Are Mobile Phones Killing Off Honey Bees?

Five schoolkids in Germany have investigated the behaviour of bees affected by mobile radiation.

Could radiation from mobile phones be causing bees to die off? A group of schoolkids in Germany have carried out an award-winning experiment to find out exactly that.

Author Paul Stadelhofer:

Translation Paul Stadelhofer, 03.27.17

The decline in bee populations has dramatic consequences for humans and the environment. Among the known reasons for the phenomenon are parasites and pesticides, but the idea has circulated for a while that radiaton from mobile phones could also be having an influence on bees. In Germany, Nordhessen, five schoolkids: Niklas Binder, Maximilian Görlitz, Jakob Ruckel, Carl-Moritz Köpp and Alexander Popov decided they wanted to know more.

Behind the idea for the project was the town beekeeper Victor Hernández: He had seen problems develop in a beehive he had, placed near a telephone mast. Funkmastes The five kids decided to try and find out, with his help, whether the mobile phone waves really were affecting the bees. Hernández took a hive to the Schülerforschungszentrum and after a few months of preparation, in June 2016 the experiment was ready to start.

How Do You Assess a Bee Population?

As it’s unfortunately impossible to talk to bees and find out what in their environment is causing them problems, the kids were able to demonstrate a link between mobile phone radiation and bee behaviour. The whole swarm was hooked up to various measuring devices, which monitored different aspects of their daily life: a thermometer measured the temperature, an infrared camera was installed and delivered photos every minute via Raspberry-Pi, a photoelectric switch at the entrance monitored the bees’ comings and goings and a microphone recorded the volume of the humming. The strength of the mobile radiation was also measured over a long period of time.

A simple set of testing equipment, but with an enviable amount of different features. The fact that you could follow the experiment on the project’s official website was the icing on the cake.

© The team of young scientists used low-tech equipment to collect the data for their study.

The Result of the Experiment

Radiation probably causes honey bees (apis mellifera) to partially lose orientation and makes them more aggressive too. Indicators for this included the raised temperature in the hive, decreased movement in and out and louder buzzing. It could have other consequences too.

The next stage planned is a long-term study, to try and gain more evidence to back up their hypothesis. Mobile radiation can’t be claimed to be the only reason for the collapse of bee colonies – but there does seem to be evidence for a correlation between the intensity of the radiation and the behaviour of the bees.

Simple Technology for Complex Research

Mobile phones, micro-controllers and thermometers are fairly simple technical tools – they don’t cost very much and anyone can get their hands on them. These five schoolkids have certainly shown that with a combination of logic and existing technologies, it’s possible to generate a whole set of brand new insights. And the young researchers have been recognised publicly too, winning the WWF Galileo Green Youngster Award for their clever experiment. On the 12th of May 2017 they’ll receive their prize at the Green Tec Awards in Berlin.

This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of an original article that first appeared on our German language site.

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