The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously home-loving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Cases WorldwideColony 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 percent of its commercial bee population, with 70 percent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. Last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest beekeepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and northwest England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK."
The Need for BeesThe 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".
No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM (genetically modified) crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks. German research has long shown that bees' behavior changes near power lines.
Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr. Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.
Dr. George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the U.S. government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the 1990s, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."
The Case Against HandsetsEvidence of dangers to people from mobile phones is increasing. However, proof is still lacking, largely because many of the biggest perils, such as cancer, take decades to show up.
Most research on cancer has so far proved inconclusive. However, an official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for more than 10 years were 40 percent more likely to get a brain tumor on the same side as they held the handset.
Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.
Studies in India and the U.S. have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. More prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb," a form of RSI from constant texting.
Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries,
warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series
of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.
© 2007 The Independent on Sunday. All rights
© 2007 ECT News Network. All rights reserved.