Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Here we go again? Scientist claims cell phones to blame for bee deaths...

Mark's note: Greetings fellow beekeepers! While I think I'm pretty open to the various theories of Colony Collapse Disorder, I'm not so sure that I buy the cell phone theory as the cause.  Several years ago, this theory made the rounds and was later debunked by scientists as complete hogwash.  But now there appears to be a new cell phone/CCD theory making the rounds thanks to Dr. Daniel Favre who previously worked as a biologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.  Now he claims that his study shows that an active cellular phone disturbs bees.  The reason I don't necessarily buy it is because in my years of working in radio and television broadcasting, I've noticed that some insects like wasps and hornets seem to be attracted to the signals emitted from transmitters.  While I'm not a broadcasting engineer, my own eyes have spotted countless wasp and hornet nests around the "dog houses" that encase AM/FM/TV transmitters and antenna equipment.  Even a good friend of mine, who is a broadcast engineer, said that he's noticed throughout his career how they're attracted to the signals.  And even though cellular signals are different than AM/FM/TV broadcast signals, I just don't believe that cell phones are driving bees away from their hives.  For right now, I lean towards the chemical poisoning theory and believe that bees are bringing something home (which they share) and that causes the bees to leave and forget how to find their way back.  But of course, I could be wrong.  Anyway, now that I've finished my stand on the soapbox, now its your turn to read the article and decide for yourself.  The article appeared in "The Daily Mail" (United Kingdom) with reader comments afterward.  Be prepared, many of those that posted their own comments aren't buying the theory either. -Mark

Why a mobile phone ring may make bees buzz off: Insects infuriated by handset signals
By David Derbyshire

Signals from mobile phones could be partly to blame for the mysterious deaths of honeybees, new research shows.

In the first experiment of its kind, a bee expert placed a mobile phone underneath a hive and then carefully monitored the reaction of the workers.

The bees were able to tell when the handsets were making and receiving calls, and responded by making the high pitched squeaks that usually signal the start of swarming.

Dr Daniel Favre, who carried out the experiment, believes signals from mobile phones and masts could be contributing to the decline of honeybees and called for more research.

But British bee experts say there is still no evidence that mobile phones posed a risk.

They blame the vanishing honeybees on changes in farming, the decline of wild flowers and pesticides.

The number of honeybees in the UK has halved in the last 25 years while in America bees have been badly hit by 'colony collapse disorder' - the sudden disappearance of entire colonies over winter.

Experts say bees have been badly hit by the varroa mite, a blood-sucking parasite that makes colonies vulnerable to disease, freak weather or poisoning.

Some experts say the latest generation of pesticides may disrupt the nervous systems of bees, causing them to get lost and confused.

And most bee experts say the creatures are suffering from the loss of wild flowers, meadows, rough pasture and untidy gardens.

However, a handful of experts say mobile phones could also be partly to blame.

Dr Favre, a teacher who previously worked as a biologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, said: 'This study shows that the presence of an active mobile phone disturbs bees - and has a dramatic effect.'

He placed two mobile phones under a beehive and recorded the high pitched calls made by the bees when the handsets were switched off, placed on stand-by and activated.

Around 20 to 40 minutes after the phones were activated, the bees began to emit "piping" calls - a series of high pitched squeaks that announce the start of swarming.

Within two minutes of the phone call ending, the worker bees calmed down.

In the study, the bees did not swarm - even after 20 hours' exposure to mobile phone signals. However, the onset of unexpected swarming triggered by mobile phone signals could have 'dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses', Dr Favre reports in the bee keeping journal Apidologie.

The study did not show that mobile phones were deadly for bees, he said.

"But one hypothesis is that electromagnetic fields could be contributing to the disappearance of bee colonies around the world," he added.

But British bee expert Norman Carreck of Sussex University said: 'It's an interesting study but it doesn't prove that mobile phones are responsible for colony collapse disorder. If you physically knock a hive, or open one up to examine it, it has the same result.

'And in America many cases of colony collapse disorder have taken place in remote areas far from any mobile phone signals.'

You can read reader reactions here.

1 comment:

  1. Good grief, I could understand it if a hive were right at the bottom of a cell tower getting the maximum signal but radio signals degrade rapidly as the distance from the source increases. And why just cell phones? Electromagnetic signals have been around for many years before cell phones came along. They could have placed a cheapo FRS/GMRS radio under the hive and expected a similar result, no?



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