SIGNALS emanating from mobile phones may be partly blamed for the mysterious deaths of honeybees worldwide, a new study has claimed, although many experts seem unconvinced by the findings. In the first experiment of its kind, Swiss researchers placed mobile phones in beehives under controlled conditions and carefully monitored the reaction of the worker bees.
The bees were able to tell when the handsets were making and receiving calls, and responded by making the high-pitched squeaks that usually announces the swarming process or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony, the Daily Mail reported.
Dr Daniel Favre, who led the experiment, believes signals from mobile phones and masts could be contributing to the decline of honeybees and called for more research.
Dr Favre, a teacher who previously worked as a biologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, said, "This study shows that the presence of an active mobile phone disturbs bees — and has a dramatic effect."
For his study, Dr Favre placed two mobile phones under a beehive and recorded the high pitched calls made by the bees when the gadgets were switched off, placed on stand-by and activated.
Around 20 to 40 minutes after the phones were activated, the bees began to emit "piping" calls — a series of high pitched squeaks that announce the start of swarming.
But, within two minutes of the phone call ending, the worker bees calmed down.
In the study, the bees did not swarm — even after 20 hours’ exposure to mobile phone signals, suggesting the piping calls were a signal of a disturbed bee colony.
The onset of unexpected swarming triggered by mobile phone signals could have "dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses", Dr Favre reported in the bee keeping journal Apidologie.
The study did not show evidence that mobile phones were deadly for bees, but one hypothesis is that "electromagnetic fields could be contributing to the disappearance of bee colonies around the world", he added.
However, British bee experts said there is still no evidence that mobile phones posed a risk.
Norman Carreck of Sussex University said, "It’s an interesting study but it doesn’t prove that mobile phones are responsible for colony collapse disorder."
"If you physically knock a hive, or open one up to examine it, it has the same result. And in America many cases of colony collapse disorder have taken place in remote areas far from any mobile phone signals," he added.
Experts mainly blame the vanishing honeybees on changes in farming, the decline of wild flowers and pesticide usage.
It is also said that bees have been badly hit by the varroa mite, a blood-sucking parasite that makes colonies vulnerable to disease, freak weather or poisoning. — PTI