Panic of the Day: Cell Phones Kill Bees

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There’s an article on UK’s The Independent website about a most unusual scientific theory.

“Cell Phones kill bees.”

From the article: 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. They say the cell phone emissions cause the bees internal navigation systems to go haywire and they can’t find their way back to the hive.

Ok, just two problems; Bees navigate by the sun. You can watch a video of how this works here. And, we’ve had cell phones since the late 80’s, microwave radiation of all kinds since the 40’s, and worldwide radio emissions of all sorts and frequencies since about 1920. So why is this “problem” showing up just now?

More likely this has to do with the fact that domesticated honeybees, the kind we have in California are quite inbred compared to wild bees. Domesticated bees are being raised to survive a shorter off-season, to be ready to pollinate once the almond bloom begins in February. That has most likely lowered their immunity to disease and parasites. This can happen in any kind of biological population that is artificially isolated from natural selection, which allows the strong to survive and propagate. In the case of domesticated bees, they are packed together in boxed clusters, which makes disease and parasites spread very quickly. In nature, hives are well separated.

In fact, there are two types of parasitic mites, introduced into the USA in the 1980’s which are believed to be responsible for this epidemic. Here’s a letter to Congress from May R. Berenbaum, Head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that describes the problem in-depth and concludes: “That honey bees are experiencing losses on an unprecedented scale, however, was essentially predicted by the report—over-reliance on one managed non-native species is inherently unstable.”

In insects, which have short generation lifespans measured in days or weeks, dilution of strong traits to disease and parasite resistance can happen fairly quickly. What’s needed is some new breeding programs and better isolation methods, not cell phone panic.

The offspring of the bees that survive this epidemic will do far better.

This seems reminiscent of the artificial worry about a cell phone tower at the Hooker Oak park. Some people just have to paint technology they don’t understand as the boogieman. I can visualize some panic driven loony legislation about cell phones and bees to hit our state legislature soon.

But to point out just how silly this is, I work at radio station KPAY-AM 1290 which has its offices on Cramer Lane. Right next door, no more that 500 feet from the powerful 5000 watts radio transmitter is a man who keeps bees. Bee hives are scattered all over his property. I’d think that if there was a radio energy to bee death link, this fellow would have been pounding on our doors long ago.

The “research” that cell phones kill bees is just junk science. Next I expect we’ll hear about cell phones and talk radio stations being linked to global warming for “heating up the atmosphere”.

Thanks to my lovely wife Stacey, for helping me out with this article.

8 thoughts on “Panic of the Day: Cell Phones Kill Bees

  1. Anthony,

    I’ve also read that people that have brain tumors and use cell phones are 100% more likely to have the tumor located in the head region. That’s one reason that I like to hold my cell phone about 2 feet from me and yell at it. And when the person on the other end responds I just yell..

    “WHAT?? I CAN’T HEAR YOU, SPEAK UP.. SAY THAT AGAIN.. I THINK WE HAVE A BAD CONNECTION?”

    This technique works well in theatres and on airplanes.

    But on the bee front, I thought at first the bees were all male and just wouldn’t ask for directions back to the hive. Then I found out that worker bees are all female, and the drones who don’t really amount to much of anything are all male.

    Now I think the bees might just be down at Old Navy shopping for this season’s Capris Cargo Pants. Somebody should at least check on that before we ban cell phones.

    Lon

  2. Besides, the sun has been sending us radiation of all wavelengths, from x-rays, passing through UV, lovely colors, infrared radiation, and radio frequencies from very short to very long, including mobile phone radiation.

    And the strenght of that radiation is much, much higher than the micro or mini watts used by handsets.

    Just a new way of frigthening people and getting research money from scared officials and politicians. Aren’t we ever going to learn the lesson other pseudo scientific frauds as the ozone hole or climate change has taught us?

    ***Reply Actually the Ozone hole was real, and the science (atmosphereic chemistry) that connected the cause and effect was sound.

  3. Well, I suppose a true, honest scientist wouldn’t rule out ANY possibility but this one seems right in there with copper bracelets for arthritis. I first read about this in the local Fresno BEE (appropo). Haven’t seen a follow-up article that includes what you’ve just pointed out but your explanation makes more sense than Critter-Killer Cell Phones From Hell.

  4. I finally got a cell phone about a year or so ago. One of those pre-pay jobs that I only use for emergencies. It has acting up lately. I am convinced it is insurgent bees.

    *** Reply: Probably AT&Bee operatives

  5. I really don’t know about
    the bee theory ,howevwer,
    it IS nonetheless true that
    the mineral substance which
    plays a significant role
    in the cell phone’s functionality gets hundreds of people killed in the Congo every year at the whim of the Phone magnates. Think about that the next time you use it.

  6. The honeybees are suffering a collapse of their immune systems. The bats in the northeastern US are suffering a similar collapse of their immune systems. BOTH the bats and the honeybees seem to be avoiding their natural habitat and behaving strangely (not returning to the hive, flying around in the winter and hovering at the entrance of caves).

    I’m not sure which frequency it is – cell phones? wifi? HAARP? – but some frequency is likely involved – perhaps even the concentration of EMR is the culprit.

    Bioinitiative Report:

    http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/index.htm

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