Are mobile phones causing the decline in bee numbers?

A Swiss study suggests bees are significantly disturbed when a mobile phone is placed in their hive. Could the devices have the same effect from further afield?

Andy Merrett
Andy Merrett has been using mobile phones since the days when they only made voice calls. Since then he has worked his way through a huge number of Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson models. Andy is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Andy Merrett
2 min read

A recent scientific study suggests that bees are significantly disturbed when mobile phones are used in close proximity to the furry critters. The study may shed light on why the bee population is in decline globally.

As bees can communicate through sound, the experiment at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology observed any changes to the noises the insects made when active mobile phones were placed in their hive. The results were quite worrying.

The bees made certain noises associated with a distressed colony as soon as the mobile phones were engaged. Twelve hours later, they still exhibited signs of disturbance. The implication is that sustained exposure to the electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phones can eventually cause bee colonies to break up and die.

Clearly, most of us, even beekeepers, tend not to leave our phones in beehives. But it's still uncertain whether bees are affected by phones and masts at greater distances. 

Daniel Favre, who conducted the experiments, has published instructions that enable other beekeepers to reproduce the experiment. If you know anyone with a penchant for our highly important hairy friends, and their beehive seems to be emitting cheesy ring tones, you'll know why. It's not clear whether you have to use a Honeycomb device to run the experiment.

It would be unfair to place the blame for the recent severe decline in the bee population solely on mobile-phone users, however. Changes to farming methods and the climate are also thought to have played their part. 

While you're musing over the bees' plight, why not enjoy the below video from The Wicker Man remake, in which Nicholas Cage irrationally entreats the furry fiends not to sting his eyes?