This has been the headline across social media this week, which has been blithely repeated and repeated with increasing excitement as if it is fact. Some bloke in Switzerland has published a paper which suggests that "active mobile phone handsets in beehives noticeably induce the rate of worker piping", which apparently they do when you put a handset in a hive. This becomes "mobile phones are killing honeybees" in the hands of the Daily Mail, the latest in a line of similar stories which have been debunked.
It would be great if mobile phones did kill bees, but I very much doubt they do anymore than solar storms or power lines. "Great" because it would give us a single target to tackle. The truth is much more complicated, as bee scientist Jamie Ellis points out in BBKA News:
I think there is compelling reason to believe that synergisms between stressors are more problemmatic for a colony than any one stressor. There seems to be a growing body of evidence to support this assertion. Regardless, I think it benefits everyone involved with this issue to look at the data critically and approach these losses reasonably.
I have talked about this before in the context of neonicotinoids, which unlike phones really are problematic - but one of several/many problems. Unfortunately, in this case as many others in the natural world, the truth is too complicated and fuzzy for the 140 characters of a Twitter message or, if you are a reader of a blog like this, 1040. Anyway, it gives me a feeble excuse to post a nice picture of a Bombus lapidarius queen on our demo meadow a couple of days ago. Yes, I know it's a bumblebee not a honeybee - but then who cares? Certainly not the Daily Mail...