the disappearance of bees

The other day I came across this article:

CELL PHONES ARE KILLING BEES!!!!

Ignoring for the moment that the information came via the Daily Mail, there has been backlash/argument about the angle and meaning of the research, an example found here in the New York Times.   Here is the actual report from the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany so you can read and assess for yourself.

I felt the content provoked some very important questions about the human relationship to technology.  Would people give up a technology and dependence on a technology to save the planet (i.e. themselves)?  If the evidence became irrefutable, would governments call upon their people to throw away and/or modify their cell phones?  Would people revolt and say the government was trying to control their right of free choice? Would saving the bees become a number one issue on legislative agendas above things like national security? Would it become an interest of worldwide security?

I’m curious to know if there are examples of technology being dismantled or stopped because of evident health risks and environment concerns. Considering the rising human population, the link between our expanding life spans and expanding technology and the considerable challenges of current and impending food shortages, I think we need to communally and individually acknowledge that our insignificant cell phones could be posing a major problem. And this is not to ignore our other “contributions” to their potential demise: chemical pesticides, pollution, climate change, and mass agriculture to name a few.

The possibility of bee extinction is clearly of human making. It points to our incessant drive to consume, our parasitic nature concerning Nature, and our genuine disregard for the well being of others fueled by desires that are inherently individualistic and selfish. What will it take for us to evolve beyond consumption? Perhaps the mass extinction of bees will leave us with little to nothing to consume except our guilt about our passivity…or simply more genetically modified foods.

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7 responses to “the disappearance of bees

  1. I keep my bees in London, a city where plenty of people have two mobiles each. Yet we don’t really have CCD here. Plenty of my beekeeping friends lost hives this winter, but the bees died inside the hive, due to varroa mite infestations, a spore forming parasite called nosema or starvation when the bee cluster became separated from their stores.

    So personally I’m not convinced by the mobile phone idea. I do worry about the varroa mite, which European honeybees have not yet evolved to cope with as their Asian relatives have, and a lack of forage caused by people concreting/decking over their gardens and planting non-native flowers. We have so many palm trees and fancy roses round here – useless from a bee’s point of view.

    • beesandcellphones

      Thanks for your comment Emily. I think that’s interesting, the point about CCD not currently being in the UK. I’ve read a few articles that point to some rising percentages of bee disappearance in the UK though…I wonder if it’s only a matter of time? And I wonder why CCD has hit places like America so hard. While I am not convinced that mobile phones aren’t playing a part, I also think it’s in combination with other environmental factors, like you’re suggesting with the planting of non-native species.

      I’ll have to check out your blog! I want to find some good local honey- do you make it?

      • But if CCD was even partly caused by phones, why would it be a matter of time? We’ve had mobiles here for decades.

        When I hear local government bee inspectors speak they’re emphasising the problems caused by varroa. It’s not just the damage caused by the mite itself but the associated viruses it helps transmit. As a result both workers and queens are dying earlier. Sometimes colonies abscond their hives as a result of high varroa infestations.

        Commercial beekeepers in America are moving the bees about in a very unnatural way, transporting them thousands of miles to feed on mono-crops like almonds. I don’t necessarily just blame the beekeepers, who are trying to make a living. The orchard growers & farmers could help by planting more native flowers in-between their crops.

        Whereabouts do you live? I don’t have any honey for sale but some of my beekeeper friends do. There are usually two lots for sale down at my local apiary in Ealing, one for £5 and one for £6.

      • beesandcellphones

        We have had mobiles for decades, but from what I gather, that isn’t necessarily a sufficient amount of time to determine whether or not they are hazardous. We may not know the true effects for another couple decades- and by then, perhaps it will be too late…or cell phones will be obsolete.

        Yes, I definitely see your point about problems like varroa and commercial bee keepers. I don’t see the potential cell phone problem as an isolated issue. I’m just wondering if things like varroa and unnatural movement can cause something as large as CCD?

        I live in London proper- so I’m in contact with the markets. If you know anyone who sells here, let me know! thanks 🙂

  2. Interesting article, Alyssa. Technology and humans have been together ever since the first spear was invented. Our technology has evolved, but not as fast as our brains. We could do a little damage with one spear 2 million years ago, now we can do much more damage, quicker and with no single point of responsibility.

    Cell phones have increase our interconnectedness as individuals, for better and worse, but how were they tested for safety towards us and the environment? Probably not at all. Or in the cheapest and most superficial way possible under corporate “Quality” guidelines. If cell phones are responsible for a decline in the bee population, let’s study the specific responses bees have to cell phone radiation. Maybe we’ll find that we can alter our cell phone technology to work without disrupting bees. The FCC could issue a rule that says all phone must operate on whatever frequency is deemed to be safe-r. This will require some Scientific study. I know that as Americans, we’re a little rusty in that department. It’s time to get our shit together.

    If it’s already too late, we could contract Haliburton to build millions of robotic pollinating bees. Of course, these bees would only pollinate flowers that have a proper papers and would be controlled by Skynet.

    • beesandcellphones

      Thanks Mark! Yes, I suppose a spear would be considered “technology”? I would hope that if we do indeed find that cell phones technology is doing irreparable harm to our environment, we could use our ingenuity to create something more ethical. Isn’t that the problem? That new technology is created unethically in the first place?

      Oh my god, robotic pollinating bees. You need to jump on that patent.

  3. Emily Heath

    I don’t go to the markets often, but I was in Borough market about a month ago and picked up a leaflet about a stall called the Golden Company selling honey there -www.thegoldenco-op.com

    Here’s a list of places to buy honey in London: http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/features/10817/London-s_best_honey.html

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