A quick lunchtime scan of Google news brought up this story:
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London’s biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: “There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK.”
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”.
It’s certainly an intriguing hypothesis as to the cause of the bee collapse. There are other, competing hypotheses.
The cause (or causes) of the syndrome is not yet well understood and even the existence of this disorder remains disputed. Theories include environmental change-related stresses, malnutrition, unknown pathogens, mites, pesticides such as neonicotinoids, disease, genetically modified (GM) crops or electromagnetic radiation (such as cellular phone signals).
From 1971 to 2006 approximately half of the U.S. honey bee colonies have vanished, but this decline includes the cumulative losses from all factors such as urbanization, pesticide use, tracheal and Varroa mites and commercial beekeepers retiring and going out of business, and has been fairly gradual. Late in the year 2006 and in early 2007, however, the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” was proposed to describe this sudden rash of disappearances.
Scary. Even scarier that we don’t really have a firm grasp of what is killing off these vital pollenators.