing because plants are able absorb nutrients and water naturally.

Now biologists from Keele University and the University of Sussex want to add bee dementia to the list of aluminum's harmful effects.

Bees have pretty complex brains. There is even some research suggesting they may have some capacity for memory. Since bees need their brains to collect pollen and nectar for food, dementia would pose a significant risk to their survival.

There are a lot of theories out there on what could be killing off the bees, the most prominent being pesticides.

One of the authors on this recent study says it could be a culmination of several things, "It is widely accepted that a number of interacting factors are likely to be involved in the decline of bees and other pollinators – lack of flowers, attacks by parasites, and exposure to pesticide cocktails, for example."

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