Study Finds Cell-Phone Signals Disrupt Bee Colonies
By Barry Levine
May 13, 2011 Newsfactor.com
Electromagnetic radiation from nearby cell phones disrupts honeybee behavior, a new study says. It warns that calls from nearby devices can cause “colony losses due to unexpected swarming,” and may be a factor in colony collapses. Other studies have also found deleterious effects on honeybees from cell-phone use.
One group that appears to be unhappy with the rapidly exploding population of cell phones is honeybees. According to a new study, wireless phone signals are confusing the insects to the point of death — and could be a major factor in colony collapse disorder.
The study, by researcher and biologist Daniel Favre of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is the result of 83 experiments that looked at honeybees’ reactions to nearby cell phones in off and standby modes, and when making phone calls.
Worker Piping Signal
The result is the discovery that mobile phones produce what the study called “a dramatic impact on the behavior of bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal.” A worker piping signal tells a bee that it’s time to swarm — or that the colony has been disturbed.
Worker piping is noise made by the honeybee, and the study found that it increases 10 times when there is a phone call on a nearby device. Favre wrote that worker piping “is not frequent” naturally in a colony, and, when it happens, it could have “dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses due to unexpected swarming.”
He also said his study is the first on the potential effects of electromagnetic radiation from cell phones on honeybee behavior. A previous study in 2008 found that bees will abandon their hives if a cell phone is nearby.
Another study, from India’s Punjab University, found other kinds of deleterious effects a cell phone can have on bee populations. In that study, published last summer, researchers discovered that a cell phone near a hive resulted in a decrease in the number of eggs produced by the queen bee.
It’s not yet clear if cell phones are the major reason for colony collapse disorder. CCD is a crisis affecting the world’s bees, and it can have a major impact on the natural growth of crops and other plants. Honeybees help pollinate about three-quarters of the food crops on the planet. Other factors have also been implicated, including pesticides, air pollution, fungal pathogens, and global climate change.
In recent years, CCD has taken a dramatic turn, with some beekeepers reporting losses of 30 to 90 percent, many times larger than in earlier years.
For humans, there have also been concerns about cell phones in relation to cancer and other possible health risks. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health has said “research studies have not shown a consistent link between cell-phone use and cancer.” It cited a large, 2010 international study, which found that “cell-phone users have no increased risk for two of the most common types of brain tumor — glioma and meningioma.”
It added that, “for the small proportion of study participants who reported spending the most total time on cell-phone calls, there was some increased risk of glioma, but the researchers considered this finding inconclusive.”