Cell phones may be contributing to the honeybee population decline

May 18, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
A honey bee robs a comb. Photo by Lynn Ketchum

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a new study published in Apidologie, Lausanne researcher and bee specialist Daniel Favre shares his findings of cell phones electromagnetic fields and their effects on the honeybee population. Research is being done worldwide to try and explain the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), where workers bees disappear from a colony and cause a decline in honeybees, and Favre's research puts another idea out there.

In his experiment, Favre placed two cell phones inside a bee hive and set up equipment to record the sounds of the when the phones were off, in stand-by mode, and active in a phone call. After the phones had been on for about 20 - 40 minutes, the bees began to make a high pitched squeaking sound known as “piping.” This sound is usually a single made by the bees to announce swarming or that the hive is in danger. However, even after the phone signals running for 20 hours and the “piping” sound continuing, the bees did not swarm. Within only two minutes of the cell phones being turned off, the bees calmed down to their original state.

Favre is calling for the international scientific community to continue looking into the connection between cell phones and and the decline in the population.

While this experiment does show that phones in a close proximity to beehives can disrupt the normal bee behavior, scientists argue that cell phones are not normally found in beehives and believe that other causes, such as pesticides, the varroa mite, viruses, genetically modified crops, and unusually cold winters.

British bee expert Norman Carreck does not hold much weight in the study as having a link to CCD as he says you can knock or hit a beehive and receive the same result this experiment shows and many cases of CCD in the United States have taken place in remote areas where cell phone signals would not be an issue.

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More information: Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping, Apidologie, DOI: 10.1007/s13592-011-0016-x , Paper online.

Abstract
The worldwide maintenance of the honeybee has major ecological, economic, and political implications. In the present study, electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones were tested for potential effects on honeybee behavior. Mobile phone handsets were placed in the close vicinity of honeybees. The sound made by the bees was recorded and analyzed. The audiograms and spectrograms revealed that active mobile phone handsets have a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.

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User comments : 7

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jtdrexel
5 / 5 (4) May 18, 2011
"...scientists argue that cell phones are not normally found in beehives..."

That's a very good argument!
SteveL
not rated yet May 18, 2011
The idea that cell phones, more specifically their signals, or electrical/electronic signals in general are a possible source of CCD has been suggested for a few years now. Not exactly a new idea. Putting a cell phone inside a bee hive is an interesting experiment, but as it's not realistically representative of normal use or signal strength I'm not sure how this information is expected to be useful.

It would be interesting to know if bees living in large areas of "organic" farming experience the same CCD rates as around non-organic farming.
Moebius
1 / 5 (1) May 18, 2011
Cell phone signals are lower power RF. The current thinking is that insects should not be affected by RF at ALL. If putting a cell phone in a hive really affects them as described it is totally relevant because it shows they ARE affected by RF.
b2theory
3 / 5 (2) May 18, 2011
Cell phone signals are lower power RF. The current thinking is that insects should not be affected by RF at ALL. If putting a cell phone in a hive really affects them as described it is totally relevant because it shows they ARE affected by RF.


Putting a cell phone into a hive doesn't isolate the RF. In close proximity, cell phones can do quite a few different things. They heat up. The conductors in the switching regulators may vibrate due to magnetostriction. The speakers may have a non-zero noise floor. As the components heat up they may out-gas.

This is actually an extremely dumb experiment. If you wanted to control for RF you would spend a couple hundred bucks and rent a horn antenna and an RF amp to perform power and frequency sweeps.
hesit8or
not rated yet May 18, 2011
I looked into this a few years ago my conclusion was that it was the Square wave that was being used in the digital signal that was causing the problem even if the Square waves were used to repersent an analogue wave this problem still occurred but if an Analog Wave was used with no digital Square wave @same freq no change was noticed i have also noticed this with fish that i keep they become a lot more irritated it seems when a strong digital signal is present
MediocreSmoke
not rated yet May 19, 2011
Does anybody ever proofread these articles or even look at what their STT program is writing?
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2011
"and Favre's research puts another idea out there."

Hey that's great. But let me put an idea out there. CCD is caused by bees becoming despondent at the state of scientific literature. They think that there are very few papers written lately that were not authored by drunken hippies with little concept of correlation vs causality or basing a conclusion on evidence.

The bees are so disgusted by science journals that they have been going off in suicide pacts and stinging each other.

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