cell phones kill bees ?

Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”.

image by flickr user "MOEVIEW is Aaron Molina"

today i was directed to an article in inhabitat, which explains that a new study out of switzerland has found that cell phone signals confuse bees and can cause them to suddenly die. it goes on to say that while we’ve known for years that the world bee population is dramatically declining, we didn’t really know why. until now. (well, actually see the note below)

image by flickr user mhall209

this actually shouldn’t be quite a new revelation (but it clearly could stand some further awareness and action!) when i googled “bees and cell phones” the first result is a 2007 (that’s 4 years ago mind you) article from The Independent which talks all about the theory that cell phone signals disrupt a bee’s navigation system.

while the (2007) Independent article says,

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a “hint” to a possible cause.

apparently this most recent swiss study is claiming the “hint” is much more of a “reality”
since the article explains,

Led by researcher Daniel Favre, the alarming study found that bees reacted significantly to cell phones that were placed near or in hives in call-making mode. The bees sensed the signals transmitted when the phones rang, and emitted heavy buzzing noise during the calls. 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! The study found that the bees’ buzzing noise increases ten times when a cell phone is ringing or making a call – aka when signals are being transmitted, but remained normal when not in use.

now, i don’t think most people put their cell phone inside bee hives, but science does seems to be trying to tell us something.

if cell phones really are the problem, and we (most probably) can’t stop people from using cell phones, and we really really need bees to keep pollinating our crops so we can continue to eat, what are we left to do??

note: thanks to one reader (see comments), according to the actual study (found here: http://www.kokopelli.asso.fr/documentation/favre.pdf) there is no mention of cell phone signals actually killing bees, nor does it claim that this is the reason for the declining bee population. it does say, however, that bees are sensitive to pulsed electromagnetic fields generated by cell phones, that they cause observational changes in bee behavior, and that this is reason enough to further study the issue.


check out another bee related article on this blog: The Bee Crisis

which has a link to the trailer of the film Queen of the Sun which is also posted below:


3 thoughts on “cell phones kill bees ?

  1. As a beekeeper I don’t think cell phones are a problem. I live in London, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. My bees still manage to find plenty of pollen and nectar regardless. Of course they buzz and pipe more when a phone is ringing in a hive, they communicate to each other using vibrations and therefore I imagine vibrations caused by a phone would be very unsettling to them.

    The original research by Daniel Favre has been misreported by the media. Have a read of the actual paper here: http://www.kokopelli.asso.fr/documentation/favre.pdf – nowhere does it say the bees died as a result! It just says they piped (a way of communicating through vibrating each other) more.

    The latest work being done by scientists suggests that, while they don’t know all the reasons behind colony collapse, it appears to be a number of factors, including varroa mites and the associated viruses they carry, other bee diseases/parasites and a lack of variety of forage. If people want to help bees what they should do is plant more native flowers, not stop making phone calls 🙂

    • thanks emily, there definitely seems to be a large amount of confusion around the matter. after reading the actual study i can see how terribly wrong that information was portrayed.

      i think it’s really important that the media not only cover colony collapse disorder (assuming it is the pressing issue i understand it to be) but also to do so more carefully. such misrepresentation does a disservice to both the scientists who conducted the study as well as those reading the article.

      • Misreporting seems to be a problem across lots of areas of media, but perhaps reporting on scientific research is particularly challenging for journalists because they tend to have arts backgrounds. Then it goes extra wrong when they’re writing to tight deadlines and decide not to read the original research!

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