Scientists at Landau University in Germany have demonstrated that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones and base stations can interfere with the bees' navigation systems, making them unable to find their way back to their hives.
In an experiment conducted by the researchers, bees refused to return to a hive when a mobile phone was placed nearby.
Although the study is not conclusive, it does offer one possible explanation for a worldwide decline in the bee population which no-one has so far been able to explain. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has led to a massive 60 per cent decline in the number of commercially kept bees on America's West Coast, and a 70 per cent decline on the East Coast.
In the UK, one bee-keeper in London found over half of his hives mysteriously abandoned. There are also reports of CCD in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) denies that CCD is occuring in the UK.
Bees are vital for human survival since they pollinate nearly all our crops. Albert Einstein famously said that if bees were to suddenly disappear, 'man would have only four years of life left'.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2007