Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
News articles about CCD are ritually accompanied by a quotation from Einstein:
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".
So, that, in short, is what it is. This new theory is that it's caused by cell-phones:
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
They are leaning on one small study which showed that "bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby." But the immediate question that comes up for me is why this began in the U.S.
Cell-phone networks enjoy much greater coverage and penetration per acre in Europe than they do in the U.S., and in Japan and Korea it is even higher. One would think that if these technologies screw with bees, the problems would emerge there first, instead of beginning in the U.S.
Let me toss out this question to our tech-savvy readers: Is there some bandwidth--or some new use of existing bandwidth--that is being rolled out in the U.S. and is just this year being rolled out in Europe? One that for some reason has not been deployed in Korea?
Or alternatively, is there a species of bee that is prevalent here and in Europe, while a different species entirely is native to Asia?
Oh, while were at it, there's another issue with the cell-phone hypothesis. So far it appears that "the parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives." Are they affected by the radiation, too? Seems unlikely.