In 2010, there was a report on CNN that linked cell phones to the deaths of honey bees. This report was widely laughed off by outsiders, but not so much by the bee industry. This was right about the time the industry started to experience larger losses every year, and beekeepers were looking for reasons. While it may be considered a conspiracy theory, some of the reasoning was very sound.
The interest in that report was revived when a video was posted on social media showing a new 5G tower and an unordinary amount of dead bees in the area. The man that shot the video took a brief tour of the area, showing what appeared to be hundreds of dead bees within a very small radius of the tower.
Whether the story is authentic or not remains to be seen, but it has revived the interest in the 2010 report. The CNN report stated:
In a study at Panjab University in Chandigarh, northern India, researchers fitted cell phones to a hive and powered them up for two fifteen-minute periods each day.
After three months, they found the bees stopped producing honey, egg production by the queen bee halved, and the size of the hive dramatically reduced.
It’s not just the honey that will be lost if populations plummet further. Bees are estimated to pollinate 90 commercial crops worldwide. Their economic value in the UK is estimated to be $290 million per year and around $12 billion in the U.S.
Andrew Goldsworthy, a biologist from the UK’s Imperial College, London, has studied the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. He thinks it’s possible bees could be affected by cell phone radiation.
The reason, Goldsworthy says, could hinge on a pigment in bees called cryptochrome.
“Animals, including insects, use cryptochrome for navigation,” Goldsworthy told CNN.
“They use it to sense the direction of the earth’s magnetic field and their ability to do this is compromised by radiation from [cell] phones and their base stations. So basically bees do not find their way back to the hive.”
Goldsworthy has written to the UK communications regulator OFCOM suggesting a change of phone frequencies would stop the bees being confused.
“It’s possible to modify the signal coming from the [cell] phones and the base station in such a way that it doesn’t produce the frequencies that disturb the cryptochrome molecules,” Goldsworthy said.
“So they could do this without the signal losing its ability to transmit information.”
But the UK’s Mobile Operators Association — which represents the UK’s five mobile network operators — told CNN: “Research scientists have already considered possible factors involved in CCD and have identified the areas for research into the causes of CCD which do not include exposure to radio waves.”
Norman Carreck, Scientific director of the International Bee Research Association at the UK’s University of Sussex says it’s still not clear how much radio waves affect bees.
“We know they are sensitive to magnetic fields. What we don’t know is what use they actually make of them. And no one has yet demonstrated that honey bees use the earth’s magnetic field when navigating,” Carreck said.
Now, with that new video getting more and more attention, you better believe this is something the honey bee industry will be closely monitoring. If that video is found to be authentic and there are more reports of massive amounts of dead honey bees showing up around 5G poles, the cell phone industry will quickly find itself on the most-wanted least of beekeepers.
Photo via Phillip Sites Youtube Video Screenshot