Experts have identified a possible contributory cause of the unexplained and drastic decline in honeybee numbers - mobile phone radiation.
Beekeepers worldwide have reported increasing incidents of "Colony Collapse Disorder", a phenomenon normally evident between late summer and early spring as older bees die, "leaving behind the queen and young workers not yet ready to forage for pollen and nectar and insufficient in number to maintain the colony", as honeybee health specialist Vita puts it.
The US has been particularly hard-hit by CCD. Twenty-four states earlier this year reported "heavy losses", and hives in Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the UK have also been affected.
Experts have offered harmful pesticides, increased solar radiation, falling queen fertility, and use of unauthorised bee treatments as possible causes of CCD. Now, though, German researchers at Landau university have found that mobile phone signals can interfere with bees' "navigation systems".
According to The Telegraph, the scientists placed "cordless-phone docking units*, which emit electromagnetic radiation, into beehives". They found that "in some cases, 70 per cent of bees exposed to radiation failed to find their way back to the hive after searching for pollen and nectar".
Brian Dennis, of the UK's Bee Improvement and Bee Breeding Association, said: "There is so much being said about CCD in America and [radiation] hasn't been mentioned. Until someone does a large study, it is hard to be sure." ®
*Yes, not quite the same as a mobile phone set-up. For details on the radiation output of cordless phones versus mobiles, see this handy Health Protection Agency guide.