Bee deaths and cell phone radiation – is there a direct connection?
Bees produce honey that is popular with both young and old. But that is not all: as pollinator insects, they are especially important for our ecosystem. They guarantee us a large number of foods and are responsible for good harvests as well as ecological biodiversity. However, the bee population is in danger: 90 % of the bee colonies disappeared in the USA in 2007. In Europe, 53 % of the bees have died in the last ten years. Could the ever-increasing expansion of the mobile phone network have contributed to this? This question will be in our focus below. For this purpose, we will look at selected aspects of the bee´s physical constitution and behavior. In addition, we will give an overview of the study situation and consider the influence of the new 5G mobile phone network on the bee.
Bees and EMF
Bees are poikilothermic animals, meaning their body temperature fluctuates with the ambient temperature. They need a body temperature of 35 °C to be able to fly. The outside temperature must be at least 8 to 10 °C. Queens and drones do not leave the hive until the temperature is at least 15 to 17 °C, and they undertake mating flights at 17 to 20 °C. The low-temperature torpidity (cold stiffness) occurs at 4 to 6 °C. According to the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, the rise in body temperature is a result of mobile phone radiation. In the case of bees, this can have negative effects on flying, pollination of plants, honey production and reproduction.
Bees perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and use it for orientation during pollen collection flights and for the cell alignment of the honeycomb. Iron particles located in the abdomen of the bees align themselves according to the magnetic field. Therefore, artificially generated electromagnetic fields can disturb the orientation of the bees so that they cannot find their way back to the hive, for instance.
Bees are able to perceive different electrical charges on the body surface of their conspecifics, to distinguish between them and learn their meaning. This was discovered by scientists at Freie Universität Berlin led by Professor Randolf Menzel and Uwe Greggers (2020). The researchers suspect that the animals use this ability to communicate with one another. When bees fly through the air or rub parts of their bodies against each other, they become electrically charged. The bees respond to differently charged electrical fields with specific movements of their antenna sensors on which sensory cells are located. Electrical fields are crucial for communication in the hive. If mobile radio interferes with the animals´ perception, this can impair communication and, thus, social behavior.
Bee deaths & cell phone radiation – the study situation is critical
The scientific research data on the influence of electromagnetic radiation on bees deaths are insufficient. There is a lack of outdoor experiments under real conditions. Many studies merely examined effects in the laboratory. Methodically complex and very precise research work is crucial. It is important to evaluate the energy actually absorbed by the bee, and to take into account diseases, parasites and pesticides. In the following, we will give a brief outline of the studies.
Pilot and follow-up study, University of Koblenz, Germany, 2005 and 2006
Scientists around Professor Hermann Stever investigated the return behavior of bees under the influence of high-frequency electromagnetic fields in a pilot study and a follow-up study. A DECT base station installed under the beehive was used for exposure. The pilot study showed a higher loss of returning bees who were exposed to the high-frequency electromagnetic field than of the bees not so exposed. In the follow-up study, the scientists investigated more hives in the same way. The results of the pilot study were corroborated. About 60 % of the non-exposed and 50 % of the exposed bees returned.
Observational study, Panjab University, India, 2010
The Indian researchers VP Sharma and Neelima Kumar compared four beehives in their observational study. Two hives were exposed to the radiation of two GSM mobile phones each. In the exposed beehives, the reproduction rate, stockpiling and orientation of the bees was significantly worse.
Pilot and follow-up study, Danial Favre, Switzerland, 2011 and 2017
The Swiss scientist Danial Favre exposed beehives with mobile phone radiation in his pilot study. He had these mobile phones communicate with each other audibly, as well as in standby mode or turned off. Only in voice mode did the bees respond with beeps, just like before swarming out or in case of disturbances. Favre attributes the response to the mobile phone radiation and evaluates it as a significant interference. In his follow-up study, he used an installation that amplified existing electromagnetic fields from base stations for exposure. Five beehives were investigated, with results similar to those of the pilot study.
How does 5G radiation affect bees?
The energy absorption of the bees increases with electromagnetic waves with frequencies above 6 GHz, in particular in the range between 12 and 24 GHz. The planned 5G network is located in this frequency band. This could lead to a significant increase in the body temperature of these poikilothermic animals. Even a small change in body temperature makes a big difference: temperatures determine the life cycle and behavior of bees. The new 5G network requires greater coverage by more transmitter masts with a shorter range. Especially when bees are near the masts, electromagnetic fields can have a greater effect upon them.
How can you help the bees?
The “bee careful” initiative of the German jam manufacturer Schwartau provides information about bee-friendly plants, gives advice on how to design a bee-friendly garden or balcony and shows how to build a nesting aid for wild bees.
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- Bienen und mehr (Bees and more); Wittwer, Michael: Nestklima. Wohlen near Bern, Switzerland, 2019. https://bienenundmehr.ch/ueber-bienen/nestklima/
- German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS): Mögliche Wirkungen elektromagnetischer Felder auf Tiere und Pflanzen (Potential effects of electromagnetic fields on animals and plants), Salzgitter, Germany, 2020. https://www.bfs.de/DE/bfs/wissenschaft-forschung/stellungnahmen/emf/emf-tiere-pflanzen/emf-tiere-und-pflanzen.html
- Diagnose-Funk e.V.: Mobilfunkstrahlung beeinträchtigt Bienen (Mobile phone radiation adversely affects bees), Stuttgart, Germany, 2007. https://www.diagnose-funk.org/themen/mobilfunk-versorgung/umwelt-landwirtschaft/mobilfunkstrahlung-beeintraechtigt-bienen
- Freie Universität Berlin, Neurobiology: Bienen “erfühlen” elektrische Felder (Bees are able to “feel” electrical fields), Berlin, Germany, 2013. https://www.fu-berlin.de/presse/informationen/fup/2013/fup_13_060/index.html
- German Institute for Building Biology and Sustainability, “Baubiologie Magazin”: Hummelpelz als Elektrosensor – Ist Elektrosmog Mitursache für das Insektensterben? (Bumblebee fur as electrical sensor – is electrosmog one of the causes of insect mortality?), Rosenheim, Germany, 2020. https://baubiologie-magazin.de/hummelpelz-als-elektrosensor-ist-elektrosmog-mitursache-fuer-das-insektensterben/
- Schwartauer Werke GmbH & Co. KGaA: bee careful. Warum sind Bienen so wichtig? (Why are bees so important?), Bad Schwartau, Germany, 2020. http://www.bee-careful.com/de/initiative/warum-sind-bienen-so-wichtig/
- Vatorex AG: Wie die Bienen die Welt wahrnehmen (How bees perceive the world), Wiesendangen, Switzerland, 2018. https://www.vatorex.ch/de/wie-die-bienen-die-welt-wahrnehmen-apiguide-ausgabe-13/
- Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Quarks: Ist das neue Mobilfunknetz 5G gefährlich? (Is the new 5G mobile phone network hazardous?), Cologne, Germany, 2020. https://www.quarks.de/gesundheit/handystrahlung-wie-gefaehrlich-ist-das-neue-mobilfunknetz-5g/