Bees and Sunspots

Here is some interesting reading linking solar magnetic activity to Bees. Bees use the sun to navigate, so it is not a surprise that they’d be in tune with the sun. But there are also other issues such as immune systems and ag chemicals,
Vanishing Bee Colonies, Doomsday Scenarios and Sunspots

Vanishing Bee Colonies, Doomsday Scenarios, and Sunspots

By Aidan Maconachy
Published: 6/8/2007 at http://www.buzzle.com/

Albert Einstein once said : “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Apocalyptic for sure. We haven’t reached that point yet, but some worrisome indicators suggest dramatic drops in the bee population of the US are likely to impact crop production. This is not a small agricultural sector that is being impacted either. In the US bees pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops each year.

The disappearing bee phenomena isn’t restricted to the US. In Europe countries are experiencing varying degrees of what investigators describe as “colony collapse disorder” (or CCD). Countries effected include Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. However the most serious losses have occurred in the US. On the West Coast keepers have seen bee population losses in the 30 to 60 percent range. On the East Coast and Texas it gets as high as 70%. These are catastrophic drops for an industry that considers around a 20% population decline to be an off-season norm.

There are a number of different theories about why this is happening. After looking at a cross-section of scientific opinion I tend toward the view that the decline in the bee population is being triggered by a variety of factors, rather than a single overriding cause.

There is evidence that the immune system of bees has been adversely effected by modern agricultural practices. These range from use of insecticides to the controlled raising of bees in order to have an army of pollinators ready to service crops on schedule. Some researchers take the view that genetically modified crops are a contributing factor in bee population decline. Stress figures into it too, given that increased pressure is being placed on colonies as their habitat is squeezed each year due to urban development. Parasites are also an issue. The varroa mite introduced from Asia has proved to be problematic.

The decline in the health of the colonies can be demonstrated by research data. You know the problem has reached crisis levels when a guy like Dennis van Englesdorp with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture uses an Aids analogy in an attempt to underscore the seriousness of the threat to bee populations.

Researchers have discovered multiple infections co-existing in some colonies, many of which were also infected with fungi, an indicator that the bees’ immune systems were seriously compromised. This compromised immune function may be related to genetically modified crops and scientists are currently working to try to determine any possible links. When you look at the stats though, on the surface there does seem to be a generalized cause and effect pattern. In the US, which has experienced the most severe bee losses, 40% of the corn is now a GM insect-resistant strain. By contrast in Germany we are only talking about 0.06%, mostly grown in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg regions.

A number of earlier studies investigated whether or not GM crops were having a negative impact on bees. One such study took place at the University of Jenna from 2001 to 2004. The researchers used a GM maize variant named “BT corn” that includes a gene from a soil bacterium in order to make it insect-proof. At first the study seemed entirely positive. No discernible negative effects were detected in the bees from the BT corn. Then researchers discovered that when the bees were attacked by a parasite, the portion of the colony exposed to the BT corn had a much lower ability to fight off infection and showed much more rapid levels of decline.

There is a second set of factors though that raises concerns about quantum-mechanical effects related to magnetic fields and electromagnetic waves. The majority of losses have been occurring as a result of bees being unable to navigate back to their hives. Bees have been expiring singly, in a seemingly disoriented state far from the hive and this can’t simply be attributed to immune system issues.

There are two possible causes. One being our high-tech gadgetry, particularly mobile phone technology. The other cause odd though it may seem, relates to so-called “sunspots” – the effect of solar activity.

At first glance it seems a bit far-fetched to make a connection between the life of bees and mobile phones. However research suggests there may indeed be something to this theory. German research has determined that bees showed a marked change of behavior when in the vicinity of power lines, and a study conducted at Landau University found that bees avoided returning to the hive when mobile phones were placed nearby.

A study by the mathematician Barbara Shipman, provides one of the more fascinating … one might even say ‘esoteric’ theories. A critical aspect of bee activity hinges obviously upon finding pollen sources and returning to the hive. According to Ms Shipman this routine is facilitated by the dance the bees perform. She indicates that the dance is influenced by factors such as the polarization of the light of the sun and variations in the earth’s magnetic field.

She goes further though and suggests bees are capable of identifying quarks. I think it’s a leap to suggest that bees can ‘perceive’ the quantum field or even use it as a type of frame of reference. My hunch is that their activity is pretty much instinctual, based upon their highly specialized circuitry. Questions about whether or not they can perceive quarks seems almost a moot point, especially since there is no way of proving it.

Where the sunspot theory does hold up is that bees appear to be very sensitive to energy fluctuations. One study exposed a colony to bursts from a high-intensity magnetic field and concluded that the bees’ reactions revealed a high sensitivity to nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR. This occurs when an electromagnetic wave alters the orientation of the nuclei of atoms.

Some scientists take the view that the next solar maximum may be one of the most intense ever. Mausumi Dikpati, an astronomer with the National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts a solar maximum for 2012, a phenomena that last occurred in 1958. The sunspot generates intense magnetism that can be felt on the earth. Dikpati even believes that it is possible electronics will be effected, for example GPS and mobile phone technology. Since solar cycle 24 began in 2007 according to Mausumi’s estimate, it’s possible that the behavior of bees is already being effected to some degree.

The dramatic declines in the bee population appear to be due to a combination of factors. Insecticides, crop engineering, shrinking habitats and parasites have impacted the overall health and immune system of bees. The other factor contributing to bee decline relates most probably to side-effects of technology and solar activity.

 
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59 thoughts on “Bees and Sunspots

  1. Typo: “Countries effected include Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.”

    Should be “Countries affected…”

    I really don’t think if bees disappeared that it would be the end. There are other pollinators, and many types of bees. With one major competitor rapidly dwindling, something else would take the reins, I’m sure.

  2. I’m getting sick to death of doomsday scenarios based on little more than hunches.

    What ever happened to inductive reasoning?

    BTW: That is their title, not mine

  3. It’s a pity the picture show flies and not bees…

    As to the rest it all seems rather unlikely – how do we suppose bees survived the MM? And why are ‘there two possible causes’? Does the author know everything and can rule out other explanations?

  4. Found this one a bit puzzling till I noted that it was written last year. Since then there’s been more research as noted in:
    http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/commentary/dissection/2008/02/dissection_0222
    Still, the theory of a virus introduced from Australia has some shortcomings.
    On the other hand, why would decreasing solar activity impact the health of hives? Solar activity decreases on a regular eleven year cycle; why is it just now having such an impact? As noted in that article in Wired {above}, it took Pasteur six years to solve the problem with silk worms. The problems with honey bees seem much more complicated and I suspect that any resolution will take several more years before the real cause is unearthed. And, since it will probably be something very mundane, that may be why the honey bee story rarely intrudes on the public consciousness any more. The media wants a glib answer and a sexy target and it probably won’t happen, so they’ll keep milking that other story without end – AGW.

  5. Bees are insects. The 24 hour day is killing off insects. It completely destroys the day – night circadian cycle where ever it exists. Nocturnal creatures are in decline. Whip-poor-wills in the USA, night jars in europe and the Masked Owl in Australia. We are told that the 24 hour day suppresses production of melatonin and exacerbates the risk of breast cancer in woman. Wahat about the 24 hour day being the “hidden” cause of things that we still do not understand? perhaps we should being thinking about simple solutions to our problems instead of looking for and not finding any “mysterious” reasons?
    Try looking at http://www.lightpollution.org.uk
    Maybe just turning off unnecessary lights at night will help. Not just insects decline but global warming and climate change?

  6. I was in a newsgroup for organic farming and I read one post that said there are thousands of organic farmers communicating thru this site, not one of them has experienced CCD on their organic farms.

    I don’t know how true this is, but if it is true then the finger points to modern agricultre pesticides, herbicides, GE strains etc.

  7. Just so you know, but that supposed quote from Albert Einstein is possibly an urban legend. There is no evidence that he ever actually said this about bees disappearing. Just for your info.

  8. I am not sure that Einstein actually ever said those words – I believe it may be an urban myth. The story has done the rounds several times.

  9. A story that starts with the Einstein quote on bees immediately loses me, because there is no proof that Einstein ever said it and it was not in his expertise anyway.

  10. arg! that Einstein quote no one can say for certain he ever said!!!! IT’S STILL AROUND!!!! grrrrrrrr!

  11. I think you received the wrong buzz and got stun by this story (I had to do that!), Tony. I also think Graham fell of the cliff with his comments on 24 hours of daylight. Perhaps he should view one of the many global maps found on the Inet showing just how dark the world is at night.

    Considering the many flaws: “stale dated,” flies on the flower in the picture instead of bees – or at least it appears that way, assertions over cell phone interference, etc., etc., I had to check to see whether this was published on April 1, 2007 instead of 6-8-07. I also could not access the author’s web page to check her out although buzzle.com list amongst her many interests – wine. Perhaps she had a bit too much of it when she wrote this piece!

    The Heartland Institute (one of the most reliable sources of information on a variety of subjects) has been studying this mystery for several years. Their latest article clearly debunks much of what the author claims and can be found at http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=22614&CFID=3628058&CFTOKEN=31432669

    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  12. Off Topic… sort of.

    A couple of post ago you linked to an article about the growth of biodiversity due to more CO2 in the atmosphere? Well, that growth will be short lived because of…. EVIL CITIES!!!

  13. I talked to a local beekeeper, and he said the secret to healthy hives is, get this, health food. There are some cheap commercially available foods for hives, but he said they are like junk food, and relies on stored pollen and last year’s honey.

  14. I used to have 42 colonies. The drought and varroa finished them off.

    The last two years I have seen very few bees.

    This Spring is a different story. Lots of bees on all the flowering plants and bees were in my feedbins when it started to warm up – they wanted the molasses on the horsefeed.

  15. Almost certainly, bees will recover in any case: some will be less susceptible to whatever the problem is, and they’ll come to dominate. It just might take awhile.

  16. I have some inside info that the ‘immune’ issue, specifically involving a bioengineered pesticide, is a leading contributor (in this country anyway).
    An area of ongoing research, sorry for the tease.
    Another possible ‘unintended consequence’ following a specious accomodation to Gaia.

  17. I guess you can label this one “the crackpot thread,” since every crackpot theory one can imagine appears in that article. Bees perceiving quarks? Gimme a break! Do they have tiny linear accelerators in their stingers to smash the subatomic particles together and free the bound quarks?

    Re: a solar maximum in 2012, this is something that comes along every 11 years, so what’s this garbage about the last one being in 1958? And anyway, the problem these days seems to be a lack of solar activity, not an overabundance of it.

    Of all the bad science articles out there in the popular press, this has got to be one of the worst.

    REPLY: I agree on the quarks, but also note that the write of the article expresses doubt about the quantum issue.

  18. We are losing honey bees here in western CO. There is no light pollution, the nearest city is 100 mi. away. The towns around here have pop. of 2-5K. No lighting what-so-ever outside the towns. A shift in solar magnetic field is unlikely the problem as that is cyclic. Also, the bees started going during the last cycle with high solar output and they are still suffering with low solar output. We have plenty of other bees and wasps filling in as far as I can see on my flowers. I wonder why this seems to be species specific unless it is an infectious agent.

  19. “…bees avoided returning to the hive when mobile phones were placed nearby.”

    I share the same bias. Especially when some loudmouth in the supermarket begins expounding into her cell phone – they have to shout to be heard at any distance, I suppose – about some private affair. Just want to avoid such places.

  20. Also, there is no record whatsoever of Albert Einstein ever saying what’s in the quote attributed to him, according to Snopes.

  21. Hard Rain, I used to farm organically in South Africa, and knew bee farmers: They indicated that they were also experiencing a growing shortage. The one farmer had hives in spots in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and (possibly) the NW Province.

    But I do think that the shortage is possibly due to a combination of factors. True, there are other pollinators, but what will the overall impact be of the depletion of the major pollinator, and how long will it take for other pollinators to fill the gap.

    Also, from a cultural-gastronomic pov, the loss of honey is a very significant event.

  22. Narroa Mites are very, very bad. They are to bees what ticks are to mammals and each bee can carry a lot of mites. They infest the hive and all the worker bees. They reduce the lifespan of the workers by half or more and that extra weight exhausts the bees. They make the hives susceptible to other pests like foulbrood and beetles and wasps.

    If I treated the hives every month, then the hive had a 50/50 chance of making it. If I did not treat the hive, then it died.

  23. “There are quite a few species of native NA bee pollinators, so native vegetation is little affected — but many commercial crops aren’t native.”

    There are around 4,000 North American “natives”. Oddly enough, this number doesn’t make up for the specialized niche filled by the honeybees. Leafcutters, mason bees, and bumblebees can help, and have been raised for commercial use, but none but the (originally) imported honeybee seems to do the job on the scale necessary for the ag industry. The collapse disorder, and any issue relating to bug pollination are a fascinating puzzle.

    I’m not an entomologist, but I can see real reasons to keep an open mind about a link between solar minima / cooler, wetter weather / fungal and mite infestations. There may be other things going on with navigation we don’t know about.

    Re: Colorado bees. The Western Colorado Honey Company was the biggest producer on the western slope about ten years ago, when I spoke to its owner. It was a family-run operation, and Paul Limbach told me how his father and he used to bring in many harvests of about 125 pounds from each “super”, the comb-and-honey-filled second story above each hive box. That was in the 50’s and 60’s. At the time of my interview, he said they were lucky to get 50-pound harvests from each super. Don’t know how that’s changed in the last ten years.

  24. The article states:
    “Since solar cycle 24 began in 2007 according to Mausumi’s estimate, it’s possible that the behavior of bees is already being effected to some degree.”

    We are nearly half way through 2008 and the shift from SC23 sunspots to predominently SC24 sunspots looks to be a good ways off. The current “Tiny Tim” sunspot visible now is an SC23 spot. In fact, the current averaged number of sunspots for the SC23/SC24 transition has been BELOW the transition minimums of both the SC21/SC22 and SC22/SC23 transitions for about a year now.
    See
    http://www.leif.org/research/Most%20Recent%20IMF,%20SW,%20and%20Solar%20Data.pdf
    for a comparison of the current transition with the previous two (courtesy of Leif Svalgaard).

  25. “…bees avoided returning to the hive when mobile phones were placed nearby.”

    Do cellphones broadcast when not in use? i thought they were passive. Seems to me that the cellphone signal is in the ‘ether’ regardless if there is a cellphone nearby. If cellphones don’t broadcast when not in use I’m not sure what affect placing one near a hive whould have.

    REPLY: The digital cellphone broadcast bursts to announce their presence about once a minute

  26. What some scientists say is missing from the debate is historical context. “Every time there are these disappearances, the ills of the moment tend to be held accountable,” said May Berenbaum, who heads the entomology department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and led a National Academy of Sciences review of the status of North American bees and other pollinators that was published last year.

    “In the ’60s it was synthetic organic insecticides,” Dr. Berenbaum said. “In the ’70s it was Africanized bee genes. In the 19th century, there is a wonderful report about this resulting from a lack of moral fiber. Weak character was why they weren’t returning to the hives.”
    http://www.thirteen.org/scienceandnature/silence-of-the-bees

    Cyclical. Natural. Relax.

  27. i bet einstein liked honey too! …he’s a pretty smart guy though…maybe we should listen! I love how anyone can make a prediction about how the world is going to end and everyone completely ignores it until something crazy happens with black and yellow insects…

  28. way off topic: is there a place where I can graph all the various temperature records? Or is there a place where the data is kept so I can put it into excel and do it myself? I’m talking about RSS, GISS, UAH, etc.

  29. In case someone might be interested, GISS May is out:
    GISTEMP 5-2008: +0.36 °C

    That’s pretty cool for them!

  30. austin,
    That’s interesting – here in Germany I have also noticed the return of bees this spring.

  31. “Re: Colorado bees. The Western Colorado Honey Company was the biggest producer on the western slope about ten years ago, when I spoke to its owner. It was a family-run operation, and Paul Limbach told me how his father and he used to bring in many harvests of about 125 pounds from each “super”, the comb-and-honey-filled second story above each hive box. That was in the 50’s and 60’s. At the time of my interview, he said they were lucky to get 50-pound harvests from each super. Don’t know how that’s changed in the last ten years.”

    My best harvest was in 1998 during a very hot and dry spring. I was extracting honey every two weeks.

    This was a year where:

    1. Very high sweetclover production.
    2. Bees could fly everyday due to no clouds/rain.
    3. The hot dry air helped with evaporation and curing of the nectar brought by the bees.

  32. We may be overthinking the problem. I recently read somewhere that the disappearance of bees is not unprecedented. That die-offs like this happen every several decades and that old-time bee keepers are familiar with this.

    I don’t know if this is true and I can’t find the story where I originally read this.

  33. john A: “What ever happened to inductive reasoning?”

    Good question. Back in the 60’s it was still in “draft” form. You’d think they’d have it all hammered out by now.
    Speakin’ of the 60’s maybe the sun is thinkin’ bout em too. Like, maybe it would rather be dead than red? It certainly ain’t yella — just looks that way to earthlings. Can never convince some folks who’d tather be green with envy, uh yup.

    (*ahem*) Now back to our regularly scheduled postings.

  34. I see that el-Visitidor posted a comment that made note of past bee die-offs. Here is the URL for a NY Times story regarding die-offs in the past:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/science/17bees.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    Actually…there is another theory. HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY had it wrong…it is not the mice who were the secret masters of Earth’s destiny. It was the bees. They are departing now right before the Vogons demolish Earth to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. No doubt, someone will find a message from the bees: “So long, and thanks for all the pollen.”

  35. Why is it, pray tell, that bees seem to think I am a target worth stinging? I have been stung every year of my fricken life. I wear no perfume, have flashing orange-copper-red-blond-brown long hair, and generally make a lot of noise wherever I go. Bees find me. All kinds. Honey bees, yellow jackets, hornets, black horse flies, whatever. If it has a stinger or biter, I will get it. They crawl up my shirt and sting. They sting my feet. My legs. They fly into my car and sting my cheek as I’m driving along. They sting my hand lazily held out the window as I am driving along. And they chase me from one end of the field to the other. I like honey as much as the next person, but I wish they would get the hint!!!! At 52, I have NO POLLEN LEFT!!!!!!

  36. It is a very interesting issue,I’ve been doing some research about sunspot and it’s implications on the production of crops;now I came across this debate by surfing the internet.You did a good job.By the way,I am writing a book about these matter and would be gratful if you give me your permission to copy this article.I will write a note of aknowledgement in your name;I apreciate you.

    Trully;Thank you very much.

    Reply: The article is not the property of this site owner. The original can be found here.

  37. Actually…there is another theory. HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY had it wrong…it is not the mice who were the secret masters of Earth’s destiny. It was the bees. They are departing now right before the Vogons demolish Earth to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. No doubt, someone will find a message from the bees: “So long, and thanks for all the pollen.”

    And Al Gore is obviously the Vogon stealth bureaucrat sent to soften up any resistance, which is, of course, useless.

  38. Pam,

    Interesting. I think it has to do with attitude. For a mental exercise look into a fish tank and establish eye contact with the fish. Give them complete respect. Admire their beauty.

    Do not try the above with cows. I tried for 6 months. I lost most of my respect for them.

  39. Ok mixing of metaphors is allowed. Mixing of sci fi metaphors~I’m going to have to consult Anthony. We may have to modify the board policy.

    REPLY: Scifi notables are ok as long as it isn’t referencing Battlestar Galactica or Plan 9 from Outer Space.

  40. Never mind jeez, delete my previous comment. I forgot the Vogon post (I do admire their poetry though).

  41. Pamela Gray
    Why is it, pray tell, that bees seem to think I am a target worth stinging?

    You’r too darn sweet.

  42. Well, I decided to ask my bees about it. They told me it is actually all the hot air from the media and the left blowing them off course.

    Thankfully in the conservative West MI it isn’t too bad yet so my hives are thriving.

  43. One time I was on a hike along a horse trail in the Deschutes. I came across a horse blanket laying on the ground on the trail. Being a woman I thought someone lost a very nice horse blanket and someone should hang that up so that the owner could find it instead of it being trampled into the ground. So that is what I did. I shortly thereafter discovered that said horse blanket was actually placed on the ground to cover a ground hive entrance to a hornets’ nest. Needless to say, I looked like a warty witch soon after. Hornet stings are NASTY and hurt for hours and hours! Luckily there was a wide shallow spring nearby with a gravelly bottom (actually more like 50 yards on down the trail which I managed to sprint in Olympic record style). I rolled in the water till the bees decided to leave me alone.

    So it seems that if I haven’t had my yearly sting, I actually go out of my way to find the damned things!

  44. re: old construction worker: About Pam: Couldn’t agree more.

    In my case, it’s mosquito’s. They don’t just bite, they line up. Sometimes take numbers. I had to move to the high plains to escape them, they still chase me. Even a bee bit me once. (really) Hate to think what could happen if I encounter a vampire bat…)

    Slightly more on topic, a beekeeper friend sent me this:

    “There are massive ongoing losses of honeybee colonies… several new parasites/diseases imported in recent years, major stress on colonies used for commercial pollination ( a large portion of the US bee population), issues with loss of genetic variation as a result of commercial practice raising queens, several other factors subject to debate for significance in the problem including diet and treatment with various chemicals and antibiotics.”

    Touches most of the bases. So he raises “mutt” bees, low stress, simple food.

  45. Pam, for keeping bees at bay, have you tried upping your intake of zinc? I have no personal knowledge of this working, but have read that it can work, possibly by altering the body’s smell. Better from foods like oysters, red meats and fortified cereals if possible. Also can take zinc supplements, but always best to check with a doctor of course. And, they say dressing plainly (white, khaki and other light colors) also helps. Good thing you’re not allergic.

  46. Why would bees sacrifice their stingers and their lives over a smell? I’m not disputing just computing.

  47. Re: Jeff Alberts (20:13:48)

    And all this time we thought he was giving AGW lectures and it was really Vogon poetry! They must have actually given him the Nobel to try and shut him up.

  48. I saw this article today and thought I’d pass it along. Perhaps all the bees have been going to NC, or hiding out in other people’s homes – maybe part of the Bee Witness Protection Program. ;)

    Seriously though, I thought it was interesting to note how so many bees are disappearing, yet thousands have taken refuge in some guy’s house.

    Here’s a link to the article: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,367442,00.html

    Thanks! Vanessa

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