Posted by: Ticktock | June 18, 2008

Cell Phones Pt. 1 – Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder


Over the last 15 years, cell phone usage has multiplied exponentially from thousands of users to hundreds of millions of users.  Today, there are more mobile customers using more minutes in more places than ever before.  People are conversing on their phones while driving, while watching the kids, while exercising, and even while defecating (you know who you are). 

We’d happily chit chat our brains away if we didn’t have lives to lead.  And, as a matter of fact, that may be what we are doing anyway.  You see, cell phones are sending out waves of non-ionizing radiation that go straight into our brain.  There are multiple studies that are confusing scientists because of the conflicting data.  These phones are so new to the world that it will be years before we know their long term effects.  The science of cell phone harm has been running in real time with the boom in usage over the past few decades, and it’s only now that we’re starting to catch up.

In the meantime, most governments stand behind the safety of mobile phones.  The radiation that these phones emit is obviously not enough to heat up or damage tissue.  The FCC will not license a phone that has a specific absorption rate over the safe level of 1.6 watts per kilogram.  That doesn’t change the amount of hype out there on cell phone damage, some of it legitimate and some not.  I’ll examine three areas of cell phone science that are creating a stir lately.  The first, this one, will be about the mysterious disappearing bees, the second will be about pregnancy dangers, and the third will be about brain damage.  Fun!  Let’s begin…

Rumors are flying that cell phones are causing Colony Collapse Disorder – the mysterious disappearance of America’s honey bees.  A friend of mine suggested that I investigate this possible urban legend because his sources indicated that the theory was based on scientific research.  The story, it turns out, is based on a small study done by German grad students, but the media unsurprisingly sensationalized the facts (got them all wrong). 

The bee-havior study proved that the electromagnetic signal in a cordless phone base would disrupt the bees ability to navigate back to their hive.  In order to make this effect happen, the researchers put the cordless base right next to the hive.  Most people aren’t making their cordless phone calls on top of a bee hive. 

A phone docking station is different from a cell phone; they send out radiation signals at different strengths.  Even if they were exactly the same, CCD occured recently and suddenly; by the time the first American colonies collapsed, cell phones were global and ubiquitous.

The media got it so wrong that Stefan Kimmel, the student heading the research, sent out a press release disavowing the way his study was interpreted.  He points out that The Independent newspaper in Great Britain ran with the story without even bothering to ask the scientists one question.  Kimmel could’ve kept his mouth shut after that, but he went on to point the finger at genetically modified crops.   Shame on him for spinning the wheel of fear and landing it on GM crops.  Our M.I.A. honeybees deserve all our scientific focus, but wild speculation from the part of responsible scientists seems hypocritical and irresponsible.  Don’t you think?

Stay tuned in the next few days for parts 2 and 3 of this epic examination of cell phone science!  



  1. I’ve always found this argument interesting. Here in New York City where we are completely saturated with cell phone coverage (except when I really need it), there is a thriving subculture of urban bee keepers. Apparently bees do really well in an urban setting… so assuming the urban bees are still thriving, it kind of undermines the cell phone bee apocalypse theory. The Independent in particular seems to print all sorts of rubbish when it comes to science.

  2. THis just as well as CCD is a ongoing problem. to best treat the main problem, our decreasing amount of honeybees we have, instead of which problem is it(CCD or IAPV or the celll phones we need to address the 305,560,456 ways if possilbe. of all the different approaches at least one will give us an solution.

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