In 2003, three researchers in Landau, Germany, had produced
the first evidence to suggest that electromagnetic exposure
may cause a change in the behaviour of bees. Their findings
triggered speculation among some scientists that
electromagnetic radiation may interfere with bees’ ability
to communicate and navigate.
Kumar and her student exposed two colonies of the honeybee,
Apis mellifera, to electromagnetic radiation, placing two
cellphones on side walls of hives in call mode for 15
minutes, twice a day, for up to 12 weeks.
The researchers observed that the number of bees from the
colonies returning to their hives after foraging for pollen
declined compared with two other colonies of bees not
exposed to cellphone activity. A queen bee exposed to the
cellphone radiation produced only 144 eggs a day compared
with 376 eggs laid by a queen in a colony not exposed to it.
The honey-storing ability of exposed hives dropped
significantly. At the end of several months, the hive had
neither pollen, nor bees. “The colonies collapsed,” Kumar
The team from the Chandigarh-based university had
experimentally created a condition that mimicked the strange
disappearance of bees reported by beekeepers in North
America, France, Germany, and Sweden in recent years.
Entomologists call the phenomenon colony collapse disorder (CCD)
— an abrupt and unexplained 50 to 90 per cent of loss of
bees. Scientists have speculated fungal infections or
pesticides or even global warming as possible causes.
However, many researchers believe there is not enough
evidence yet to link either electromagnetic radiation or
even rising temperatures to the loss of bees. Three years
ago, Jessica Hamzelou from the University College, London,
wrote in the medical journal The Lancet that CCD did not
appear to be a recent phenomenon, and abandoned hives had
been documented as far back as in 1869.
But Kumar said her findings were similar to the results of
studies in the 1970s on the influence of high tension
transmission lines on bee behaviour. “Bees use the Earth’s
magnetic field to navigate — it’s reasonable to assume that
electromagnetic radiation could interfere with this
ability,” Kumar said. But she cautioned that any such effect
would need to be authenticated through physiological
studies. No such studies have been done yet, she added
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