by Lana Lynne on 5.24.11
In the face of the troubling Colony Collapse Disorder plaguing the world's honey bee population, it is comforting to learn that the number of beekeepers in the U.S. is evidently increasing -- up 10 to 15% over the last few years to 100,000 beekeepers, mostly in urban areas. Because of this increase, cities around the country are repealing previous bans on urban beekeeping, and backyard beekeeping in general is garnering more mainstream attention (see this Forbes blog post, this ABC article, and this Nokia promotional video featuring a beekeeper in Hong Kong).
The increase in backyard beekeeping is being attributed to the popularity of the local food movement and the growing concern over globally diminishing hives. Yet, one has to wonder about another piece of news that popped up recently (which was already characterized as a "popular myth," like many human-influence reasons proposed for CCD): A study conducted in Switzerland found that electromagnetic waves from active cell phone impact hives by "inducing the worker piping signal," which, under normal conditions, "announces the swarming process...or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony." (The swarming process is when the Queen bee leaves the hive with a group of worker bees to find a new hive.)
Questions are being raised about the study, such as the proximity of the mobile phones to the hives in the study and whether this is ever replicated in the real world, and if there is a demonstrated link to CCD. Skepticism aside, if mobile phone signals are another piece of the Colony Collapse puzzle, how will this affect the efforts of urban and suburban backyard beekeepers, tending hives in areas saturated with electromagnetic waves?
Photo Credit: Björn Appel