One serious cause of honey bee die-off in the US is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It leads to collapse of the hive often with complete absence of bees or only the queen and few other individuals remaining.
A story in the Independent yesterday highlighted a theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other gadgets could be affecting bees’ navigation systems, preventing them from finding their way home. Dr Jochen Kuhn at Landau University has found that bees refuse to go back to their nests when mobile phones are placed nearby. This work follows an earlier paper suggesting that higher frequencies may cause changes in the bees learning abilities. However, this theory is widely disputed and is only one of many current ideas.
An FAQ from the entomology department at Penn State University states that, due to results of intensive beekeeper surveys, their working group is not currently investigating radiation from mobile phone towers or GM crops such as Bt corn. Current research priorities include:
• Chemical residue/contamination in the wax, food stores and bees
• Known and unknown pathogens in the bees and brood
• Parasite load in the bees and brood
• Nutritional fitness of the adult bees
• Level of stress in adult bees as indicated by stress induced proteins
• Lack of genetic diversity and lineage of bees
For more information see Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) website, DEFRA, and BeeBase. The National Bee Unit is monitoring the situation closely, is in contact with US scientists and suggests that any beekeepers concerned about losses should contact their local inspector. Search for information on CAB Abstracts with the terms below.