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Published on May 12th, 2011 | by Jeremy Bloom

10

Are Cell Phones Killing Bees? How the False Meme Spread



bee movie

You may have seen the sensational stories on the Internet the past 24 hours that it’s finally been confirmed: Cell Phones KILL Bees!

The only problem is… it’s NOT confirmed.

That’s not what the study says. It’s not even what the original article says.

The study

Yes, cell phone radiation harms bees. A Swiss researcher placed cell phones next to hives and recorded what happened. When the phones were active, the bees emitted “piping” sounds – the high-pitched tones that spread the message through the colony that something disturbing is going on.

Piping can be a signal for the colony to swarm… but that didn’t happen here, and the researcher let the phones go as long as 20 hours. He did report that the colony didn’t return to baseline normal state for many hours after the phones were switched off and removed.

Nowhere in the report does it say anything about bees dying. So what happened?

The first story

The original article was accepted for the scientific journal Apidologie last year.

The story was picked up by the British tabloid The Daily Mail yesterday. That paper is known more for its sensationalism than its accuracy, and they don’t disappoint – the second sentence claims “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.”, which is simply not true – there have been other experiments of this type.

But the article actually gets it right on the subject of bee death – it explicitly states (all the way down in paragraph 17)

“The study did not show that mobile phones were deadly for bees”

But the headline writer may not have read that far. And it’s the headline writer’s job to pump things up to make sure that folks read the article. So he went all out.

Headline: “Why a mobile phone ring may make bees buzz off: Insects infuriated by handset signals”
Tagline: “Phone signals confuses bees and cause them to begin flying erratically before suddenly dying”
Photo caption: “Researchers placed mobile phones in bee hives under controlled conditions and monitored the results. They found the phone signals confused the bees who begin to fly erratically before dying suddenly”

-> Next page: How it spread

Continue the discussion over at the Green Options network...

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue.



  • Mark

    As a farmer bees are crucial to food growth and a key ingredient in “the eco system” this is sad news.

  • http://twitter.com/christellar Christellar

    THIS READS COMPLETE and utter denial. Sorry. When it comes to threatening the health of our ecosystem and the entire biodiversity structure? Precautionary principal should apply. Instead? be selfish. you “need” your cellphone? NOPE you don’t

    • Bob_Wallace

      Actually the sanity principal should apply. There is no data that shows that cell phones are harming bees. Please do not post crazy crap.

      There is, however, some new data that suggests that pesticicides may be affecting bees in some way that is harming their homing ability. As with any new data one should wait to see if it is confirmed by other researchers before setting forth on their donkey to charge at windmills.

      • https://plus.google.com/u/1/107202317459919768783/posts Jonathan Neufeld

        “There is no data that shows that cell phones are harming bees. Please do not post crazy crap.”

        “The Study — Yes, cell phone radiation harms bees.”

        You should take your own advice!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Jonathan – read the entire article, not the one sentence that supports your apparent belief, if you take that sentence out of context.

          “Yes, cell phone radiation harms bees.

          A Swiss researcher placed cell phones next to hives and recorded what happened. When the phones were active, the bees emitted “piping” sounds – the high-pitched tones that spread the message through the colony that something disturbing is going on.

          Piping can be a signal for the colony to swarm… but that didn’t happen here, and the researcher let the phones go as long as 20 hours. He did report that the colony didn’t return to baseline normal state for many hours after the phones were switched off and removed.”

          Now, even if the bees in the colony had all dropped dead, which they did not, this would not be a valid study that explains colony collapse. At best it would be an interesting lead for further research.

          “placed cell phones next to hives” ” let the phones go as long as 20 hours”

          That is not a real world event – cell phones placed next to hives for hours at a time.

          It reminds me of a study released when Nixon was president. The claim was made that researchers had found a fatal dosage level for smoking grass.

          We worked through the numbers and found that someone would have to smoke a 50 pound bale in less than 30 minutes to receive the dosage level used.

          Ya gotta read with some reasonable level of comprehension in order to not end up saying something stupid….

          • john

            Not a very in depth study, if it disrupts the bees to the point where they are disoriented and lose their way a colony could collapse, can you comprehend?

          • Bob_Wallace

            “A Swiss researcher placed cell phones next to hives … the researcher let the phones go as long as 20 hours.”

            How often have you seen someone place a cell phone next to a hive and activate it for hour after hour?

            Actually a flawed study. The author did not test normal use of cell phones, he used an unrealistic level of exposure.

            Can you comprehend that?

  • Vickyzhong

     that’s really interesting , but we got to believe it’s true

  • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

    This is the latest study confirming disorientation caused by electromagnetic radiation or microwaves. England in 2007 (Kuhn et al.), India in 2009 (Pattazhy), Switzerland in 2011 (Favre).

  • Anonymous

    Here we go. Another ” who cares about the spotted owl? there’s $$$$$ to be made!”
    We’ve unleashed so much technology that we know so little about since WWII and we’re now seeing the effects.
    It doesn’t matter whether microwaves actually kill bees, it matters if it messes up their pollination activities.
    Of course, there will be an immediate backlash from everyone who uses any microwave technology, we’ve become so dependent upon it. Esp the Gov, so easily monitoring your calls.
    This info will be mercilessly attacked the same way climate  science has been. And her’s the first one.
    The author doesn’t even know enough about bees to know they are all female.
    Drones are hatched only when the queen needs to lay eggs.
    We lose our pollinators, we’re dead ducks

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