Honey bee populations have suddenly begun to decline, and some British researchers think the proliferation of cell phones is a contributing cause.
A limited study at Landau University has found that bees will abandon their hives when cell phones are turned on and placed next to them.
What is known is that there are suddenly fewer bees to pollinate plants. In case after case bee keepers in the U.S. and Europe have reported something called Colony Collapse Disorder. In CCD, a hive's inhabitants desert the colony, leaving only queens and eggs.
CCD reports escalated sharply last fall, with bee populations falling as much as 60 percent on the West Coast and 70 percent on the East Coast. Not only does that impact honey production, it also poses a threat to food production, since bees are needed to pollinate plants.
While mass-produced crops like wheat and corn are pollinated by wind, some 90 cultivated flowering crops rely mostly on honeybees. According to a Cornell University study, honeybees pollinate every third bite of food ingested by Americans, and help generate some $14 billion in produce.
"Are honey bees the canary in the coal mine?" asks Jerry Hayes, an official with the Florida Department of Agriculture. "What are honey bees trying to tell us that we humans should be paying more attention to?"
While the cell phone theory might seem far fetched, the British study isn't the first to suggest that man's technology might be short circuiting bees' navigation systems. German researchers have show that bees' behavior is different near power lines.
A few scientists also think the introduction of genetically modified crops could also be linked to the sudden disappearance of the honey bee.