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Are cell phone killing bees? Maybe... but that's not what the latest study claims

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 


bee movie

You may have seen the sensational stories on the Internet the past 24 hours that it’s finally been confirmed: Cell Phones KILL Bees!

The only problem is… it’s NOT confirmed.

That’s not what the study says. It’s not even what the original article says.

The study

Yes, cell phone radiation harms bees. A Swiss researcher placed cell phones next to hives and recorded what happened. When the phones were active, the bees emitted “piping” sounds – the high-pitched tones that spread the message through the colony that something disturbing is going on.

Piping can be a signal for the colony to swarm… but that didn’t happen here, and the researcher let the phones go as long as 20 hours. He did report that the colony didn’t return to baseline normal state for many hours after the phones were switched off and removed.

Nowhere in the report does it say anything about bees dying. So what happened?

The first story

The original article was accepted for the scientific journal Apidologie last year.

The story was picked up by the British tabloid The Daily Mail yesterday. That paper is known more for its sensationalism than its accuracy, and they don’t disappoint – the second sentence claims “In the first experiment of its kind, a bee expert placed a mobile phone underneath a hive and then carefully monitored the reaction of the workers.”, which is simply not true – there have been other experiments of this type.

But the article actually gets it right on the subject of bee death – it explicitly states (all the way down in paragraph 17)

“The study did not show that mobile phones were deadly for bees”

But the headline writer may not have read that far. And it’s the headline writer’s job to pump things up to make sure that folks read the article. So he went all out.

Headline: “Why a mobile phone ring may make bees buzz off: Insects infuriated by handset signals”
Tagline: “Phone signals confuses bees and cause them to begin flying erratically before suddenly dying”
Photo caption: “Researchers placed mobile phones in bee hives under controlled conditions and monitored the results. They found the phone signals confused the bees who begin to fly erratically before dying suddenly”


How it spread

And that’s when things went bad. The meme left the hive, as it were, and flew off and started pollinating other websites.

Many of us who write for the web get our leads by what we read on other blogs. Going back to original sources takes time and effort, and a lot of us aren’t paid very much. We’ve gotta just grab the stories and run with them.

So, Inhabitat, which credits the Daily Mail with the story:

It’s Official – Cell Phones are Killing Bees

Scientists may have found the cause of the world’s sudden dwindling population of bees – and cell phones are to blame. Research conducted in Lausanne, Switzerland has shown that the signal from cell phones not only confuses bees, but also leads to their death. Over 83 experiments have yielded the same results… The calls act as an instinctive warning to leave the hive, but the frequency confuses the bees, causing them to fly erratically, and then suddenly die!

Fast Company:

Cell Phones Are Killing The Bees: Study

New experiments find that cell phone signals don’t just confuse bees, they off them. What does this mean for our food supply? …phone signals confuse honeybees so much that they become disoriented before finally dropping dead…

and Gizmodo:

Study: Mobile Phones Cause Bees To Swarm To Their Death

…Disoriented by the noise, the colony fled their hive, flew erratically and suddenly died….

and another 54,000 or so websites picked up on the story over the past 24 hours.

Like the Portland Mercury:

Cell phones=death to bees=DOOM

Followed by this exchange in the comments:

it could be anything that’s messing up the bees, including cell phones. - Posted by jami | April 16, 2007 1:18 PM

You mean I might have been blowing the whole thing out of proportion? - Posted by [author] Matt Davis | April 16, 2007 1:39 PM

possibly yes. - Posted by jami | April 16, 2007 3:58 PM

Nooooooooooo. - Posted by [author] Matt Davis | April 16, 2007 4:18 PM

Oh, wait! That’s from FOUR YEARS AGO. I guess this isn’t a new phenomenon, either…

Enjoy this article? Friend Red Green and Blue on Facebook!

More on Colony Collapse Disorder:

Similar stories:

(Bee Movie image © Dreamworks Animation; via RegHardware)

post #2 of 6

So did they test their theory with a cell phone a mile away? I know fire will kill bee's and even if you put it next/under the hive. I'm sure a lot of things we have created would cause alarm if you test your theory within a short amount of distance. The true test would be max length cause I really dont see ppl living next to bee hives everyday.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

The question is: Overall, what effect does the large amount of radiation we're putting into the environment have on the bees?


And yeah, it's very tricky to evaluate.


They've tried tests near cell phone towers, and in this case they put cell phones right NEXT to the hives. But this is all just preliminary, to see what effect, if any, BIG exposures have.


Possible issues:

1) Human beekeepers have cell phones. Should they take them out of their pockets when they work with the hives?

2) Bees fly miles on their rounds as they gather pollen. Will brief close encounters with cell phones screw up their navigation, preventing them from returning home?

3) There is SO MUCH low-lever radiation permeating our environment now... could 10,000 small signals cause as much trouble as 1 strong one?


We just don't know what the answers are.

But we DO know that SOMETHING is screwing up the bees. And without bees, a WHOLE lot of our food supply is in trouble, because without bees to pollinate them, they won't grow.

post #4 of 6

I believe it is Monsanto, and his genetically modified and pesticide ridden seeds that are killing the bees.

post #5 of 6

I don't know much about bees; I wrote a kids' book about a squirrel. But I am always glad to see coverage like this in the news. These are issues we should be aware of and thinking of. Not only should we be studying them and finding out the effects we cause as humans, but we should be teaching our children to care about the same. Using the picture from the bee movie in your blog prompts parents to talk about this with their kids, just as using a squirrel as the hero character for a book prompts them to talk to their kids about deforestation and the effect on animals of our use of the environment.

post #6 of 6

So though the point of this artical seems to be more the effect of faulty journalism than the effect of the disappearance of bees, im sure most are familiar with the notion that when the bees die, the earth dies. This being said, lets support humane bee hiving. Discounts on bee's wax candals can be found here -half off! http://www.organicsoul.com/offers/19-for-40-to-spend-on-100-pure-beeswax-candles/ So there. Peace.

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