mobile phones and bees

Bees are the key to most of the world’s food. Their seemingly minor act of pollination ensures most of the world’s food crops. In the past year, there’s been a dramatic decrease in North American and European bee populations where, in some places, up to 80 percent of them have simply disappeared. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which

occurs when a hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home.

Th collapse could be due to a wide variety causes, among them parasites, cancer, and even beekeeper practices.

New findings (reported here and here) suggest that the cause is related to cell phone usage. The radiation from mobile devices are interfering with the bees’ ability to home back on their hives.

If the massive bee die-off is due to mobile phones then researchers should be able to find out if it is due to specific radio frequencies. Meanwhile if the causal link is proven then shouldn’t all mobiles be turned off until a solution is found? That would cause a considerable uproar – but being able to feed people is more important. What if the link is associative (a clear link cannot be found but it’s strongly suggestive) or combinatorial (the radio waves in combination with something else is causing the losses). Then will the public give up their cell phones?

I couldn’t find the paper that the articles were referencing. The closest was this from 2004.

Update: Here are the symptoms of CCD

1) In collapsed colonies
# The complete absence of adult bees in colonies, with no or little build up of dead bees in the colonies or in front of those colonies.
# The presence of capped brood in colonies.
# The presence of food stores, both honey and bee bread
i. which is not immediately robbed by other bees
ii. when attacked by hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle, the attack is noticeably delayed.

2) In cases where the colony appear to be actively collapsing
# An insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present
# The workforce seems to be made up of young adult bees
# The queen is present
# The cluster is reluctant to consume provided feed, such as sugar syrup and protein supplement

This map gives you a sense of the huge impact of CCD in the U.S.:
States reporting CCD in dark brown (March 2007)
(Map Source: Sieber. Data Source: Bee Alert Technology for the attributes and ESRI for the state boundaries)

[Got the idea for the map from the NYTimes, which treats explanations like cell phones as a form of wild-eyed conspiracy.]

One Response to “mobile phones and bees”

  1. sieber says:

    The bee shortage is predicted to lead to a food shortage in the US