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Mobile phones are the cause of the demise of the bees?

I've heard from my biology teacher that mobile phones interfere with bees communication. The claim is that the signals bees are sending are identical to mobile phones' signals. Is that really the case?

  • Hello Rusty, the reason "Skeptics" exists is to help people make sense of claims which would otherwise be incomprehensible. So, cite a claim! – Carlo Alterego Jan 9 '13 at 16:39
  • @Carlo_R. - it's a valid claim, though more frequent versions of it (see my answer) differ somewhat – user5341 Jan 9 '13 at 17:52

This is a claim (more frequently worded as "Cell phones kill honey bees") that has actually been debunked, but has a grain of truth. (Src: http://cleantechnica.com/2011/05/12/are-cell-phone-killing-bees-how-the-false-meme-spread/ )

The original claim was based on incorrect interpretation of the findings of Dr Daniel Favre, the study can be found here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13592-011-0016-x

The study's abstract:

... In the present study, electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones were tested for potential effects on honeybee behavior. Mobile phone handsets were placed in the close vicinity of honeybees. The sound made by the bees was recorded and analyzed.

The audiograms and spectrograms revealed that active mobile phone handsets have a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal.

In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.

Please note that your biology teacher got the causation all wrong: the cell phone signals are EM (electromagnetic) signals, and the signals produced by the bees are sound waves, which are in no way related to EM signals, never mind being "identical".

  • +1, excellent DVK! I was not aware of that claim, but after having known the facts I'm sure they had nothing to do each other. Neverthless, people may well-be skeptical to conjecture in them! – Carlo Alterego Jan 9 '13 at 18:49

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