Bees exposed to manganese, even at levels considered safe for humans, are less capable than their fellows when it comes to foraging for pollen, according to research published in Biology Letters.
Manganese, used in making steel, matchsticks and batteries, is regarded as a heavy metal pollutant. The findings, reported by sciencenews.org, suggest that just a small dose of manganese boosts certain brain chemicals and makes bees inept foragers.
According to the researchers in Negative impact of manganese on honeybee foraging, accumulation of metals such as manganese in the body is a well-established health risk factor for vertebrates. It’s not clear what the long-term impact of these contaminants on invertebrates is, though. Their research demonstrates that manganese ingestion alters brain biogenic amine levels in honeybees and fruit flies.
“Furthermore, we show that manganese exposure negatively affects foraging behaviour in the honeybee, an economically important pollinator,” they say. “Our findings indicate that, in addition to its direct impact on human health, the common industrial contaminant manganese might also have indirect environmental and economical impacts via the modulation of neuronal and behavioural functions in economically important insects.”