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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Electrosmog from cell-phones dangerous for Honeybees

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The “Electrosmog” or the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones is causing reduction in the sizes of honey-combs and destroying the colonies – says a research paper by Ved Prakash Sharma and Neelima R. Kumar published in the latest issue of Current Science. These researchers belong to the Department of Environment and Vocational Studies and Zoology at Punjab University, Chandigarh, India.

The research paper reveals that bees contain magnetite in their bodies which acts as a natural magnet. It helps bees in navigation. Since magnetite is sensitive to the electrosmog emitted by cell phones bees become unable to navigate properly while they navigate for pollen collection. As a result the number of bees expected to come back to the comb with pollen is reduced drastically. The electromagnetic frequency of the radiation emitted by cell phones reduces bees’ colony size and the number of eggs that are laid by the queen bee, and changes their behavior.



Image:1 Worker honeybees collecting pollen



Image:2  A Honeybee colony

Earlier, in the month of May, people were alarmed to observe the reducing number of honey bees in the United States. Scientists warned that if the trend continued it might spell the doom for agriculture. It is important to note that about 80 percent of crop plants depend on bees for pollination. The phenomenon of disappearing honey bees is called as Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (Alan Cane, 2009). The Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is also called as Honey Bee Depopulation Syndrome (HDBS). It is the phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive disappear abruptly. This term was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western Honey Bee Colonies in North America in late 2006. Since many crops across the world are pollinated by bees, the colony collapse has a significant economic impact. This phenomenon has been observed in many countries like France, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal etc. Though causes of this collapse have not yet been understood properly, many researchers attribute the problem to some biotic factors, stresses related to changes in the environment, viruses, genetically modified crops, and cell-phone radiation. Some scientists are of the opinion that this may be due to the combined effects of many factors (Francis and Carreck, 2010).The cell-phones as serious cause behind Bee Colony Collapse Disorder has newly been reported by these scientists of India.

The two researchers of Punjab University selected colonies of honey bees at the apiary of the university. One set of colonies was exposed to functioning cell- phones of a 900MHz frequency band for 15 minutes twice a day – reports the paper. The other set of colonies was left free from the influence of any radiation. Finally, it was found that the size of the colony set to radiation of cell phones remained merely 760.19cm2 whereas the size of that of control grew up to 1975.44 cm2. When a queen bee was exposed to radiation, it produced only 145 eggs a day than the undisturbed one which produced 376 eggs. The pollen stores decreased in size from 246.7 cm2 to 154.7 cm2 and a dip in the number of cells containing ripe and unripe nectar was also observed by these researchers. The number of worker bees with pollen loads was also reduced as compared to the case with the control. The portion of comb containing cells filled with stored pollen is called as pollen store.



Image:3  Cell-phones placed near a honey bee colony
courtesy:  Current Science

The experiment done by these researchers at the University of Chandigarh demonstrated a complete loss of the bee colony exposed to the radiation due to cell-phones. Cell-phones have already been reported to disturb the populations of house sparrows in some Indian cities. However, the study was immediately criticized for systemic errors based on the low sample size (only four colonies) etc.

References

1. Ved Prakash Sharma and Neelima R. Kumar,Current Science, vol.98,No.10, May 2010.
2. Alan Cane, Scientists isolate bee pathogen. Financial Times, April 17,2009.
3. Honey Bee Die-Off Alarms Beekeepers, Crop growers and Researchers. Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences, 2007-01-29.
4. Francis L. W. Ratnieks and Norman L. Carreck, "Clarity on Honey Bee Collaps", Science, 8 January 2010, Vol. 327, p. 152


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