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back to article Official: phones sting bees

Britain's honeybee population is in decline and some scientists now believe the blame lies with mobile phones. Bee expert Dr Daniel Favre was able to monitor the effects of mobile phone radiation on bees by placing his handset under a hive. When the phone was making and receiving calls, the bees responded with high pitched " …

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Anonymous Coward

Seems like these bees

Have some evolving to do ... or face the wrath of Steve!

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Linux

Evolution as always through selection -- a bit too harsh here.

Look at the atlantic cod: they're quickly evolving towards being small fishes, as the big ones keep getting caught (so those that mature at a "subadult" size are the only ones reproducing).

That kind of selection pressure is a bit too high here: if all your orientation, communication and navigation systems are jammed, group animals cannot coordinate anymore to e.g. move towards deserted corners. [Luckily there's more deserted corners in agricultural areas so this kind of news gives hope that well-chosen locations stop honeybees from going extinct --- but protecting your hives from theft with a wifi webcam is now ruled out!]

Urban beekeepers are up for extinction though (anyway a recent fad).

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Anonymous Coward

Solution?

Don't leave your phone under a bee hive.

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Might be worth just making the last paragraph clearer

It's hive collapse that causes the majority of losses, not the phenomenon associated with the phones.

If this is really what's happening wouldn't there be a clear correlation between hive collapse and mobile phone usage through the last few years? If there is I apologise, didn't see anything in the paper though to suggest that it's been done. Even if there IS an effect you'd surely have to ask whether it can be compared to real-world usage, where the phones aren't in the bottom of the hives.

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Having read the journal article...

The claims that 43% of bee losses are caused by electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones is utterly preposterous!

The bees only began to react to the presence of the phones only AFTER 30minutes of active talking and when the phone was switched off 15minutes after this (so a 45 min call) they returned to normal activity in just 3 minutes at this time. They showed ZERO reaction to phones located in the hives which were on standby. When the phones were used for 20hours of active talking, THEN the bees reacted for some 12 hours after the conversation stopped, but honestly how likely is it that someone would be actively using a cellphone for 20 hours whilst sitting on top of a beehive! Oh and did i mention that the phones were within 10cm of the hive seperated only by the wall of the hive?

Perhaps if future research is done and shows that with the phones 1m, 5m and 10m away similar results are achieved then its maybe something worth discussing, but for now this is just scaremongering and really tells us nothing. If anything, it identifies that mobile phones are not responsible for bee losses because a standard mobile phone call (99% of which would fall well under 30mins in length) have absolutely no discernable effect on a beehive!!!

So thank you for this study showing that mobile phones are not responsible...

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Alert

True but...

Remember, cell phone towers are transmitting all the time. They use the same frequencies as the phones. The radiation levels may be lower than a phone placed under the hive, but it is a constant level. Add to that the fact that cell tower construction has increased dramatically over the last five years both in the US and UK. It is possible we have only just reached the radiation level high enough to effect them in the last year or so. I'd also be willing to bet it is the GSM frequencies that have the most effect on bees. I would like to look at comparison of the US AT&T company switching to GSM and the first reported increase of hive collapse in the US.

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Go

Interesting Idea...

But you'll remember there was no discernable activity when the phones were on stanby mode. If mobile towers were the problem then you would expect the presence of the phones to have no additional effect (apart from potentially increasing the level of upset in the hive). You would also expect the hives to be in a continuous state of upheaval not just 30mins after the initiation of a transmission.

The journal article doesnt mention the distance to mobile towers so i cant comment there, but i honestly cant imagine that this is a problem. Unless your hives are located directly within the region of a tower, where radio strength is constantly at the same level as that which is experienced during a phone call...

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Troll

Yea, but no, but yea.

Except that mobile phones are omnidirectional transmitters and as far as the bees are concerned the presences of nearly two mobile phones for every Human in the UK is a significant volume. Statistically in any area there must be more than one mobile phone either ringing or in the process of a call. So while individually the effect of a phone needs to be exaggerated in this way to show a result it may be reflected in the gradual decline in bee populations.

One thing I didn't see is which GSM-band was considered to be responsible, the harmonic energy of the different bands may impact in different ways. It is also worth noting that an increasing number of phones are now constantly connected either sending or receiving data with the recent rise of smartphones.

I agree that I would like the report to show a map which shows colony collapses in relation to antenna masts, but I suspect that this information wouldn't be very reliable because the site information isn't well published and I doubt colony collapse data is well enough indexed to contribute to a statistical correlation.

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Boffin

Inverse-squares law

The strength of EM radiation falls of as the square of the distance from the source. Therefore a mobile at 10cm is 100 times stronger than a mobile at 1m and 100 million times stronger than a mobile at 1km.

Cell towers operate continuously and at somewhat higher power than a single mobile, but for human phone users, even humans living adjacent to a cell-tower, it's the phone next to their head that's creating the greatest level of exposure. As for bees, the obvious study is of hives next to a mobile base-station tower, 50m distant, and 500m distant. I'd guess that the bees will be OK adjacent, but even if every cell-tower has a small radius of bee-confusion around it, that's unlikely to threaten the species.

The basis for my guess. If mobile EM radiation upset bees that much, there would be no bees at all in big city centres where cell density is close to saturation point. A visit to any park shows that's not the case.

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WTF?

Yes...

This explains everything because many bee hives have mobile phones nearby.

Classify under "brain tumors" "calcium loss" and "stepmother visits" -- "mobile phones [unspecified technology], caused by"

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Anonymous Coward

concluding sentence of the paper:

"For future experiments, in complement to the present original study and in order to reach

more "natural" conditions, mobile phone apparatuses should be placed at various increasing distances away from the hives"

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Yawn

So 20hrs of having a phone closer than any bee will ever normally encounter and they still couldn't be arsed actually swarming, just made noises about it. Struggling to see how this explains any real life colony collapses, unless bee keepers have started hooking their hives up to mobile.

The combination of power laws and totally unrealistic phone positioning screams 'red herring'. If bees are so sensitive to magnetic fields, the recent increase in shipping hives around the country (to pollinate some of the 5% of crops that even need insect pollination) is probably stressing the bees more than this.

Meanwhile, my gardens seems to happily pollinate everything without commercial help. But as usual the bee keeping business is more important than protecting the other insects that do the bulk of the job, there's money involved, not just pretty but financially worthless bumblebees ;(

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Crg

Financially worthless bumblebees?

Bumblebees are big business, and that's causing some problems for UK and Irish native bumblebee species.

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Flame

Bollocks!

We've had GSM mobile systems for the last 15 years and higher powered analogue phone systems (7.5 Watts from an old Class 1 phone) for 5-8 years before that. The bees were not dying then!

Has anyone looked at the pesticides? Farmers are having to use weaker and less effective sprays thanks to the tree-huggers. Perhaps the bees are dying because the bugs the old pesticides used to kill off are now surviving?!

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According to

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/decline-of-honey-bees-now-a-global-phenomenon-says-united-nations-2237541.html

"The mysterious collapse of honey-bee colonies is becoming a global phenomenon"

"Declines in bee colonies date back to the mid 1960s in Europe"

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Re: According to

"Declines in bee colonies date back to the mid 1960s in Europe"

Exactly. How many mobile phones were affecting them in the 60's?

ISTR Jim Rockford having one in his car, but that was the 70's.

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Troll

"Declines in bee colonies date back to the mid 1960s in Europe"

Hmm, 1960's. About the time that UHF TV broadcasts started.

You'd think that bees would have evolved to resist them by now. After all it only took me about 5 minutes to realize that staying away from Corrie and Eastenders would greatly improve my quality of life...

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Happy

So now that we know...

So now that we know what causes at least a very large proportion of the bee loss phenomenon, I expect the plan will be to :

1/ Try and deny the claim

2/ Try and deny the claim a bit more

3/ Argue over whether the claim is true

4/ Kick off several other studies to try and disprove the claim

5/ Wave results of said studies in the air and say "see - no the problem"

6/ Wait a bit

7/ Wait a bit more, until someone kicks off an independent study

8/ Wait for independent study results which eventually say "err.. actually, it looks like it IS the cause"

9/ Argue over this new study

10/ Wait until several more studies have been conducted that also prove it to be the cause

11/ Eventually and very reluctantly accept that it MIGHT be a problem

12/ Wait and hope the issue goes away

13/ Problem has not gone away so argue over what to do about it

14/ Call for more studies

15/ Argue a bit more and call a meeting (probably somewhere sunny like Barbados, if it's not slipped under the sea because of inaction on climate change by then)

16/ Come to no decision - go back to '12' a few times

17/ Eventually come up with a plan (as long as it doesn't impact on the mobile phone profitability; obviously that's more important)

18/ Delay implementing plan

19/ Delay a bit more

20/ Plan? Oh yes - we were coming to that!

21/ ...oh ...bollocks ...all the bees have died. Oh well, don't need to do anything about it now. Yes, ok, we'll all starve to death, but hey! My mobile phone still works

Footnote: For a "climate change" scenario, substitute "bees" with "climate change" and "mobile phones" with "making money"

I wonder what extra-terrestrial archeologists will make of us in years to come? "Yea, they had potential, but my god they were stupid. Had a strange idea about priorities..."

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FAIL

Go and read the hournal article...

The links in the El Reg article...

If you can possibly draw any sort of conclusion except that regular phone calls actually have ZERO effect after reading the setup and results then ill be mightily surprised...

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FAIL

The Green Fearmongering Group is to the left, right after the communal compost heap

"1/ Try and deny the claim"

There is not even a need to try.

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Headmaster

the scientific method

"4/ Kick off several other studies to try and disprove the claim"

When you do this, you're following the scientific method. That's what you do experiments for - you're trying to disprove a claim.

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Flame

Lewis has more important spin to create right now

1/ Try and deny the claim

I think Lewis might be a little busy trying to work out how to spin the other news of the day (that Fukushima did actually suffer meltdown) to bother concocting some denial...

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Flame

hmm..

just a quick scan, but looking at the charts, aren't they measuring audio signals, instead of radio signals ?

So you could run the experiment with an audio file and conclude that Justin Bieber is killing the bees..

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Oh please ...

... please make that happen the other way around.

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Happy

Well it looks like this is the end of the world guys.

Maybe we will all be dead by 12/12/2012 after all.

Oh well.

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Tinfoil Hive?

It shouldn't be too hard to make a radio-shielded hive, if this is a genuine problem.

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Troll

tin-foil hats for bees!

it's clearly about time we set up a factory to make tin-foil hats for bees!

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it was the ring tone

Bet the phone had the crazy frog or something equally horric on it.

If I'd found out somoeone had planted a giant mobile phone with the crazy frog ring tone under my house's foundations, I'd be swarming too!

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total nonsense

If phones really did affect bees, we'd be hearing about large colony losses in metropolitan areas. As it is London beekeepers, for example, do very well and are thriving. Explain that!

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Alert

Well, cell density might have something to do with that...

disclaimer: I'm very sceptical about the findings of this "study", but nonetheless...

in built-up areas there are lots and lots of smaller cells because a) there's more buildings to fix them to and b) the buildings prevent signals from going such long distances. This *may* mean that the highest signal strength seen is actually lower than the peak signal strength if you're near-ish to a large, high-power mast out in open countryside.

I have no valid data to back this up of course, it's just a theory...

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Obvious explanations for city bee success

Less insecticide exposure, a more natural habitat.

Urban parks are not heavily sprayed with insecticides, unlike crop fields. I suspect that many gardens and parks are "green", not sprayed at all.

More natural? Yes, many parks have large areas of natural meadow and wooodland, and even the carefully managed flower borders are more natural than the multiple square-mile monocultures that farmers create. Cities are also full of man-made nooks and crannies that bees can nest in, though that's perhaps more relevant to bumble-bees than honeybees.

Also, honeybees have been bred by beekeepers for many millennia. I wonder how inbred and weakened the species might be by now? Do wild honeybees still exist? (apart from the African ones ... crossbreeding domesticated bees with those was not a great success for humans, though the bees might think differently).

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Boffin

I know this might sound a bit paranoid....

...but given the general negative focus that certain pesticides have received as CCD has become a more apparent problem, couldn't this be a deliberate attempt at obfuscation? Consider Big Pharma (who presumably produce pesticides) throwing some research money at alternative hypotheses which do the traditional scientist-in-funding-request-mode thing of presenting their findings as being CLEARLY LINKED TO A SERIOUS CURRENT PROBLEM - See ref. 1, 2, 5 and 7, (where reading refs 1, 2, 5 and 7 together reveals that actually their findings have no bearing whatsoever to the SERIOUS CURRENT PROBLEM in question).

Nah, I'm being paranoid, right?

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FAIL

indeed

plus the head of cumbrian beekeepers has his hives NEXT to a cell mast (orange mast).

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Happy

Sweet

thanks for sharing the buzz on this.

Some of the comments are droning on a bit tho'

I expect bees wax and wane naturally over the years

Anyway, must get back to work, it's a hive of industry here

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Joke

Easily sorted with a download.

There's a Ap (iary) for that.

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TRT
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About as plausible...

as blaming the Daleks. But what do I know, I'm not a B.

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How about the real factors....

OK, EM radiation from phones etc might be a small cause, but putting too much emphasis on this masks the more significant reasons.

The most serious reasons are surely:

1) Gross over-management of bee hives. Bees are no longer allowed to breed naturally - which allows them to adapt to local conditions and changing conditions. Instead bees are bred for honey production and to make them placid. Instead of allowing these selected bees to then breed naturally, it is very common for hives to be "re-queened" on an annual basis. The old queen gets killed and a new queen is brought in. How are the bees supposed to adjust to conditions with that sort of management. No wonder they're stressed and can't cope with mild environmental changes.

Then there are even worse practices (in USA/Canada at least) of renting out bees and trucking them to follow the crops starting in Souther USA and ending up in Canada. When they get to the end of the road the bees are killed. As they move, they also compete with local bees, preventing them from surviving properly. How the hell are these bees supposed to thrive in an environment like that.

2) Loss of habitat and forage.

3) Pesticides etc. (possibly)

If cell phones are a real problem they are so low on the list that they have practically no impact.

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I know why the bees became agitated

"and constantly playing the France info program (output of the small radio loudspeaker,"

I'd leave my house doo.

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Sim
Grenade

mobile masts

My honey bees live at my allotment between two large mobile phone masts less than 100 metres in each direction. They are fine ,the mobile transmiiters dont seem to be a problem.

Thats not to say that I dont believe that bees may be sensitive to changes in electromagnetic fields

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