Last month, The Coffee House highlighted the problem of The Vanishing Bee. We reported on the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) , which has seen large-scale disappearances of bees across the US and lately in Europe. If the problem continues to spread, there are massive implications for crop pollination and agricultural production. As the first incidents are reported in the UK (although officially denied), a “new” study suggests a link between CCD and mobile phones.
In the last few days, there’s been a flurry of internet activity reporting on research carried out by Dr Jochen Kuhn of Landau University. Apparently, bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Kuhn says this could provide a “hint” to a possible cause of CCD. The theory is that mobile phone radiation interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing them from finding their way back to their hives.
Articles in respected journals such as the New Scientist and The Independent have been picked up and re-published on blogs and web sites around the world, but nowhere can we find a link to the details of the research findings. However, a bit of digging shows that back in 2003, a Dr Jochen Kuhn of the University of Koblenz-Landau gave a keynote address to a Symposium on AI, Logic, Mathematics, Modeling and Cognition at the International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics. The title of the address was “An Advanced Interdisciplinary Study in Theoretical Modelling of a Biological System – The Effect of High Frequency Electromagnetic Fields on Honey Bees”. Dr Kuhn has published a number of articles on this subject, going back to 1999. It seems this may not be new research after all.
New or old, this is the latest in a long line of theories put forward to explain CCD. All have their drawbacks. It may be that CCD is the product of a number of different factors. What is certain is that this is an urgent problem requiring prompt action. There is a much-repeated, although unsubstantiated, quote from Albert Einstein:
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Einstein may not have actually said this, and like Dr Kuhn he may not have known as much about bees as he did about theoretical physics, but it doesn’t make him wrong. Try this quote from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring:
“Man is more dependent on these wild pollinators than he usually realizes. Even the farmer himself seldom understands the value of wild bees and often participates in the very measures that rob him of their services. …Without insect pollination, most of the soil-holding and soil-enriching plants of uncultivated areas would die out, with far-reaching consequences to the ecology of the whole region … ”