Erin’s Blog

Cell Phones: are they the end of the world, as we know it?

Have you heard anything about this? There’s a recent phenomenon, or at least discussion of, cell phone reception killing bees! Weird, right? It sounded nuts to me but I was hearing it straight from the mouth of my boyfriend’s bee-keepin’ mama, another bee farmer who’s fallen prey to colony collapse disorder. Luckily for her and her family, bee keeping is just a hobby so the fact that all of their imported bees have died or gone missing isn’t the end of their careers, they just have to go buy the honey in the little bear bottle from the grocery store rather than harvest it themselves. But is it really cell phone’s fault that bees are dying?

Make another call and the bees are goners!

Make another call and the bees are goners!

Bob Shoby wrote the article Cell Phone Radiation Kills Bees and says that “studies have found that the radio-frequency radiation, a form of electromagnetic radiation” is not only harmful to people, causing long-term effects like cancer, brain tumors, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and more. However, the radiation has also been linked to killing bees, which poses huge environmental threats. “Honeybees pollinate crops and other plants, which helps vegetables and fruit to grow and it allows the plants to do their job replenishing the oxygen in the air.”

But how does the cell phone radiation affect the bees? Shoby writes “studies have suggested that the electromagnetic radiation affects the internal navigation system of the bee, causing it to not be able to return to the hive. The bees then die off, because they are not able to do their normal activities. This premature dying off of the bees causes the fruits and vegetables to not grow as normal, simply because pollination does not offur. This affects the harvest, which can have a significant impact upon the world’s food stores now and in the future. This effect has been seen all over the world from North America to Asia and this can have significant repercussions for people all over the world. Mobile radiation effects can include loss of food crops and can decrease the food for animals that are used for meat, including cows, chickens, and more. This is not a study that is widely accepted, however, simply because many people believe that the decrease in the bee population can be attributed to other issues…such as weather, disease, parasites, etc. The change in weather patterns due to the ozone layer being depleted are thought to cause the bees to die off, which could explain the affect on crops all over the world and the many empty beehives that are found in all parts of the world.”

Since bees account for 75% of the world seeds’ distribution, this is a serious problem, no matter what the reason. And, if CCD (colony collapse disorder) can be linked to the ozone layer, doesn’t that fall back on us…well at least if Gore was right with his Inconvenient Truth.

Shoby also writes “In the 40s and 50s we didn’t know about the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. Are we about to find out about the dark side effects of cellular radiation our mobile device emits?” Dun, dun, dunnnn!

No more bees? Ay carumba!

No more bees? Ay carumba!

Bees are vanishing and cell phones are everywhere…there definitely could be a link. The Institute of Science in Society delivered a press release in April 2007 saying “one likely culprit of [CCD] is a new class of systemic pesticides, which are not only sprayed on crops, but also used universally to dress seeds in conventional agriculture, and can confuse and disorientate bees at very low concentrations” although “another candidate is a radiation from mobile phone base stations that has become nearly ubiquitous in Europe and North America where the bees are vanishing; this possibility is considerably strengthened by preliminary findings that bees fail to return to the hives if cordless phone base stations are placed in them.” The following experiment may prove that it is all about the wireless phones:

Researchers at Landau University in Germany designed a simple experiment for students on the Environmental Science course. Eight mini-hives, each with approximately 8 000 bees were set up for the experiment. Four of them were equipped with a DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication)-station at the bottom of the hive, and the other four without the DECT-station served as controls.

At the entrance of each hive, a transparent plastic tube enabled the experimenters to watch the marked bees entering and leaving the hive, so they can be counted and their time of return after release recorded for a period of 45 minutes.

The experimenters also studied building behavior by measuring the area of the honeycomb and its weight.

In the course of the experiment, three colonies exposed to mobile phone radiation and one non-exposed control colony broke down. The total weights of the honeycombs in all colonies, including those at the time of breakdown were compared. The controls weighed 1 326g, while those exposed to the DECT-stations weighed only 1 045g, a difference of 21 percent. The total area of the honeycomb in the controls was 2 500, compared to just 2050 in the exposed hives.

But it was the number of returning bees and their returning times that were vastly different. For two control hives, 16 out of 25 bees returned in 45 minutes. For the two microwave-exposed hives, however, no bees at all returned to one hive, and only six returned to the other.

The article continues, saying:

Clearly the present findings need to be taken much further, but their significance should not be downplayed for a number of reasons. The findings are compatible with evidence accumulating from investigations on many other species including humans, showing that mobile phone radiation is associated with a range of health hazards including cancers. Furthermore, bees are known to be extremely sensitive to magnetic and electromagnetic fields, and there have been many suggestions that they could be used as an indicator species for electromagnetic pollution.

"...I don't know where I live..."

"...I don't know where I live..."

But what about the fact that mobile phones have been around for quite a while? We all remember the Zak Morris phone and that was over 15 years ago! So why now? Why are bee colonies collapsing now?

“There has been a recent change in cell phone technology that coincides with the current [bee] crisis” the ISIS article states. “At the beginning of the present century, 3G (third generation) mobile phone systems became publicly available, leading to a surge in popularity of mobile phones, and many more phone towers.”

They’re right, cell phones have grown exponentially in the past 20 years. It’s almost as if everyone has one now, and that has caused a great deal of growth in the cell phone industry, but perhaps, at the same time, a great deal of damage to the bee colonies.

A friend of mine who works for a telecommunications and Internet security company had some thoughts:

The big thing here is what is causing the [bee] problem. Is it the technology or the spectrum, as in, is it cell phones in general or is it the frequency they run on? Currently the global standard frequency ranges are mostly GSM (Global System for Communication). GSM is what AT&T runs on and other mobile telecommunications companies like Vodafone. They operate on 850 mHZ, 900mHz, and 1900 mHZ frequencies. There are others out there but they are rare. 

Is it these particular frequencies that are causing the problem, then? What if companies change their frequencies, would that cause the bees’ frequency to become clear again? Obviously more experiments need to be done to figure out what is going on with CCD and how we, as a society, can reverse the damage that’s already been caused!