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Are Mobile Phones Wiping Out Bees? 419

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-i-hope-this-isn't-a-late-april-fools-joke dept.
Mz6 wrote with a link to an article on The Independent site about a most unusual scientific theory. "Some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail. They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world — the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops."
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Are Mobile Phones Wiping Out Bees?

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  • by Hennell (1005107) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:06AM (#18740073) Homepage
    Does this mean the best way to cope with being 'attacked' by a bee, is to whip out your mobile make a ringing sound then pass it to the bee and say "Its for you"?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:21AM (#18740149)
      Bees should wear those
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fmobus (831767)
      Well being allergic to them, I really like the concept. Brb, buying another cellphone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by the phantom (107624) *
        Not to take your obvious attempt at a joke too seriously, but I take it that you don't like apples, almonds, cucumbers, or pumpkins, either? Much of the vegetable food that you eat is dependent upon bees for pollination. Much of the food that is fed to livestock that you might eat is dependent upon bees for pollination. If bees were to completely disappear, we would lose out on a whole hell of a lot more than just honey.
        • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn AT earthlink DOT net> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @03:21PM (#18743323)
          FWIW, I believe that the only bees affected are the hive bees. These ARE the source of honey, and they are the kind that can be carted around from place to place. They are also a minority of all bees. If pesticides aren't used indiscriminately, then native bees can do much of the work of pollination. But, of course, this won't happen if you kill them off whenever your plants aren't in flower.

          If hive bees vanish, then successful farming will REQUIRE that less insecticide be used...or at least that it be of a very targeted variety.
          • by instarx (615765) on Monday April 16, 2007 @06:38AM (#18748429)
            From the article: Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

            I call baloney on this bee vs. cell phone theory. Cell phones were commmon in Europe for many years before they became ubiquitous in the US, so the fact that the bee problem started in the US and spread to Europe argues against a causal relationship. If a bee-decline were related to handi use the problem would have started in Europe and spread to the US.
    • exactly - there is even a gsm provider in russia, called bee line.
    • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:28AM (#18740763) Homepage
      1) US and European phone systems operate on different frequencies
      2) Europe has been using these frequencies far longer than in the US. Thus if there was any sort of "deployment pattern", it would start there.
      3) Europe has higher cell use per capita and higher population density than the US. See (2)
      4) Some of these frequencies have been heavily used in the past by high-channel UHF television stations with MUCH greater power (like 10,000 times). Ever wonder where channels above 70 went when cell phones started showing up? If it was something to do with these frequencies, all bees would have been gone back in the 70's.

      and the most important one

      5) these die-offs have been happening since people have been watching, long before there was any RF except for lightening

      Maury
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by WgT2 (591074)

        Great insight.

        That reminds me of how polar bears are the misleading poster child for global warming as well: instead of dying at sea because there's not enough ice, they and their progeny are taking the artic by storm. [telegraph.co.uk]

      • by tuxedobob (582913)
        I remember the channel dial going up to 84 or so, but I don't ever remember any actual channels above 66.
      • by onepoint (301486) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @10:02AM (#18740949) Homepage Journal
        Wonderful summary, I would also like to add the following:

        There has been a general decline in beekeepers as cited in this news paper http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2007-02-15/news/bee-s pell/ [miaminewtimes.com] .

      • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @11:39AM (#18741599)
        > 5) these die-offs have been happening since people have been watching, long before there was any RF except for lightening

        And then add in this paragraph in the story in TFA:

        "Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives."

        This tells volumes to anyone with a hint of a clue about biology. It says that whatever is happening is natural, and has happened enough for Nature to have built in defenses against whatever it is. The only time in nature you leave food untouched is when your instincts tell you it is BAD. For that to happen takes evolution a longtime to perfect, thus this crap isn't new. It tells me it is something very nasty but very old, older than H. sapiens and certainly cell phones.

        But cell phone scares are all the rage these days so...... Not saying cell phones don't pose some major risks, but that has nothing to do with a media bandwagon. They start for reasons totally unrelated to science and then in the chase for funding, marginal scientists hook up to the bandwagon and make it self sustaining.
        • by sjames (1099) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @01:35PM (#18742513) Homepage

          t says that whatever is happening is natural, and has happened enough for Nature to have built in defenses against whatever it is.

          If I set off a teargas canister in a field, every critter in the area will move away from it quickly. That does NOT mean that teargas canisters occur in nature or that they have existed for millions of years.

          The microwave pulses from some radar systems will scatter a flock of birds. AFAIK, RADAR is fairly recent in the natural world as well.

          • by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypher@gmai l . com> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:41PM (#18745695) Homepage Journal
            If I set off a teargas canister in a field, every critter in the area will move away from it quickly. That does NOT mean that teargas canisters occur in nature or that they have existed for millions of years.

            No, but it does mean that toxic gasses have existed for millions of years. Believe it or not, most creatures don't actually react when presented with fundamentally new stimuli; with the exceptions of neophobic animals like rats, and animals which think something about the deployment is threatening - like maybe the tear-gas canister hisses, or whatever - you're more likely to see animals go towards the grenade than away.

            "But it's painful, of course they're going to run away." Yeah, why do you think pain exists? That's an evolved defense against generic caustic gasses, fires, et cetera. The gas in teargas was chosen specifically because it does a damned good job of setting off our natural reaction to the gasses in forest fire smoke. Just because humans can imitate the source of a biologically hardwired behavior doesn't mean that the behavior doesn't have an originating source. You'll note that tear gas is fine-tuned to piss off human biology; several other biologies on earth, such as insects, lizards, fish and hippies are completely unaffected, and still other biologies, such as deer, are killed by tear gas.

            For comparison, set off a can of teargas in a container, then put the resulting liquid in the water of a tank containing crabs with an easy path out. The crabs will not react, if you're careful to not splash the water. They'll die quite ignorant of what's happening. We don't just magically run away from things. Biology has to know they're harmful before we'll bother. Most humans will silently asphyxiate in a room full of carbon monoxide, because the body doesn't know how to differentiate it from oxygen, and just sort of quietly fails.

            There are tons of things humanity has made that are quietly toxic, and a few that were already in nature, like radon. The teargas reaction is not random. It's highly evolved and for a damned good reason. Animals set up shop in toxic sludge all the time.

            every critter in the area will move away from it quickly.

            Actually, many insects and smaller animals don't have the good sense to do so, and anything without exposed mucus membranes, like most lizards, won't have a good reason to leave. Only some classes of animal react to teargas, because many animals use different holy-shit triggers for fire. If you throw a quiet teargas grenade next to a seal, the seal will bat it around for a while, try to eat it several times, and end up getting bored and finding something to kill.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by DCheesi (150068)
            It's the lack of selectivity that makes it seem natural, or at least something sensed using the common senses. Ok, you can drive the bees off with cell radiation, I can buy that. But the idea that *every* natural predator, scavenger, and parasite of bees happens to be sensitive to the same specific radiation?! Come on, what are the odds!

            OTOH, something like a natural poison that's been around a long time could be detected by all those natural enemies. Even an "unnatural" chemical could be detectable simply
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Wah (30840)
          There's also the possibility that some human action is unknowingly mimicking a nasty natural one.

          Possibly...but not likely. Seems more likely it's something along these lines [youtube.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jd (1658)
          Great info there. The problem, a I understand it, is less the CCD itself and more the scale. The problem seems to be on a far greater scale than would seem to have been expected. This does not require any new mechanisms, but does require an explanation for how we get from historical CCD norms to current CCD levels. It may be as simple as there being better monitoring, better reporting, more experience at triggering sudden panic attacks in the media, etc. However, I see nothing wrong with researchers taking
        • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @03:22PM (#18743329)
          Mother Nature built in some sort of defence to stop the spread of disease etc. That will be as old as the hills. Perhaps though this mechanism is being falsely triggered by some modern source.

          Blaming it on cellphones is a bit of a stretch though. There seem to be far more likely causes:

          Pesticides/herbicides/fertilisers, particularly modern hormonal ones, could be disrupting the hives.

          Cross breeding of bees (eg. Africanised killer bees) could disrupt bee/hive behaviour.

          Monoculture farming cuts down of plant food diversity, leading to a less balanced diet. GM crops alter the composition of pollen & nectar.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        4) Some of these frequencies have been heavily used in the past by high-channel UHF television stations with MUCH greater power (like 10,000 times). Ever wonder where channels above 70 went when cell phones started showing up? If it was something to do with these frequencies, all bees would have been gone back in the 70's.

        Not saying that I buy this theory or not but it would be interesting to see if it was related to the pulse nature of GSM transmissions. Did they do any studies to see if analog or CDMA

      • by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @12:49PM (#18742127)
        It's funny how we always blame man, I think you will find out in the
        end it is more to do with the soon to occur Geomagnetic Reversal.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_reversal [wikipedia.org]

        http://www.synchronizm.com/blog/index.php/2007/03/ 29/the-bees-who-flew-too-high/ [synchronizm.com]

        http://www.setiai.com/archives/000063.html [setiai.com]

        Excerpt: (paragraph 10)

        Perhaps the most enigmatic of the bee's senses is their ability to read the Earth's magnetic field. Magnetism is used by many animals, including dolphins and pigeons. The honeybee, however, is more sensitive than any other creature known.

        This is a signpost of nature, if we watch we can learn...

        Ex-MislTech ...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by steelfood (895457)
          I think if this were true, more species than bees would be affected.

          While the article is likely biased against cell phones and their usage, geomagnetic reversal does not explain everything. In particular, why this does not affect other species whose navigation appears to be dependent on the planet's magnetism. That, and why this is a spreading phenomenon, not one that suddenly happens to every honeybee worldwide. After all, changes in the magnetic field should affect the whole planet simultaneously and larg
    • When Slashdotters think that a story is fraudulent, they don't say it is fraud, they just make lots of jokes. If the first 50 comments are mostly jokes, then you know the story must have some fake element.

      It could happen to you: If you spend your time playing video games instead of learning about the world, you too can be so ignorant that you fall for every foolish, easily disproved theory.

      --
      Remarkable Occurrences Involving the Bush Family [futurepower.org]
      • FWIW, the scientists are merely proposing it as a theory. They aren't claiming more than that it is consistent with a few minor tests. It probably is.

        This isn't to say that this is the correct answer, just that it's consistent with the evidence against which it has been tested. (Probably that evidence forms the background against which it was formulated.) They are suggesting that it might be worth testing further. This seems reasonable. Since the cause of Colony Collapse Disease isn't known, examining
  • by ReidMaynard (161608) * on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:07AM (#18740079) Homepage
    Other reasons Bees are gone..
    *Sunspots
    *Global warming
    *Terrorism
    *CowboyNeal
    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:46AM (#18740283)
      No, it's definately mobile phones. But not the radio transmissions, it's that Crazy Frog ringtone.
      • by jonbryce (703250)
        And absolutely nothing to do with the fact that, in England anyway, it is currently hotter now, in mid April, than the normal maximum temperature in July, and that 2007 is shaping up to be by far the hottest year ever, much hotter than the current holder of the record, which was last year.
      • by Civil_Disobedient (261825) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @06:18PM (#18744619)
        it's that Crazy Frog ringtone

        It's Axel F [wikipedia.org], goddammit. Axel F, written by Harold Faltermeyer [wikipedia.org] in 1984 for the movie Beverly Hills Cop [imdb.com], the protagonist of which, played by Eddie Murphy, was named Axel Foley.

        NOT "the Crazy Frog" song.

        Oh, and for the record, that Puff Daddy song, I'll Be Missing You [wikipedia.org]? That was written by this dude called Sting, in a song called Every Breath You Take in 1983.

        Goddamned kids these days. They're all "But I hate the 80s!" yet conveniently ignore the fact that three-quarters of their "culture" is ripped off from the 70s and 80s. /rant
    • You forgot to mention daytime TV. I blame QVC for rotting their brains.

      Or maybe that is housewives? No, No, its globule warming that is making housewives extinct. Its all so confusing, I need another coffee!

    • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:26AM (#18740501)
      We had a good article [registerguard.com] in our local paper about the bee issue. It turns out they're just fine here (meaning there's the usual number of hive deaths).

      In fact, some farmers say they are puzzled about the dire news stories appearing in local, state and national media in the past several weeks.

      "It's not new this year," Williams said. "If you know what I mean."

      Many beekeepers are skeptical of the reports or at least how they're adding up. For 100 years, beekeepers have logged periodic reports of sudden and inexplicable bee die-offs. People refer the latest die-off by its initials "CCD," but one Georgia beekeeper instead calls it the "SSDD" crisis for "Same Stuff, Different Day."


      There have been a few good theories as to why they're dying off in certain places:

      Most empty hives have been discovered at large, commercial migrating bee farms - and that has led some beekeepers to theorize that it's the stress of being trucked cross-country that's killing the bees.

      "The (bee's) instinct is to go out and collect pollen and nectar, and that's what they do. When they can't get out of the hive, it puts them under stress. They need to go to the bathroom on a regular basis, but they won't go in their hive," said Ken Ograin, an Elmira beekeeper.

      Some people blame the high-fructose corn syrup that beekeepers feed the bees in the large-scale operations.

      "People think that's not the best thing to feed them. There's a lot of argument about that," Scher said.
      At this point, bringing cell phones into the mix is just plain silly.
      • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:39AM (#18740811)
        One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered bee community when IDC confirmed that bee market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all insects. Coming close on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that bees have lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. The bee population is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Garden Admin comprehensive pollination test.

        You don't need to be a Darwin to predict the bees' future. The hand writing is on the wall: The bees face a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for bees because the bees are dying. Things are looking very bad for bees. As many of us are already aware, the bees continue to lose market share. Royal jelly flows like a river of nectar.

        The honey bee is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core queens. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time honey bee celebrities Maya and Willy only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: The honey bee is dying.

        Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

        Soul bee leader Q-Bee states that there are 7000 soul bees. How many bumblebees are there? Let's see. The number of soul bee versus bumblebee posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 bumblebees. Stingless bee posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of bumblebee posts. Therefore there are about 700 stingless bees. A recent article put africanized bees at about 80 percent of the bee market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 africanized bees. This is consistent with the number of africanized bee Usenet posts.

        Due to the troubles of Pitcairn Island, abysmal sales and so on, the africanized bees went out of business and were taken over by the hornets who sell another troubled species. Now the hornets are also dead, their corpses turned over to yet another charnel house.

        All major surveys show that bees have steadily declined in market share. The bees are very sick and their long term survival prospects are very dim. If bee are to survive at all it will be among insect dilettante dabblers. The bees continue to decay. Nothing short of a cockeyed miracle could save the bees from their fate at this point in time. For all practical purposes, the bees are dead.

        Fact: The bees are dying.
        • Oh, please, mods. Any reference to Netcraft outside of networking (and, actually, most references to Netcraft that are about networking) on Slashdot is a joke, not a troll.
      • by jez9999 (618189)
        "They need to go to the bathroom on a regular basis, but they won't go in their hive"

        That's obviously the problem. Bee transporters need minature baths installed!
      • by prelelat (201821)
        Even if its plain silly, if this turns out to be a problem next year everything should be looked at. I don't see how cell phones could cause problems in some areas but not others but the same goes for anything. Chances are its just some of the same old thing that caused this to happen and it just happend to be more than usual. If its not then I say look at all the possibilites no matter how silly they are.
      • by timeOday (582209)

        Some people blame the high-fructose corn syrup that beekeepers feed the bees in the large-scale operations.
        Aha, high fructose corn syrup! Now that stuff really is the devil. It's everywhere.
      • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @11:36AM (#18741579)
        I call Bullocks on the truck theory. My uncle, as well as numerous local farmers have bee hives that have stayed in the same place for a decade or several decades. The bees have all died off in the last couple years. Something is going on, and it's not trucking.
      • by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @12:47PM (#18742115)
        The usual candidate is Variola mite, to which you may be seriously able to add GM-corn which is producing BT (bees do collect and eat pollen as well as nectar), excessive agrichemical usage, as well as Suburbanites, who plant flower-free ChemLawned monocultures which give the bees little to feed on and much to be poisoned with. It's also possible that the filler that the bees are fed isn't metabolized as well, or otherwise weakens them and makes them more succeptable to all of the above.

        There are probably other pathogens imported through globalization (like the Elm blight or Japanese beetle) which the european honeybees aren't resistant to, which will lead to some inconvenience as other pollinators move back into the open niche. This presumes, of course, that pesticide-besotted morons don't poison them first as well.

        Slightly hopeful case in point; when I was growing up the bio-textbook example of adaptation was how some small moth was required to fertilize yucca, and without said desert moth, they wouldn't reproduce. People planted yucca in places (southern Michigan, NJ) that it doesn't belong, and apparently some other pollinator saw an opportunity, as I have seen new ones apparently sprouted from seed in the wild, sopme distance from the domestic plantings. This doesn't mean that the new pollinators are as efficient, and since they might include studly africanized "killer" bees, not as benign either, but we're probably not looking at total collapse.

        When you see headlines like this involving radio-emissions as the cause of everything wrong in the world (as if the percent difference over natural field isn't trivial), you should require the alleged researcher to check one of two boxes, "I am a technophobic idiot who wants everyone to live in an unheated mud-hut like Gaia demands", or "I absolutely despise our over-connected, non-introspective, obnoxious cell-phone culture, and want a reason to make it go away".
      • by Phat_Tony (661117) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @01:20PM (#18742395)
        "Some people blame the high-fructose corn syrup that beekeepers feed the bees in the large-scale operations."

        The US is the only country in the world that uses significant quantities of high fructose corn syrup, because the US Government bans sugar imports.

        The epidemic has moved to Europe.

        Therefore, it is not caused by feeding the bees high fructose corn syrup.

        Also, while the problem of total hive die-offs in the case of CCD may be concentrated in huge commercial bee operations, the small scale rural local bee keeper we know, who's bees mostly stay on his own organic farm, and who's been doing this for a long time, told us that his yields have been down more and more over the last several years and that that's been standard for the industry, even for small operations like his. Even without total hive death, there's been an unusually large number of bees dying off, and surviving hives have been having trouble maintaining population.

        I agree that the cell phone explanation isn't any good, but I don't buy the HFCS or traveling bee explanations either.

        I also think that we should embark on a crash course of research funding in this area, because in case the bees don't start getting better on their own, the long term prospects for humanity don't look so good. With scientific "doomsday scenarios," the populous seems to already be divided into two camps- environmentalists who say every little thing is going to destroy the world in the next fifteen minutes, and conservatives who think that all doomsday scenarios are ludicrous. But every now and then, there's something where the science behind it is just scary enough that we should probably do some serious looking into it, just in case. Since no one's really disputing that
        1. Bees in much of the world have been experiencing a significant unexplained population decline for years and
        2. The food supply for humanity is overwhelmingly dependent on bees
        that we should at least make a serious effort to ramp up research on this problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by edb (87448)
        Most empty hives have been discovered at large, commercial migrating bee farms - and that has led some beekeepers to theorize that it's the stress of being trucked cross-country that's killing the bees.

        Many amateur beekeepers (including my wife) are finding 90% or more of their hives wiped out here in California. These hives are not commercial, do not migrate.

        Some people blame the high-fructose corn syrup that beekeepers feed the bees in the large-scale operations.

        This is generally known to be not the best
    • by john82 (68332)
      And from a previous [slashdot.org] Slashdot article we got:
      * Genetically Modified Organisms (plants AND animals)
      * Global Warming (with or without Red Mites)
      * Africanized ("Killer") Bees
      * Russian bees
      * Capitalism and free-market economics
      * Republicans subsidizing corn for votes

      That should be enough topics to kick start some foil hat discussions.
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      I'm sorry, you'll have to keep your list just a little more contemporary if you want some traction. "Terrorism" and "Global Warming" are so last-year's-Oscars. Try:

      *Don Imus
      *Al Sharpton
      *Nancy Pelosi
      *Google's Purchase Of DoubleClick
      *CowboyNeal
  • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:09AM (#18740087)

    I for one am extremely suspicious about claims that bees are being wiped out by mobile 'phones. Here's an example of why:

    US = 301,505,000 people in 2,718,695 sq miles = 111 people per sq mile
    UK = 60,609,153 people in 94,526 sq miles = 641 people per sq mile

    So, why is it that the US is suffering this major disappearance of bees when the UK isn't? Seeing as the density of mobile phone signals is going to be FAR higher in the UK? Ok, i accept that mobile phones in the UK work on different frequencies, but from what I've heard, the same thing is happening in Poland and Spain [earthfiles.com], which both have far lower population densities than the UK, and the same mobile phone frequencies. Of course, Poland and Spain import far more US Genetically Modified crops than the UK does.

    • by duffbeer703 (177751) * on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:16AM (#18740119)
      Perhaps its something to do with newer 3G technology on US and continental headsets?

      Or maybe the government is using some sort of exotic systems to conduct mapping, drug interdiction or surveillance? Millimeter-wave radar can produce pictures of buildings, and operates on a frequency similar to cell phones.

      In a few areas in the western US, there have been incidents when military aircraft electronic warfare systems have triggered widespread issues like garage doors opening and closing by themselves and TV signals being jammed.
      • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:22AM (#18740157)
        The UK had 3G long before the US. But 3G mainly covers metropolitan areas. I believe bees are more rural and they don't currently benefit from 3G connections.
      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:30AM (#18740199) Journal
        Perhaps it's simply more to do with pesticide use, or is that too obvious.
        • by skoaldipper (752281) <skoalstr8@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:22AM (#18740475)
          Pesticides? One beekeper [sfgate.com] thinks it's genetic engineering of agricultural plants. I tend to agree. I say, let's just put the beaker and lazer tweezers away already. Let insects do what they do best - suckling off mother nature's teat, not father human's trampling feet.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TapeCutter (624760)
            He could have a point and GM plants that allow heavy use of herbicides are also a problem for wild insects. The sonner we learn how to turn dirt directly into food the better.
        • Or is it GMO's? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bvdbos (724595)
          Der Spiegel, a German newspaper, had an article in March [spiegel.de] where the phenomenon CCD [wikipedia.org] might have to do with GMO's:

          According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of Halle in eastern Germany and the director of the study, the bacterial toxin in the genetically modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry -- or perhaps it was the other way around. We don't know."

          babelfish translation of the article [altavista.com] or
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        ??? There's much better 3G coverage in the UK than the US.

        Personally, I think it's much more likely that in the UK and the rest of europe, people frown on excessive pesticide use, and when it is delivered, it's often by carefully targetted ground-based spraying, whereas in the USA, they spray lots more nasty shit from planes.

        Given it's bees, I think it could just be a virulent fungus or mites or virus that just hasn't jumped across to the UK yet.

        Also, UK and Ireland in particular have a diverse population o
      • Millimeter-wave radar can produce pictures of buildings, and operates on a frequency similar to cell phones

        What's called "millimeter" waves have a wavelength around one millimeter. Most cell phones operate around 300 millimeter wavelength, with the 2.45 GHz band used for some phones and other wireless equipment being around 120 millimeters. Not similar at all.

        military aircraft electronic warfare systems have triggered widespread issues like garage doors opening and closing by themselves and TV signals bein

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      Just playing Devil's Advocate here for a moment...

      The US has several different cellphone frequencies. They refuse to share the same network with each other. This means overlapping coverage from multiple sets of cellphone towers. I think it could easily make up the difference in the sheer number of cellphones.

      Poland and Spain still tend to refute this, but their cause may be something else entirely, or just imagined.

      Heck, it could be something completely unrelated, like the poles of the earth getting read
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tacocat (527354)

        Yeah, but...

        There are only two frequency bands for cellular technology: analog & digital

        Starting in February, 2008 the cellular industry is dropping analog in all but the smaller rural communities, if even that.

        So by next year they'll all come back, right?

        • by amorsen (7485)
          There are only two frequency bands for cellular technology: analog & digital

          That is wrong. What gave you that idea?
        • There are only two frequency bands for cellular technology: analog & digital
          That's so you can store it in a boolean and still have space left over for file-not-found.
    • by SnowZero (92219) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:25AM (#18740183)
      Add to that the seeming "spread" of this phenomenon. If this was a slow process in the US and Europe as cell phones increased, it would make more sense than some sort of more immediate collapse like we've seen. Maybe if they can show that adding new cell phone towers kills bees in the area, it would make sense. Until then, I'd guess it was some sort of virus/fungus/mite/parasite, or a chemical in a new (i.e. GM) crop.

      Hopefully the strong bees will survive, and repollinate the earth.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kimvette (919543)
        Oh that's okay, we'll just genetically engineer honeybees so that they can handle the GM crops. When honey results in severe allergic reactions in humans, well, we have an answer for that as well - genetically engineer humans, resulting in a patent fee for every human conceived (whether or not carried to term), or better yet, since it would be more profitable, like soy and high-fructose corn syrup, get all the food manufacturers to use this highly-allergenic "food" ingredients in all "food" products and giv
    • Another theory. Sunspots. [qj.net]

      Though seems like this wouldn't be US centric either.

      Any ideas?
    • by TFGeditor (737839)
      Ah, if you RTFA, you should know this: "Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well."

      Sorta blows your theory out of the water, I think.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dogtanian (588974)

        Ah, if you RTFA, you should know this: "Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well." Sorta blows your theory out of the water, I think.

        No it doesn't. Mobile phones have been popular in Britain for a long time; if it really was just down to mobile phones in general, this wouldn't explain the sudden jump in numbers.

        It might be suggested that more recent adoption of 3G technologies had something to do with this. However, AFAIK 3G penetration is greater in the UK than in the US, so if that were the cause we'd more likely be "ahead" of you with the bee problem, not behind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      But UK bees are going missing too, just not in such large numbers yet, and the Government Bee Inspectors of the National Bee Unit are denying there is anything wrong. http://environment.guardian.co.uk/conservation/sto ry/0,,2055067,00.html [guardian.co.uk]
    • Clearly its in everyone's best interest to find the cause...and cure.

      "The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

      CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

      Other apiaris

    • by 6Yankee (597075)
      So what you're saying is, Low human population density == fewer bees?

      Right.

      Now all we need to do is convince all the girls that having unprotected sex with random strangers will save the cute fluffy bumble-bees, and we're set. :)
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Also the UK has 61m mobiles v the US which has 219m. Genetically modified food pretty much doesn't exist in the UK. Nobody wants to buy it.
    • by Prune (557140)
      Dude, what are you smoking? That's average population density, a meaningless number. What matters is the local population density, which varies enormously over the US.
  • Presumably if we could work out exactly what EMR does to bees navigation capabilities then we could exploit this "feature" to send the bees exactly where we want them.

    OTH can people who react strongly to bee stings now carry a device to ward them off?

  • THE BEES! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:17AM (#18740123)
    Won't somebody please think of the bees?!
  • by eneville (745111) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:20AM (#18740145) Homepage
    Bees are not the only insect that pollinates the plants. If one reads The Origin of Species [s5h.net] there are mentions of many different ways for plants to propagate. Bees are generally being pushed aside by the wasps, at least here in England. Many other creatures can spread pollen, along with wind itself.

    The problem with plant propagation in the wild is there is a rough 500:1 chance if successful growth to maturity for the seedlings.
    • by johansalk (818687) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:30AM (#18740513)
      Gees. Another free market Darwinist; "bees are just not being competitive enough in the marketplace of pollination and are being pushed aside. So what if the bees are wiped out, the free market of nature will fill up the gap with many other providers of pollination services".
      • by arcite (661011)
        Gee... I mean we humans couldn't possibly take the initiative and solve the problem before it becomes a tragedy. ::rolls eyes::

    • by Prune (557140)
      Too bad wasps don't make honey, one of my favorite foods (and I'm sure I'm not alone).
    • Many other creatures can spread pollen, along with wind itself.

      Sure, man being the foremost of these creatures. If done in a country with very low wages [kafrin.com] one can sometimes offer a very expensive exotic product. You see, vanilla is a plant that can be pollinated only by bees, and only one very special kind of bee, that's found only in its native Mexico. This is because its flower [wikimedia.org] has a peculiar shape [wikimedia.org] that only fits the body of that bee.

      So, well, yes, natural evolution may take care of that. If bees disappear

  • What study? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gvc (167165) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:21AM (#18740151)
    I'm not saying there's no such study, but the The Independent article gives no reference and I see no paper on Kuhn's CV [64.233.179.104].

    It looks like the sort of work he might do, but a one-sentence paraphrasal is scant information on which to base any comment.

  • Cells are everywhere. We have 6 competing companies for a market of maybe 5 million people. Everyone here has at the very least one (Average is as far as I know about 2.something).

    Still, no shortage in bees. Quite the opposite!

    On the other hand, though, we don't have crops with altered genes...
  • Invader Zim (Score:5, Funny)

    by yoyhed (651244) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:35AM (#18740233)
    Surely that was no human bee! Once I take care of the humans, I will start my war against....

    THE BEEEES

  • New Theory (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops.

    I put forth a new theory...

    It's because of the ketchup bottles.
    They were clear before, and you could *see* how much was left, but more importantly, how nasty the remaining amount looked like. When the inside of the bottle got so nasty, as to have the ShakeIt-Until-Even technique fail, the bottles would get tossed out.
    These bottles would eventually find thei

  • by dorpus (636554) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:15AM (#18740437)
    Speaking as a PhD candidate in biostatistics, the article quotes thoroughly discredited theories of the effects of cell phones on humans. Unfortunately, the media routinely quotes the opinions of obviously fraudulent scientists, or quotes others out of context, to sell the "conspiracy theory" angle to the willing masses.

    Medical misrepresentation in the media has a long history -- in the 18th century, when a British physician developed a smallpox vaccine based on cowpox, newspapers at the time described people turning into cows, causing a national panic. Mistrust of vaccines lingered for decades afterwards. In 1999, anti-vaccine hysteria again surfaced when an extremely poorly designed study managed to be published in Lancet, claiming that 80% of children with autism had received the MMR vaccine. (80% of British children received vaccinations in the first place.) Lancet retracted the article, and years of wasteful research went into re-examining the vaccine theory -- plenty of other locations had rising incidences of autism despite reductions in vaccination rates. There is no controversy among epidemiologists today, but the media continues to describe this as a "controversial theory".
    The incidence of autism has since leveled off, suggesting that the observed increase was just based on changes in diagnostic criteria and public awareness; the true prevalence has likely never changed.

    The bee disorder in question is probably caused by viruses such as black queen cell virus or bee paralysis virus. Also, South African apiaries have had a problem with transposons (jumping genes), possibly viral in origin, that cause drone workers to produce children, disrupting the hive. Despite what you may have learned in high school, honeybees are a domesticated species with an unnatural pattern of reproduction in the first place. Wild bees do not always have strict hierarchies.

    • by tiny69 (34486)
      From the article:

      "Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives."

      If parasites, wildlife, and other bees refuse to go near an abandoned hive when normall
    • by Prune (557140)
      Though other species will continue pollination, I fail to see where I'm going to be getting my honey. I can't be going around seeking out wild bee nests to raid.
    • ...that cause drone workers to produce children
       
      Just a small nitpick: I think you mean "that cause workers to produce children". Workers and drones are separate castes and all drones are male.
  • Biggest Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tidewaterblues (784797) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @08:20AM (#18740459) Homepage
    This biggest problem with this theory is that it does not explain why hive death has started now. We have had more than a critical mass of cell phones for years now, especially in Europe. It also fails to explain this rather telling quote from TFA itself: "The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives."

    This makes it sound like a new disease to me.
  • Let's not forget that cell phones put out an extremely low power signal. The energy in that signal that would hit any particular point (think of the intersection of a bee and a sphere of signal expanding from the cell phone) decreases with the square of the distance from the phone (inverse square law) If the bee is more than an tiny distance from the phone, the bee would never notice anything, because the energy levels would be so low.

    On the other hand, that big shiny ball in the sky that emits huge amoun
  • Corn fields? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Second Horseman (121958) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:10AM (#18740687)

    A lot of the die-offs have been near corn fields, and a pesticide that coats some of the GM corn is a neurotoxin that causes disorientation in bees, even at low doses. There was a similar issue in France a number of years ago, apparently. Honey production was cut in half for several years. The Star-Ledger here in NJ ran an article about it today. Some are speculating that this might be a factor.

    http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news -11/1176611470205100.xml&coll=1 [nj.com]

  • Not quite (Score:5, Funny)

    by linvir (970218) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:27AM (#18740759)
    Other studies have pointed to white guilt, neighbourhood paedophiles and industrialised society as possible causes for this and many other aspects of the ongoing apocalypse. Won't somebody please think of the children?!
  • by mooboy (191903) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:39AM (#18740807)

    The cell phone theory is a little weak. From TFA, researchers found that "bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby"?? How nearby? Inside the homes of honeybee keepers? If that were the case we'd have seen the issue spring up much sooner.
    Anyway, bee population scares have come up before. From this article [newsbank.com]:

    U.S. honeybee population devastated. Experts say mites, weather killing hives
    Author: Matt CrensonAssociated Press
    Publish Date: June 23, 1996
    America's honeybees are in a bad way. Already weakened by 12 years of battling blood-sucking mites, bees have been brought to their knees by a soggy spring on the heels of many regions' exceptionally cold winter. Experts estimate that more than 90 percent of wild colonies have been wiped out nationwide, along with a large number of those tended by beekeepers. "It's devastated the population of unmanaged bees that are in hollow trees and old...

    So how did the bees make a recovery 11 years ago? Had they even recovered before this current problem? Can anyone find a bee population trend from the past 50 years?
    Another thought: could this have anything to do with the fear of Africanized honeybees spreading into North America? Sorry for spouting conspiracy theory, but what if the government tried to use GM to stop the killer bees and it backfired? (same level of plausibility as the cell phone theory).

  • by jlrowe (69115) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @09:46AM (#18740857)
    I have three bee hives that are doing fine AFAIK as of two weeks ago, that are placed directly beneath a commercial FM radio station antenna (inside the radius of the guy wires).

    • They are however, several miles away from other bees making the transmission of disease and parasites less likely.
    • Both corn and soybeans are planted directly adjacent to them. So current pesticides and herbicides are not affecting them.
    • Productivity of honey is down considerably from a decade ago when I had 13 hives in a different location. However those hives were much closer to other bees and I am sure got the parasites that killed so many bees in the last decade. All 13 of those hives died.
    • Honey production is down primarily because no one is planting clover for hay anymore. It is all corn and soybeans. It is a struggle I'm sure for the bees to find enough to store away for the winter.
    • Commercial bees are transported from site to site for pollination. That is stressful to the hive and subjects them too other bees that are possibly infected with whatever.
    I just don't accept the theory that it is radio waves. The study sample is probably so small it means nothing anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joe_kull (238178)
      Wouldn't someone standing directly below a vertically-oriented antenna be in its cone of silence?

      I mean, that doesn't mean the RF theory is any less bunk, only that this instance doesn't necessarily mean anything.
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @10:17AM (#18741013) Journal
    I am (was) an amateur apiculturist, that is, I used to have my own hive of pet bees.

    My grandfather was a semi-hobbiest beekeeper who made a decent living after retirement selling beekeeping equipment, and taught me all about the wonder of the bees. I don't claim to be the worlds leading authority on bees, but I find them pretty fascinating, and know a bunch about 'em.

    Anyways, I don't see Occam's razor being applied here. Here is what devastates bees:

    1) Foulbrood.. Comes in two varieties, American and European.. Makes the larva basically rot in their pupas. It can be prevented with teramiacin (sp?! its a horse medicine), but the only cure for an infected colony is fire, and lots of it - mandated by the authorities. It's been somewhat of an epidemic since the 80s. There is lots of talk about it spreading because of commercially sold queens, and or colonies. Ie; The industry developed a bee that makes lots of honey, but is succeptible to this. This accounts for a *lot* of missing bees.

    2) Africanized bees? A lot gets made of "killer bees", but once they move into a colony, that colony doesn't collect as much honey - and you don't see as many bees.

    3) Climate or other environmental problems. Bees will abandon a location if it isn't suitable. It's common to have a swarm (too little food or too much space, so half the bees pack up a new queen and leave) that leaves the original colony to die - too few bees left to tend to the queen, or an incapable queen is a death sentence to a hive.

    I can't believe the "scientists" would skip past an obvious sign of climate change and jump straight to cell phones. I've never heard this before, and frankly, it sounds like a bunch of horse-shit.

  • by One Louder (595430) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @11:28AM (#18741503)
    Anyone checked lately for a Vogon Constructor Fleet?
  • by bongk (251028) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @07:46PM (#18745287)
    If you read the FAQ from the Colony Collapse disorder working group you'll find that Genetically Modified Crops and Cell phone Radiation are not likely causes:

    "What are examples of topics that the CCD working group is not currently
    investigating? GMO crops: Some GMO crops, specifically Bt Corn have been
    suggested as a potential cause of CCD. While this possibility has not been ruled out,
    CCD symptoms do not fit what would be expected in Bt affected organisms. For this
    reason GMO crops are not a "top" priority at the moment.

    Radiation transmitted by cell towers: The distribution of both affected and non-affected
    CCD apiaries does not make this a likely cause. Also cell phone service is not available
    in some areas where affected commercial apiaries are located in the west. For this reason,
    it is currently not a top priority.

    Causes still under investigation include:
    What potential causes of CCD is the Working Group investigating? The current
    research priorities under investigation by various members of the CCD working group, as
    well as other cooperators include, but is not limited to:
      Chemical residue/contamination in the wax, food stores and bees
      Known and unknown pathogens in the bees and brood
      Parasite load in the bees and brood
      Nutritional fitness of the adult bees
      Level of stress in adult bees as indicated by stress induced proteins
      Lack of genetic diversity and lineage of bees
  • US first? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LinuxInDallas (73952) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @10:19PM (#18746331)
    Why would this start in the US and then go to Europe? Europe is far denser in population than the typical rural US where farming is comon. With the higher density there will of course be more cell phones. Seems odd to me.

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