Who Knew?

Jaime McFarlin

Lately there has been a funny rumor circulating that places responsibility for a drastic decrease in honeybee populations on cell phones. The theory is that because cell phone towers operate within the same frequency as the guidance system of the honeybee, the unfamiliar signals in the air interfere with the animal’s navigation; it gets lost and essentially just disappears. With the enormously expanding amount of cell phone towers and widespread use of cell phones, honeybees are being affected on a mass scale.
As far as I could find, there has only been one study conducted that validates this assertion. However, whether or not cell phones are to blame, there is a crisis occurring in the humble world of the European honeybee.
The phenomenon is known as Colony Collapse Disorder and is characterized by the sudden onset of the majority of adult bees disappearing from a hive. With the evaporation of the adult population, the colony is left devastated with only the young and the queen.
Not only is this a highly unusual behavior for so social an animal, but what makes CCD even more bizarre is that the bees are never recovered. There is neither an accumulation of dead bee bodies nor a relocation of the bees to other colonies.
Likely, the cause of CCD is something more along the lines of a pathogen or a parasite. Interestingly, neither Africanized bees nor bees that serve organic farms are experiencing a problem with CCD. It is only European honeybees used in commercial agriculture by mainly migratory beekeepers that are being disturbed. Alarmingly, these bees pollinate roughly $15 billion worth of crops per year.
Crops that are almost completely dependent on bees for pollination include almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, kiwifruit, macadamia nuts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, legume seeds, pumpkins, squash and sunflowers.
While colonies have seen declines before, the term Colony Collapse Disorder was coined in the last three months of 2006 when it first became obvious that there was a severe and unusual problem. With beginnings on the East Coast of the United States, beekeepers all over the country and now even internationally have since reported similar colony losses and die-off.
It is probably about time to alert the Mythbusters to the latest urban legend of cell phones and bee colonies, as the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder has yet to be determined. Hopefully however, somebody will soon figure out exactly what is causing bees to disappear by the billions, and remedy it. Until they do, this summer appreciate the bees that want in on your watermelon.