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Changes in honeybee behaviour and biology under the influence of cellphone radiations

Posted by seumasach on May 29, 2010

Reports of such a colony collapse in nature in develop-

ing countries like India where electromagnetic radiation

(EMR) based technologies are comparatively new are

absent. It is possible that the electrosmog that prevails in

the advanced countries of the world has not yet affected

these countries. We are fortunate that the warning bells

have been sounded and it is for us to timely plan strate-

gies to save not only the bees but life from the ill effects

of such EMR.

CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 98, NO. 10, 25 MAY 2010 1376

*For correspondence. (e-mail: neelimark@yahoo.co.in)

Changes in honeybee behaviour and

biology under the influence of

cellphone radiations

Ved Parkash Sharma1 and Neelima R. Kumar2,*

1

Department of Environment and Vocational Studies, and

2

Department of Zoology, Panjab University, Chandigarh 160 014, India

Increase in the usage of electronic gadgets has led to

electropollution of the environment. Honeybee behav-

iour and biology has been affected by electrosmog

since these insects have magnetite in their bodies

which helps them in navigation. There are reports of

sudden disappearance of bee populations from honey-

bee colonies. The reason is still not clear. We have

compared the performance of honeybees in cellphone

radiation exposed and unexposed colonies. A signifi-

cant (p < 0.05) decline in colony strength and in the

egg laying rate of the queen was observed. The behav-

iour of exposed foragers was negatively influenced by

the exposure, there was neither honey nor pollen in

the colony at the end of the experiment.


Keywords: Colony strength, electromagnetic field,

foraging behaviour, honeybees.

RECENTLY a new phenomenon of sudden disappearance

of bees with little sign of disease or infection has been

reported from the world over. Bees simply leave the hives

and fail to return1,2. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is

the name given to this problem. Bee colony collapse was

previously attributed to viruses, parasitic mites, pesti-

cides, genetically modified crop use and climate change.

On the basis of widely reported influences on honeybee

behaviour and physiology, electromagnetic field is

emerging as a potent culprit3.

The decimation of bees is seen as a grave risk to the

delicate equilibrium of the ecosystem. There is an urgent

need to understand the complicity of interaction involved

in the influence of electromagnetic radiations particularly

due to cellphones on honeybee biology and to work out a

strategy of development with minimal environmental

implications.

Four colonies of honeybees, Apis mellifera L, were

selected in the apiary of the Zoology Department, Panjab

University, Chandigarh. Two colonies T1 and T2 were

marked as test colonies. These were provided with

two functional cellphones of GSM 900 MHz frequency.

The average radiofrequency (RF) power density was

8.549 μW/cm2 (56.8 V/m, electric field). The cellphones

were placed on the two side walls of the bee hive in call

mode. Electromotive field (EMF) power density was meas-

ured with the help of RF power density meter (Figure 1).

Blank colony (B) was equipped with dummy cellphones,

while the control colony (C) had no cellphones.

The exposure given was 15 min, twice a day during the

period of peak bee activity (1100 and 1500 h). The ex-

periment was performed twice a week extending over

February to April and covering two brood cycles.

The following biological aspects were recorded during

observations.

Brood area: The total area under brood comprising

eggs, larvae and sealed brood was measured in all the

experimental colonies with the help of a 1 sq. cm grid

mounted on a comb frame4.

Queen prolificacy: This was measured in terms of egg

laying rate of the queen. In order to determine the number

of eggs laid by the queen per day, the total brood area

measured was multiplied by a factor of 4 to calculate the

total number of cells containing the brood (there are 4

cells per sq. cm of comb). This number was divided by 21

(as the average time taken for an egg to change into an

adult worker is 21 days) to get the egg laying rate of the

queen5.

The queen prolificacy was calculated as:

2

Totalbroodarea(cm) 4

QP .

21

×

=

The following behavioural aspects were observed.

Foraging: (i) Flight activity measured as number of

worker bees leaving the hive entrance per minute: before

exposure and during exposure. (ii) Pollen foraging effi-

ciency measured as number of worker bees returning with

pollen loads per minute: before exposure and during ex-

posure. (iii) Returning ability determined by counting the

Figure 1. Experimental colony showing placement of mobile phones

and power density meter.

RESEARCH COMMUNICATIONS

CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 98, NO. 10, 25 MAY 2010 1377

Table 1. Changes in foraging behaviour of Apis mellifera exposed to cellphone radiations

Parameter Control (mean ± SD) Treated (15 min exposure) (mean ± SD)

Flight activity

(No. of workers bees leaving the hive entrance/min)

Before exposure 35.9 ± 13 (12–61) 34.1 ± 10 (18–48)

During exposure 37.2 ± 12 (12–72) 22.8 ± 6 (13–34)

Returning ability

(No. of worker bees returning to the hive/min)

Before exposure 39.6 ± 13 (12–61) 36.4 ± 11 (21–58)

During exposure 41.3 ± 11 (14–78) 28.3 ± 8 (16–48)

Pollen foraging efficiency

(No. of worker bees returning with pollen loads/min)

Before exposure 7.0 ± 2 (4–9) 6.3 ± 2 (4–10)

During exposure 7.2 ± 2 (4–11) 4.6 ± 2 (2–7)

Table 2. Changes in colony status of Apis mellifera exposed to cellphone radiations

Parameter  Control (mean ± SD) Treated (15 min exposure) (mean ± SD)

Bee strength

Start 7 frame 7 frame

End 9 frame 5 frame

Brood (cm2)

Total brood

Start 2033.76 ± 182.6 (7–532)  2866.43 ± 169.0 (0–574)

End 1975.44 ± 138.8 (0–427)  760.19 ± 111.0 (0–348)

Prolificacy (egg laying rate/day)

Start 387.24 545.9

End 376.20 144.8

Honey stores (cm2)  3200 400

Pollen stores (cm2)

Start 230.5 ± 21.60 (198–305)  218.2 ± 17.48 (141–241)

End 246.7 ± 16.94 (195–289)  154.7 ± 7.30 (142–168)

number of worker bees returning to the hive per minute:

before exposure and during exposure.

Colony growth: (i) Bee strength: measured as total

number of bee frames per colony. (ii) Honey stores: the

area containing ripe and unripe (sealed and unsealed)

nectar was measured in sq. cm with the help of the grid4.

(iii) Pollen stores: the portion of comb containing cells

filled with stored pollen was measured by the grid

method. It was expressed in sq. cm.

The results of the studies carried out on biological and

behavioural aspects of the colonies exposed to cellphone

radiations for a duration of 15 min are presented in

Tables 1 and 2.

It was observed that the total bee strength was signifi-

cantly higher in the control colony being nine comb

frames as compared to only five in the treated colony at

the end of the experiment. There were no dead bees in the

vicinity of the hive which is a characteristic of this disorder

reported by other workers9,10. The area under brood

declined to 760.19 cm2 which was significantly less than

the control (1975.44 cm2).

The queen exposed to cellphone radiations produced

fewer eggs/day (144.8) compared to the control (376.2).

It has previously been reported that there is queen loss in

colonies exposed to high voltage transmission lines11 or

exposure of the queen bee to cellphone radiations stimu-

lated her to produce only drones12.

The number of returning bees declined. Another impor-

tant finding was that the number of bees leaving the hive

also decreased following exposure (Table 1). There was

no immediate exodus of bees as a result of this interfer-

ence, instead the bees became quiet and still or confused

as if unable to decide what to do. Such a response has

however not been reported previously.

As the total number of returning bees decreased

(28.3 bees/min) so did the number of pollen foragers re-

turning to the hive (4.6). This led to decrease in the area

RESEARCH COMMUNICATIONS

CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 98, NO. 10, 25 MAY 2010 1378

*For correspondence. (e-mail: varghesefsi@hotmail.com)

under pollen stores from 246.7 cm2 in control to

154.7 cm2 in the treated colonies.

The honey storing ability declined due to loss of re-

turning bees and at the end of the experiment there was

neither honey, nor pollen or brood and bees in the colony

resulting in complete loss of the colony. Similar condi-

tions have been observed by other workers in case of

honeybees under the influence of high tension lines13–15.

Bee hives located near high voltage power lines in fields

as low as 4 Kv/m produced less honey and had high mor-

tality rates. It was also observed that colonies exposed to

strong electric fields produce less honey16. The present

study therefore suggests that colony collapse does occur

as a result of exposure to cellphone radiations.

Reports of such a colony collapse in nature in develop-

ing countries like India where electromagnetic radiation

(EMR) based technologies are comparatively new are

absent. It is possible that the electrosmog that prevails in

the advanced countries of the world has not yet affected

these countries. We are fortunate that the warning bells

have been sounded and it is for us to timely plan strate-

gies to save not only the bees but life from the ill effects

of such EMR.

1. Hamzelou, J., Where have all the bees gone? Lancet, 2007, 370,

639.

2. Sylvers, E., Case of disappearing bees creates a buzz. The New

York Times, 22 April 2007; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/

22/technology/22iht-ireless23.1.5388309.html (accessed on 13

June 2009).

3. Carlo, G. L., Radiation is killing the bees despite the cellphone

industry’s disinformation campaign, 2007; http://www.

buergerwelle.de/pdf/radiation_is_killing_the_bees.htm (accessed on

3 August 2009).

4. Al-Tikrity, W. S., Hillman, R. C., Benton, A. W. and Clarke Jr,

W. W., A new instrument for brood measurement in honeybee

colony. Am. Bee J., 1971, 111, 20–21.

5. Sharma, P. L., Brood rearing activity of Apis indica F. and egg

laying capacity of its queen. Indian Bee J., 1958, 20, 166–173.

6. Stever, H. and Kuhn, J., Schutz der Bienen vor Handy–Strahlung

(Protection of bees from mobile phone radiation). Schweizerische

Bienen-Zeitung, 2001, 124(9), 23–27.

7. Kuhn, J. and Stever, H., Einwirkung hochfrequenter elektro-

magentischer Felder auf Bienenvolker (Effects of high frequency

electromagnetic fields on bee populations). Deutsches Bienen-

journal, 2002, 10(4), 19–22.

8. Harst, W., Kuhn, J. and Stever, H., Can electromagnetic exposure

cause a change in behaviour? Studying possible non-thermal in-

fluences on honeybees – an approach within the framework of

educational informatics. Acta Syst. Int. J., 2006, 6(1), 1–6.

9. Richter, K., Varrora mite or electromagnetic fields? New research

into the death of bees. Kompetenzinitiative, 2008; http://www.

kompetenzinitiative.de/international/press-releases/varroa-mite-or-

electromagnetic-fields.html (accessed on 2 June 2009).

10. Bowling, M., Where are the birds and bees? The prescription for

safe wireless, EMRX, 2008; http://www.emrx.org/where-birds-and-

bees.html (accessed on 2 June 2009).

11. Greenberg, B., Bindokas, V. P. and Gauger, J. R., Biological ef-

fects of a 765 kV transmission line: exposure and thresholds in

honeybee colony. Bioelectromagnetics, 1981, 2(4), 315–328.

12. Brandes, C. and Frish, B., Production of mutant drones by treat-

ment of honeybee with X-rays. Apidologie, 1986, 17(4), 356–358.

13. Wellenstein, G., The influence of high tension lines on honeybee

colonies. Z. Ange. Entomol., 1973, 74, 86–94.

14. Warnke, U., Bienen unter Hochspannung (Bees under high

voltage) (original article in German). Umschau, 1975, 13, 416.

15. Warnke, U., Effect of electrical charges on honeybees. Bee World,

1976, 57(2), 50–56.

16. Carstensen, E. L., Biological Effects of Transmission Line Fields,

Elsevier, New York, 1987, p. 397.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Research facilities provided by Prof. R. K.

Kohli, Department of Environment and Vocational Studies, Panjab

University, Chandigarh are greatly acknowledged.

Received 12 August 2009; revised accepted 20 April 2010

Impact of tuna longline fishery on the

sea turtles of Indian seas

Sijo P. Varghese*, S. Varghese and

V. S. Somvanshi

Fishery Survey of India, Botawala Chambers, Sir P.M. Road,

Mumbai 400 001, India

Longline fishery is exerting an impact on the sea turtle

populations of the seas around India, as in the case of

many longline fisheries operating in other parts of the

world. During the tuna longline survey conducted by

four research vessels of Fishery Survey of India, 87

sea turtles were caught incidentally from the Arabian

Sea, Bay of Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar waters

of the Indian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) during

2005–08, registering an overall hooking rate of 0.108

turtles per 1000 hooks operated. There were marked

differences in the hooking rates of turtles recorded

from these three regions of the Indian EEZ, the

maximum hooking rate being recorded from the Bay

of Bengal (0.302), followed by the Arabian Sea (0.068)

and Andaman and Nicobar waters (0.008). The species

of sea turtles recorded in the bycatch, in order of

abundance, were olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea),

green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys

imbricata) turtles. This study provides quantitative

data on the magnitude of sea turtle incidental catch of

the tuna longline fishery in the Indian EEZ.

Keywords: Arabian Sea, Andaman and Nicobar waters,

Bay of Bengal, hooking rate, longline.

SEA turtles are among the most extraordinary, charismatic

and fascinating creatures, and are some of the world’s

greatest nomads, sometimes navigating thousands of

miles between feeding and nesting grounds. Six of the

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