Are Cell Phones Killing Bees and Threatening Our Food Supply?

Sal holds a Political Science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
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This little buzzer's life may be put at risk by your next dropped call. Photo: Ali Jarekji/Reuters

Varroa mites, pesticides, fungicides, malnutrition, environmental stresses—these are some of the theories scientists suggest as the root cause for colony collapse disorder (CCD), the inexplicable global bee epidemic first reported in 2006. Add cell phone radiation to that list, say researchers in India.

One third of the human diet can be traced back to insect-pollinated plants, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture. Of these plants, 80 percent are pollinated by honeybees, including apples, nuts, avocados, celery, squash, strawberries, and cranberries.

According to scientists at Chandigarh’s Punjab University, radiation emitted from cellular telephones is causing bees’ navigational abilities to go haywire.

In a controlled experiment, two hives were monitored, one fitted with working mobile cell phones, one with dummy phones. For 90 days, the cell phones were powered on for 15 minutes twice a day.

The result?

The queen bee’s egg production dropped precipitously.

The worker bees all but stopped producing honey.

And there was a “dramatic decline in the number of worker bees returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Because of this the amount of nectar produced in the hive also shrank,” according to The Telegraph.

This is not the first study to suggest a link between cell phones and CCD, which in 2006 was responsible for American beekeepers losing a third of their 2.4 million colonies.

According to Spiegel Online:

Physicist Jochen Kuhn and his colleagues in Landau have studied the influence of high-frequency radiation on bee populations for years. In two pilot studies—the latest one came out in 2006—the researchers just wanted to learn if there was any potentially bad effect at all. They arrived at a cautious conclusion, namely that bees exposed to strong radiation had a harder time flying back to their hives than unexposed bees.

The new study is not without its skeptics, however.

“Previous work in this area has indicated it is not a real factor,” Tim Lovett, of the British Beekeepers Association, told The Telelegraph. "At the moment we think it is more likely to be a combination of factors including disease, pesticides and habitat loss."

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