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12 April 2017

Is Electromagnetism One of the Causes of Colony Collapse Disorder? A Work Plan for Testing This Hypothesis

Is electromagnetism one of the causes of the CCD? A work plan for testing this hypothesis
Marie-Claire Cammaerts*
University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium

J Behav 2(1): 1006 (2017)
Submitted: 02 January 2017; Accepted: 6 February 2017; Published: 28 March 2017

*Corresponding author: Marie-Claire Cammaerts, 27 square du Castel Fleuri, 1170 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel: +32-322-673-4969; Email: mccammaerts@gmail.com


The decline of domestic bees all over the world is an important problem still not well understood by scientists and beekeepers, and far from being solved. Its reasons are numerous: among others, the use of pesticides and insecticides, the decrease of plant diversity, and bee’s parasites. Besides these threats, there is a potential adverse factor little considered: manmade electromagnetism. The production of electromagnetic waves by human settlements, cellphones relay and power lines largely increases nowadays. Bees are very sensitive to this electromagnetism. The present paper suggests two simple experimental protocols for bringing to the fore the potential adverse effect of electromagnetism on bees and to act consequently. The first one is the observation of bees’ avoidance of a wireless apparatus; the second one is the assessment of colonies’ strength and of the intensity of the electromagnetism field (EMF) surrounding them. If bees avoid a wireless apparatus, if hives in bad health are located in EMF of a rather high intensity, it can be presumed that bees are affected by manmade electromagnetism. This should enable searching for palliative measures.


The nowadays nearly world-wide decline of domestic bees (Apis mellifera Linnaeus, 1758), known as the colony collapse disorder (CCD) [1,2], has not begun with the use of insecticides and pesticides but later on, and did not decrease (on the contrary!) when the use of such products has been controlled and limited. Of course, such substances imperil the bees, but they may not be the only cause of the CCD. Indeed, in presence of insecticides or pesticides, bees die and are found dead all around their hive. However, in numerous other cases, no dead bee can be seen either inside the hive or all around, while the number of bees remaining inside the hive obviously drastically drops [3]. Another cause of the CCD could be the decrease of plant biodiversity and thus of available adequate flowers [4]. There are also local causes, such as the presence of parasites (i.e. Varroa destructor Anderson & Truema, 2000), fungi and predators (i.e. Vespa velutina Lepeletier, 1836) [5]. All these factors cannot by their own explain the drastic collapse of so many bee colonies all over the world. So far, no scientific theory prevails for explaining the progressing collapse of bees. A further possible factor may be an event which started at the same time as the CCD, and the extent of which increases days after days in every country: the use of manmade electromagnetism. The wireless technology appeared just sometime before humans became conscious of the CCD; this technology progressed continuously and is still increasing, just like the CCD [5].

There are several elements in favor of an adverse effect of manmade waves on health and behavior. Electromagnetism affects all living organisms: unicellular ones, insects, amphibians, birds, and mammals among others. Plants too are affected by electromagnetic fields (EMF) [6,7,8,9]. There exist several reviews on the subject [e.g. 10,11,12]. Among animals, the insects are very sensitive to EMF. Working on the ant Myrmica sabuleti Meinert, 1861, we discovered that under EMF, their workers eat far less, collect nearly no food, recruit no longer nestmates, present locomotion problems, can no longer find their nest entrance, and can no longer come onto the food site. They presented a decrease of cognitive abilities. Indeed, they respond less to their pheromones (alarm pheromone: orientation value of 64.7° instead of 44.4°; trail pheromone: 3 walked arcs of 10° instead of 19; area marking pheromone: 1.79 ants coming onto the area instead of 3.78). In the same way, they cannot acquire as usually visual as well as olfactory conditioning, and have thus no longer any memory (score of conditioning: 47.5% instead of 75% – 85%). Moreover, the development of their larvae and nymphs is severely impacted [13, 14]. Finally, using the protozoa Paramecium caudatum as a model, we discovered that EMF affects the cellular membrane [15], a result that was later on found and then explained by other researchers [16]. Since the cellular membrane is damaged by some frequencies of electromagnetic waves, the nervous system functioning also becomes perturbed [17,18,19]. This could explain the ethological and physiological abnormalities observed on ants under EMF. This could also explain their perturbed larval and nymphal development since these phenomena are controlled and induced by secretions of the pars intercerebralis of the brain. If ants are severely impacted by electromagnetism, other insects should also be affected. Indeed, impact of EMF on insects, including bees, has been observed and studied by many researchers [20,21,22,23,24 and references therein, 25]. Before the invention of the wireless technology, plenty of active insects fled on crops, flowers, fruits, where they ate, drunk, collected nectar, and numerous dead insects were found crushed on cars. Nowadays, all this no longer occurs at such an extent [2]. Bees may be particularly affected by manmade electromagnetism [21,22,23]. They have magnetite in their brain, a compound which reacts to magnetism. While flying, they can cross electromagnetic fields of high intensity generated by relay antenna and power lines. When crossing such electromagnetic fields, bees may no longer remember their way, may no longer fly in the correct direction, and may become unable to go back to their hive. Alone, a bee cannot live; it dies in about two days, far from its hive. Note that birds are also affected by EMF [26]. Since moreover most of them eat insects, at least during a part of the year, the actual decrease of their numbers finds here a plausible explanation.

In various countries, present legislation tempts to limit the use of pesticides and insecticides, and to preserve the biodiversity of flowering plants. However, few are done for decreasing the exposition of people, animals and plants to manmade waves, and for protecting the bees. Generally, electromagnetism is not considered as being an element imperiling the living organisms, and among them the bees. The main reasons for this lack of interest could be the way of life in modern societies. People intensely use the wireless technology in their daily life. They use numerous devices relying on that technology e.g. to communicate, to share information. In some cases, they are even quite dependent on them, for working, having recreational activities or simply comfortably living. A lot of people earn their money, have a professional situation, and can efficiently work only using wireless technology. The presence of this technology in our daily life becomes so necessary that nearly nobody can now imagine an unconnected, wireless world. However, it still remains major concerns about this technology: may it imperil nature, and consequently be harmful to humanity? The objective of the present paper is to estimate to which extent bees are affected by electromagnetism and, as the case may be, to adopt palliative solutions.

We propose two easy experimental protocols for examining to which extent bees are impacted by EMF. Any beekeeper or anyone knowing a beekeeper is invited to make either the first or the second, or the two experiments proposed in the present paper and to send us the results. We intend to build a synthesis of them and to divulgate it in the most appropriate way, in a paper and in the media. This might lead beekeepers to act consequently, for example, to set hives in a secure place.


Bees are very important not only for humans (they produce honey, allow having seeds, vegetables, fruits, etc…), but also for nature. This is well explained for instance in the link ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/i0842e/i0842e04.pdf. However, since about 20 years, they spectacularly and increasingly decline, this event having been labeled the bees’ CCD. Among the numerous causes of this CCD (see the introduction section), there is one scarcely taken into account: manmade electromagnetism. Contrary to pesticides, insecticides, decrease of flower diversity, parasites, predators and so on, the effects of electromagnetism are not often evoked. A probable reason is that numerous devices used by humans depend on that technology and have now become tremendously widespread in our daily life. They are even essential in our daily life for working efficiently and having recreational activities. However, this useful technology may imperil the nature, and may consequently have adverse effects on humanity. Bees’ CCD reveals a global situation, reflects what is actually occurring to the nature, all over the world. If you take attention to the wild and compare its state with that existing 20 years ago, you cannot but admit some decrease or bad health of flying insects, for instance. If such a situation persists, pollinators will cease to be numerous enough for assuring efficient pollination.

The objective of the present paper is to estimate to which extent domestic bees are affected by electromagnetism. Two experimental protocols are proposed: one aiming to examine the bees’ avoidance of a wireless apparatus, the other tempting to relate bees’ health to the intensity of their surrounding EMF. Through these proposed protocols and thanks to the collaboration of numerous beekeepers, we hope defining the potential harmful effect of EMF on bees. If the impact of electromagnetism on bees’ health is demonstrated, then, beekeepers could take this impact into account and look for protective measures for their hives. For example, the hives could be located in places where the electromagnetism has a very low intensity, and/or the hives could be set inside a kind of Faraday cage or enclosure. This may help to put a brake on the bees’ CCD.


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