Published Research on the Adverse Effect of Wireless Technology and Electromagnetic Radiation on Bees
Wireless Technology and Electromagnetic Radiation Alters Bee Behavior and Physiology
Electromagnetic fields from powerlines, cell phones, cell towers and wireless has been shown to negatively impact birds, bees, wildlife and our environment in numerous peer reviewed research studies. Specifically, electromagnetic radiation has been found to alter bee behavior, produce biochemical changes and impact bee reproduction.
A recent publication by Daniel Favre describes the methodology for a study in which direct adverse were seen in the bees’ behavior following exposure to electromagnetic fields. Favre states, “The present data strongly suggest that honeybee colonies are affected and disturbed by electromagnetic waves (RF-EMF).” In his comprehensive review article, Ulrich Warnke cites multiple studies which examine the effects of radiofrequency radiation exposure on bees and notes the vital importance of bees as pollinators. Research has found behavioral effects after electromagnetic radiation exposure including inducing artificial worker piping (Favre, 2011), disrupting navigation abilities (Goldsworthy, 2009; Sainudeen, 2011; Kimmel et al., 2007) decreasing rate egg laying rate (Sharma and Kumar, 2010) and reducing colony strength (Sharma and Kumar, 2010; Harst et al., 2006). Furthermore, Neelima Kumar and colleagues found cell phone radiation influences honey bees’ behavior and physiology. (2011).
As Clarke et al. (2013) has reported, bees have a particular sensory modality which allows them to detect electric fields, and thus they are particularly susceptible to large amounts of electromagnetic radiation. Clearly, more research is necessary to understand the full impact of RFR on bees and other insects.
However, enough research has been performed to indicate an urgent need to reduce electromagnetic radiation exposures to protect the bee population and in turn, protect the environment.
Colony Collapse Disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of several factors including pesticides, chemicals and parasitic infection. Importantly, researchers have proposed that the stress of ever increasing electromagnetic radiation exposure has weakened bee populations and added stress that then results in decreased ability to maintain their health when also exposed to increased pesticides, chemicals and infections. The bees resistance to environmental stressors is weakened by EMF exposure.
Herriman, Sasha. “Study links bee decline to cell phones.” CNN (30 June 2010).
Chokshi, Niraj. “If Cell Phones Are Behind the Bee Decline, What Are They Doing to Humans?” The Atalantic (30 June 2010).
- “In a study at Panjab University in Chandigarh, northern India, researchers fitted cell phones to a hive and powered them up for two fifteen-minute periods each day. After three months, they found the bees stopped producing honey, egg production by the queen bee halved, and the size of the hive dramatically reduced.”
- “Andrew Goldsworthy, a biologist from Imperial College, London, told CNN that the reason may have to do with radiation from cell phones and cell towers disturbing the molecules of the chemical cryptochrome, which bees and other animals use for navigation. The “other animals” part there is key: it includes humans.”
Derbyshire, David. “Why a mobile phone ring may make bees buzz off: Insects infuriated by handset signals.” Daily Mail (13 May 2011).
- 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.’
- He placed two mobile phones under a beehive and recorded the high pitched calls made by the bees when the handsets 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.
“Cell Phones Caused Mysterious Worldwide Bee Deaths, Study Finds.” Fox News (13 May 2011).
RESEARCH STUDIES AND REPORTS
Shepherd et al., Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields impair the Cognitive and Motor Abilities of Honey Bees, Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 7932 (2018)
- Extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF) pollution from overhead powerlines is known to cause biological effects across many phyla, but these effects are poorly understood. Honey bees are important pollinators across the globe and due to their foraging flights are exposed to relatively high levels of ELF EMF in proximity to powerlines. Here we ask how acute exposure to 50 Hz ELF EMFs at levels ranging from 20–100 µT, found at ground level below powerline conductors, to 1000–7000 µT, found within 1 m of the conductors, affects honey bee olfactory learning, flight, foraging activity and feeding. ELF EMF exposure was found to reduce learning, alter flight dynamics, reduce the success of foraging flights towards food sources, and feeding.
- The results suggest that 50 Hz ELF EMFs emitted from powerlines may represent a prominent environmental stressor for honey bees, with the potential to impact on their cognitive and motor abilities, which could in turn reduce their ability to pollinate crops.
Cammaerts, Marie-Claire. “Is electromagnetism one of the causes of the CCD? A work plan for testing this hypothesis.” Journal of Behavior 2.1 (2017): 1006.
- The decline of domestic bees all over the world is an important problem still not well understood by scientists and beekeepers, and far from being solved. Its reasons are numerous: among others, the use of pesticides and insecticides, the decrease of plant diversity, and bee’s parasites. Besides these threats, there is a potential adverse factor little considered: manmade electromagnetism.
- The present paper suggests two simple experimental protocols for bringing to the fore the potential adverse effect of electromagnetism on bees and to act consequently. The first one is the observation of bees’ avoidance of a wireless apparatus; the second one is the assessment of colonies’ strength and of the intensity of the electromagnetism field (EMF) surrounding them. If bees avoid a wireless apparatus, if hives in bad health are located in EMF of a rather high intensity, it can be presumed that bees are affected by manmade electromagnetism. This should enable searching for palliative measures.
Favre, Daniel. “Disturbing Honeybees’ Behavior with Electromagnetic Waves: a Methodology.” Journal of Behavior 2.2 (2017): 1010.
- “Mobile phone companies and policy makers point to studies with contradictory results and usually claim that there is a lack of scientific proof of adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on animals. The present perspective article describes an experiment on bees, which clearly shows the adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on these insects’ behavior. The experiment should be reproduced by other researchers so that the danger of manmade electromagnetism (for bees, nature and thus humans) ultimately appears evident to anyone.”
Balmori, Alfonso. “Anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as an emerging threat to wildlife orientation.” Science of The Total Environment 518–519 (2015): 58–60.
- Current evidence indicates that exposure at levels that are found in the environment (in urban areas and near base stations) may particularly alter the receptor organs to orient in the magnetic field of the earth.
- These results could have important implications for migratory birds and insects, especially in urban areas, but could also apply to birds and insects in natural and protected areas where there are powerful base station emitters of radiofrequencies.
Redlarski, Grzegorz, et al. “The influence of electromagnetic pollution on living organisms: historical trends and forecasting changes.” BioMed Research International 2015.234098 (2015).
- “Current technologies have become a source of omnipresent electromagnetic pollution from generated electromagnetic fields and resulting electromagnetic radiation. In many cases this pollution is much stronger than any natural sources of electromagnetic fields or radiation. The harm caused by this pollution is still open to question since there is no clear and definitive evidence of its negative influence on humans. This is despite the fact that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields were classified as potentially carcinogenic.
- For these reasons, in recent decades a significant growth can be observed in scientific research in order to understand the influence of electromagnetic radiation on living organisms. However, for this type of research the appropriate selection of relevant model organisms is of great importance. It should be noted here that the great majority of scientific research papers published in this field concerned various tests performed on mammals, practically neglecting lower organisms.
- In that context the objective of this paper is to systematise our knowledge in this area, in which the influence of electromagnetic radiation on lower organisms was investigated, including bacteria, E. coli and B. subtilis, nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, land snail, Helix pomatia, common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.”
Richard Odemer, Franziska Odemer, Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMF) on honey bee queen development and mating success
- We have therefore exposed honey bee queen larvae to the radiation of a common mobile phone device (GSM) during all stages of their pre-adult development including pupation. After 14 days of exposure, hatching of adult queens was assessed and mating success after further 11 days, respectively. Moreover, full colonies were established of five of the untreated and four of the treated queens to contrast population dynamics. We found that mobile phone radiation had significantly reduced the hatching ratio but not the mating success.
Clarke, Dominic, et al. “Detection and Learning of Floral Electric Fields by Bumblebees.” Science 340.6128 (2013): 66-9.
- “We report a formerly unappreciated sensory modality in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), detection of floral electric fields. Because floral electric fields can change within seconds, this sensory modality may facilitate rapid and dynamic communication between flowers and their pollinators.”
Cucurachi, C., et al. “A review of the ecological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF).” Environment International 51 (2013): 116–40.
- RF-EMF had a significant effect on birds, insects, other vertebrates, other organisms and plants in 70% of the studies.
- Development and reproduction of birds and insects are the most strongly affected endpoints.
Favre, Daniel. “Mobile phone induced honeybee worker piping.” Apidologie 42 (2011): 270-9.
- Electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones had a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.
Goldsworthy, Andrew. “The Birds, the Bees and Electromagnetic Pollution: How electromagnetic fields can disrupt both solar and magnetic bee navigation and reduce immunity to disease all in one go.” (2009).
- Many of our birds are disappearing mysteriously from the urban environment and our bees are now under serious threat. There is increasing evidence that at least some of this is due to electromagnetic pollution such as that from cell towers, cell phones, DECT cordless phones and Wifi. It appears capable of interfering with their navigation systems and also their circadian rhythms, which in turn reduces their resistance to disease. The most probable reason is that these animals use a group of magnetically-sensitive substances called cryptochromes for magnetic and solar navigation and also to control the activity of their immune systems.
Goldsworthy, Andrew. “The Biological Effects of Weak Electromagnetic Fields: Problems and Solutions.” (2012)
- “Many of the reported biological effects of non-ionising electromagnetic fields occur at levels too low to cause significant heating; i.e. they are non thermal. Most of them can be accounted for by electrical effects on living cells and their membranes. The alternating fields generate alternating electric currents that flow through cells and tissues and remove structurally-important calcium ions from cell membranes, which then makes them leak.”
Thielens et al., “Exposure of Insects to Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields from 2 to 120 GHz” Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 3924 (2018)
- “Insects are continually exposed to Radio-Frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields at different frequencies. This paper is the first to report the absorbed RF electromagnetic power in four different types of insects as a function of frequency from 2 GHz to 120 GHz. All insects showed a general increase in absorbed RF power at and above 6 GHz, in comparison to the absorbed RF power below 6 GHz. Our simulations showed that a shift of 10% of the incident power density to frequencies above 6 GHz would lead to an increase in absorbed power between 3–370%.”
- “This could lead to changes in insect behaviour, physiology, and morphology over time due to an increase in body temperatures, from dielectric heating. The studied insects that are smaller than 1 cm show a peak in absorption at frequencies (above 6 GHz), which are currently not often used for telecommunication, but are planned to be used in the next generation of wireless telecommunication systems.”
Greggers, Uwe, et al. “Reception and learning of electric fields in bees.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280.1759 (2013).
- Honeybees, like other insects, accumulate electric charge in flight, and when their body parts are moved or rubbed together. We report that bees emit constant and modulated electric fields when flying, landing, walking and during the waggle dance.
- The electric fields emitted by dancing bees consist of low- and high-frequency components. Both components induce passive antennal movements in stationary bees according to Coulomb’s law. Bees learn both the constant and the modulated electric field components in the context of appetitive proboscis extension response conditioning.
- Using this paradigm, we identify mechanoreceptors in both joints of the antennae as sensors. Other mechanoreceptors on the bee body are potentially involved but are less sensitive. Using laser vibrometry, we show that the electrically charged flagellum is moved by constant and modulated electric fields and more strongly so if sound and electric fields interact.
- Recordings from axons of the Johnston organ document its sensitivity to electric field stimuli. Our analyses identify electric fields emanating from the surface charge of bees as stimuli for mechanoreceptors, and as biologically relevant stimuli, which may play a role in social communication.
Harst, Wolfgang, Jochen Kuhn and Hermann Stever. “Can Electromagnetic Exposure Cause a Change in Behaviour? Studying Possible Non-thermal Influences on Honey Bees – An Approach Within the Framework of Educational Informatics.” Acta Systemica-IIAS International Journal 6.1 (2006): 1-6.
- A pilot study on honeybees testing the effects of non-thermal, high frequency electromagnetic radiation on beehive weight and flight return behavior. In exposed hives, bees constructed 21% fewer cells in the hive frames after 9 days than those unexposed.
Odemer, Richard & Odemer, Franziska. (2019). Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMF) on honey bee queen development and mating success. Science of The Total Environment. 661. 553-562. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.01.154.
- Chronic RF-EMF exposure significantly reduced hatching of honey bee queens. Mortalities occurred during pupation, not at the larval stages. Mating success was not adversely affected by the irradiation.mAfter the exposure, surviving queens were able to establish intact colonies.
Kimmel, Stefan, et al. “Electromagnetic radiation: influences on honeybees (Apis mellifera).” IIAS-InterSymp Conference (2007).
- 39.7% of the non-irradiated bees had returned to their hives while only 7.3% of the irradiated bees had.
Kumar, Neelima R., Sonika Sangwan, and Pooja Badotra. “Exposure to cell phone radiations produces biochemical changes in worker honey bees.” Toxicology International 18.1 (2011): 70–2.
- The present study was carried out to find the effect of cell phone radiations on various biomolecules in the adult workers of Apis mellifera L. The results of the treated adults were analyzed and compared with the control. Radiation from the cell phone influences honey bees’ behavior and physiology. There was reduced motor activity of the worker bees on the comb initially, followed by en masse migration and movement toward “talk mode” cell phone. The initial quiet period was characterized by rise in concentration of biomolecules including proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, perhaps due to stimulation of body mechanism to fight the stressful condition created by the radiations. At later stages of exposure, there was a slight decline in the concentration of biomolecules probably because the body had adapted to the stimulus.
Lambinet, Veronika, et al. “Honey bees possess a polarity-sensitive magnetoreceptor.” Journal of Comparative Physiology A(2017): 1-8
- “Honey bees, Apis mellifera, exploit the geomagnetic field for orientation during foraging and for alignment of their combs within hives. We tested the hypothesis that honey bees sense the polarity of magnetic fields.”
- We created an engineered magnetic anomaly in which the magnetic field generally either converged toward a sugar reward in a watch glass, or away from it. After bees in behavioral field studies had learned to associate this anomaly with a sugar water reward, we subjected them to two experiments performed in random order. In both experiments, we presented bees with two identical sugar water rewards, one of which was randomly marked by a magnetic field anomaly. During the control experiment, the polarity of the magnetic field anomaly was maintained the same as it was during the training session. During the treatment experiment, it was reversed.
- We predicted that bees would not respond to the altered anomaly if they were sensitive to the polarity of the magnetic field. Our findings that bees continued to respond to the magnetic anomaly when its polarity was in its unaltered state, but did not respond to it when its polarity was reversed, support the hypothesis that honey bees possess a polarity-sensitive magnetoreceptor.
Oschman, James and Nora Oschman. “Electromagnetic communication and olfaction in insects.” Frontier Perspectives (2004).
Philips, Alasdair and Jean Philips. “Animals, Birds, Insects and Plants.” Radiofrequency EMFS and Health Risks (2017).
- The current problem is thought to be a combination of different factors. Pesticides are weakening the bees without killing them, making them more susceptible to other environmental pollutants. The bees seem to leave the hive looking for nectar and fail to return.
- EMFs from telecommunications infrastructures could interfere with bees’ biological clocks that enable them to compensate properly for the sun’s movements and may fly in the wrong direction when attempting to return to the hive. They could disappear mysteriously. This phenomenon has been widely reported in the past months.
“Report on Possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife Including Birds and Bees.” Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, 2010.
- This report details the on impacts of communication towers on wildlife including birds and bees submitted to MoEF. It warns of harmful radiation and recommends special laws to protect urban flora & fauna from threats radiation emerging from mobile towers.
Sainudeen, Sahib.S. “Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) Clashes with Honey Bees.” International Journal of Environmental Sciences 1.5 (2011).
- Recently a sharp decline in population of honey bees has been observed in Kerala. Although the bees are susceptible to diseases and attacked by natural enemies like wasps, ants and wax moth, constant vigilance on the part of the bee keepers can over come these adverse conditions. The present plunge in population (< 0.01) was not due to these reasons. It was caused by man due to unscientific proliferation of towers and mobile phones.”
- Six colonies of honeybees ( Apis mellifera ) were selected. Three colonies were selected as test colonies (T1,T2&T3) and the rest were as control (C1,C2&C3). The test colonies were provided with mobile phones in working conditions with frequency of 900 MHz for 10 minutes for a short period of ten days. After ten days the worker bees never returned hives in the test colonies. The massive amount of radiation produced by mobile phones and towers is actually frying the navigational skills of the honey bees and preventing them from returning back to their hives.
- The study concludes, “More must also be done to compensate individuals and communities put at risk. Insurance covering diseases related to towers, such as cancer, should be provided for free to people living in 1 km radius around the tower. Independent monitoring of radiation levels and overall health of the community and nature surrounding towers is necessary to identify hazards early. Communities need to be given the opportunity to reject cell towers and national governments need to consider ways of growing their cellular networks without constantly exposing people to radiation.”
Sharma, V.P. and N.K. Kumar. “Changes in honeybee behaviour and biology under the influence of cellphone radiations.” Current Science 98.10 (2010): 1376-8.
- We have compared the performance of honeybees in cell phone radiation exposed and unexposed colonies. A significant (p < 0.05) decline in colony strength and in the egg laying rate of the queen was observed. The behaviour of exposed foragers was negatively influenced by the exposure, there was neither honey nor pollen in the colony at the end of the experiment.”
Sivani, S., and D. Sudarsanam. “Impacts of radio-frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) from cell phone towers and wireless devices on biosystem and ecosystem – A Review.” Biology and Medicine, vol. 4, no. 4, 2012, pp. 202–16.
- There is an urgent need for further research and “of the 919 research papers collected on birds, bees, plants, other animals, and humans, 593 showed impacts, 180 showed no impacts, and 196 were inconclusive studies”.
- “One can take the precautionary principle approach and reduce RF-EMF radiation effects of cell phone towers by relocating towers away from densely populated areas, increasing height of towers or changing the direction of the antenna.”
Warnke, Ulrich. “Birds, Bees and Mankind: Destroying Nature by ‘Electrosmog’.” Competence Initiative for the Protection of Humanity, Environment and Democracy 1 (2009).
- Bees pollinate approximately 1/3 of all crops and they are disappearing by the millions. Warnke raises the concern that the dense, energetic mesh of electromagnetic fields from wireless technologies may be the cause.
“Briefing Paper on the Need for Research into the Cumulative Impacts of Communication Towers on Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife in the United States.” Division of Migratory Bird Management (DMBM), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2009.
- “Potential Radiation Effects on Other Pollinators Radiation has also been implicated in effects on domestic honeybees, pollinators whose numbers have recently been declining due to “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) by 60% at U.S. West Coast apiaries and 70% along the East Coast (Cane and Tepedino 2001).
- CCD is being documented in Greece, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. One theory regarding bee declines proposes that radiation from mobile phone antennas is interfering with bee navigational systems. Studies performed in Europe have documented navigational disorientation, lower honey production, and decreased bee survivorship (Harst et al. 2006, Kimmel et al. 2006, Bowling 2007).
- This research needs further replication and scientific review, including in North America. Because pollinators, including birds, bees, and bats, play a fundamental role in food security (33% of our fruits and vegetables would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers [Kevan and Phillips 2001]), as pollinator numbers decline, the price of groceries goes up.
- Harst et al. (2006) performed a pilot study on honeybees testing the effects of non-thermal, high frequency electromagnetic radiation on beehive weight and flight return behavior. They found that of 28 unexposed bees released 800 m (2,616 ft) from each of 2 hives, 16 and 17 bees returned in 28 and 32 minutes, respectively, to hives. At the 1900 MHz continuously-exposed hives, 6 bees returned to 1 hive in 38 minutes while no bees returned to the other hive. In exposed hives, bees constructed 21% fewer cells in the hive frames after 9 days than those unexposed. Harst et al. selected honeybees for study since they are good bio-indicators of environmental health and possibly of “electrosmog.” Because of some concerns raised regarding the methods used to conduct the Harst et al.(2006) study, specifically the placement of the antenna where bees could contact it (i.e., potentially a bias), the experimental methods need to be redesigned and the studies retested to better elucidate and fine tune the impacts of radiation. The results, while preliminary however, are troubling. Kimmel et al. (2006) performed field experiments on honeybees under conditions nearly identical to the Harst et al. (2006) protocol except that bees were stunned with CO2 and released simultaneously 500 m (1,635 ft) from the hives. However, in one of their experimental groups, they shielded the radiation source and antenna in a reed and clay box to address potential biases raised in the Harst et al. study. Sixteen total hives were tested, 8 of which were irradiated. After 45 minutes when the observations were terminated, 39.7% of the non-irradiated bees had returned to their hives while only 7.3% of the irradiated bees had.”