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Bee colonies wiped out by mobile phone radiation?

May 12th, 2007 . by Matt

This was quite shocking to read. I had no idea bees were disappearing, but come to think of it, I have not seen a bee in a long time.

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world’s harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world – the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon – which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe – was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) 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. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London’s biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: “There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK.”

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”.

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks.

German research has long shown that bees’ behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a “hint” to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: “I am convinced the possibility is real.”

UPDATE: Commenter MikeRossTky posits another reason for the death of bee colonies involving fungus.

13 Responses to “Bee colonies wiped out by mobile phone radiation?”

  1. comment number 1 by: GarlicBreath

    Maybe this wacky Korean has something to do with the missing bees.

    Note that many many other nations have land disputes and act quite civil and rational in dealing with them. Notice how civil the Danish and Canadians act twards the Hans island dispute.

    For those of you who simply cannot understand Korean logic I suggest watching that video many times.

  2. comment number 2 by: helical


    Maybe this wacky Korean has something to do with the missing bees.

    This article has nothing to do with Koreans.
    I don’t know where Matt draws the line, but to me, you certainly look like you’re just trolling for the hell of it, rather than trying to contribute to a discussion in your usual borderline trolling ways.
    If the disappearance of bees is as serious as this article says, I actually hope the cellphone hypothesis is true. That way, we know what causes the phenomenon (even if not how), so that we can start working on measures to protect them.
    Also, I have the unfounded impression that sources and/or the presence of electromagnetic radiation can be detected by equipment and regulated by legislation more easily than chemical pollutants.

  3. comment number 3 by: GarlicBreath

    Helical, if you have not noticed many of the issues discussed on this blog are Korea related. I just thought that the link I provided was a funny diversion. Look at the link, it shows a Korean “bee man” jumping up and down. It is a very silly and wacky video. Yes it is a Korean doing it. and No I am not suggesting that all Koreans are going to do a similar thing with bees over takeshima island.

    Relax and lighten up Helical.

    The trolling is when people make personal attacks and not disuss the issues.

  4. comment number 4 by: MikeRossTky

    Cell phones can’t do what was claimed.

    Try this story.


    Mobile phones didn’t do it.

  5. comment number 5 by: Ken

    The bees escaped from the US and Europe are gathering to the city of Kyoto protocol.
    If they are escaping from mobile phone, we have only to give up it.
    It is not essential for civilized countries which have public phones here and there.
    It is only for highly self-conscious persons who would like to be chased.

    Followings are other visions.
    >Yet another hypothesis is that sick adult bees may be self-sacrificing: flying away to die in order to protect the hive from further infection.
    >Some pesticides are exceptionally harmful to honey bees, killing individuals before they can return to the hive.
    >Some scientists take the view that the next solar maximum may be one of the most intense ever. Mausumi Dikpati, an astronomer with the National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts a solar maximum for 2012, a phenomena that last occurred in 1958. The sunspot generates intense magnetism that can be felt on the earth. Dikpati even believes that it is possible electronics will be effected, for example GPS and mobile phone technology. Since solar cycle 24 began in 2007 according to Mausumi’s estimate, it’s possible that the behavior of bees is already being effected to some degree.

  6. comment number 6 by: toadface

    Matt, to see bees you have to leave your computer desk……

  7. comment number 7 by: sitwell_87

    If it were caused by cell phones we would have seen a gradual decrease in the population, and in many places at once, not a sudden collapse. Just my two cents…

  8. comment number 8 by: chase

    Your unfounded impression is right. The machine that can detect and measure electromagnetic radiation exist. In fact, my dad researches on the radiation and owns one.

  9. comment number 9 by: helical


    Your unfounded impression is right. The machine that can detect and measure electromagnetic radiation exist. In fact, my dad researches on the radiation and owns one.

    Excellent. It’s always nice to know when my intuition is correct 🙂
    But I guess it comes down to infectious agents or pesticides in the end, looking at other articles above.
    Come to think of it, if the radiation theory is correct, bees should have been wiped out by now in cellphone using and densely populated countries like Japan and South Korea…

  10. comment number 10 by: MikeRossTky

    This is a good example of news story taking off on a not proven scientific theory. Actually, all you need to do is look at the history of wireless technology to come to a conclusion that this can not be cause by cell phone. Not to mentioned the “science” behind this story.

    1. If this were the case, we would have seen this problem when the technology was first deployed around the affected area.
    2. The technology is different from region to region. Why would different technology in Europe vs US vs Taiwan and other areas affect bees in the same way?
    3. We see this problem with only honey bees? Where are the bug sceintists over the years? Have they not seen similar activities by other bees or bugs?

    As for the scienct… The scientist placed cell phone technology next to the bees and they disliked it. Where in nature are these bees coming in contact with this technology in ways that will kill entire hive of bees?

    What we see here is very similar to “Global Warming”. We see a condition and we tie it to something that someone feels bad that has recently grown in number/volume.

    In this case cell phones. Some scientist decides to put it next to some bees and found them to dislike them. Then the story runs in the press who is always looking to find something wrong with something used by humans…

    For global warming, we relay on “models”. These models claim to predict the future. Except none of the models can predict what happened if the clock is turned back 50 years and ask to predict today. But the press and advocates run with it until it becomes a consensus that no one asks questions about.

    If the scientists quoted in the LATimes story had not come up with alternatives, this story could have lead to banning of cell phones or expenisve alteration in technology with no obvious benefits.

    Let science be damned.

  11. comment number 11 by: lirelou

    I had the same doubts as to the cell phone theory as expressed by helical. And it should have effected other species, such as bats. Speaking of which, during a recent trip to Brisbane, an old mate commented on the fact that the thousands of bats that used to show up in the evening at a nearby park no longer do so. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some technologies could interfere with the acoustic or navigational systems of certain species, but thorough research is needed to confirm any such link.

  12. comment number 12 by: fencerider

    I have started to have the same problems in my college classes. I do make it clear to them from the beginning that there are certain behaviors for which they will be asked to leave the classroom. If they are asked to leave, I count them absent from class (which is the only legitimate reason to fail someone in most colleges these days) if they refuse to leave, I count them absent anyway.
    If they use their cellphones and I see or hear them…I warn them once and then I take them for a week. I warn them on the first day of class (in Korean) and i havn’t had much problem with it.
    As far as the grafitti is concerned, i just ignore it…it’s not my problem.
    Another solution that i considered is whipping out my hand phone and taking a picture or video of them writing on the desk. If they think their behavior will be recorded and shared with others…they may think twice.

  13. comment number 13 by: fencerider

    this got posted to the wrong blog entry…sorry