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Mobiles back in the frame as bee killers

Actual research this time, just not much of it

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Strapping a pair of mobile phones to the side of a bee hive can lead to a dramatic decline in honey and bee production, researchers have claimed.

Published in Current Science, the research (pdf) compared the performance of hives exposed to cell phones with those kept radio-free. According to the researchers the phone use led directly to a dramatic decline in the quantity of honey produced, and bees appeared "confused as if unable to decide what to do" during the calls.

The test involved putting a couple of handsets, operating at 900MHz, beside two hives, with another couple of hives as controls. The phones were then called for 15 minutes twice a day. During the calls a third of the bees which would have left the hive "became quiet and still or confused", while a third of those which did get out and back returned empty handed. But even the researchers involved admit that "such a response has ... not been reported previously".

The exposed hives also shrank from seven frames to five, while the control hives grew to nine over the same period. The controls also produced eight times as much honey due to having more bees hard at work.

But a couple of hives doesn't make for a quantitative study, and it's hard to take seriously research which uses terms like "eletrosmog" and references Dr Carlo of the Science and Public Policy Institute, who believes the mobile industry has been conspiring to besmirch Albert Einstein, among other things.

It's by no means certain that bee numbers are declining worldwide, or that the loss of the honey bee would result in a world famine - New Scientist published some interesting figures on the subject last year - but bees have a compelling film and we'd miss them if they were gone. The Telegraph quotes Tim Lovett of the British Beekeepers Association pointing out that bees survive in London, a city awash with electromagnetic radiation of all kinds.

Work like this is worth trying to replicate, but it's hard to imagine that previous studies would have missed such a radical change in behaviour. ®

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