Our bees are vanishing: where have all the bees gone?

This article is posted at:

Informant: Scott Munson

**Honey, our bees are vanishing**

Beloved by Britons, the humble honey bee is hailed as a reassuring symbol of summer. But disease has almost wiped out the wild population and threatens domestic swarms. Science Editor *Robin McKie* reveals why we should all be worried about the decline of this remarkable creature.

*Sunday April 30, 2006
http://www.observer.co.uk *

When a fire hazard light flashed in the cockpit of a British Airways jumbo jet that was heading from Sydney to London two weeks ago, its pilot, Dave Meggs, knew he had only one course of action. He diverted his craft, and its complement of 350 passengers, to the nearest airport, a tiny landing strip at Uralsk in Kazakhstan.

His emergency touchdown was a flawless copybook affair. It was also, as it turned out, completely unnecessary. There was no fire in the hold of the plane despite sensors indicating this was the source of the raging flames. All that could be found was a package of disgruntled bees, en route from Australia to Britain, which investigators now believe was the most probable cause of the alarm and the ensuing aviation emergency.

In the end it took 20 hours to ferry passengers back to London in a flotilla of smaller craft (the airstrip was too short for the jumbo to take off with its passengers on board) and all thanks to a bunch of errant insects.

It is still unclear how bees managed to trigger the alarm in the hold, although this is certainly not the only question hanging over the incident. In particular, there is the issue of what these creatures were doing on Flight BA010 in the first place.

Bees - which have been loved by Britons ranging from William Shakespeare to Jill Archer - are the quintessence of Britishness. Yet it transpires we are importing them regularly. What is happening? The answer, say beekeepers, is a simple one: a malaise has been spreading through the nation's apiary industry with alarming implications. Thanks to foreign diseases and the spread of drug resistance among infectious agents, the buzzing bee, as sure a signal of summer's onset as traffic jams on the M5, is now at risk of being stifled.

'The situation is very serious and very worrying,' said Dr Ivor Davis, of the British Beekeeping Association. 'We are suffering serious declines in our bee population and that has damaging consequences. People are doing anything to try to put things right and restore populations, and that includes importing bees from Europe and Australia but it is not clear this will help us in the long term.'

Britain's apiary crisis can be traced back to the Nineties when hives were first struck by varroa destructor - a parasitic mite that feeds off the bodily fluids of bees. Populations plummeted, particularly among the nation's wild swarms which have virtually been eradicated. Only colonies tended by people survive in this country today. New feral colonies are sometimes established but without a keeper to help will only survive for a short time before succumbing to disease.

'The honey bees that buzz around your garden and which help to pollinate your plants now all come from colonies that are cared for by humans,' said Davis. 'Effectively, we have no wild bees left in Britain at all now, only ones that are tended for and protected by keepers.' That is bad enough. However, new strains of varroa, resistant to the chemicals that had been used to treat the condition, have started to infect hives in the past year. Their appearance has triggered renewed alarm, with beekeepers reporting major dips in honey production.

Yet honey is only a small part of the problem. Bees - 'the little almsmen of spring bowers', according to Keats - shape our countryside. They pollinate the bluebells that carpet our woods as well as our dandelions and willows and they ensure our apple and pear trees are rich in hanging fruit. Our landscape would be a drab affair were it not for the attentions of Apis mellifera.

'It is true that fruit trees can pollinate themselves without help from bees, but the fruit that they would produce would be stunted and unappetising,' added Davis. 'We take bees for granted, which is a mistake. They have been making life bearable in this country for centuries.'

This point was backed by John Howat, secretary of the British Bee Farmers' Association. 'If you look at what the bee does for Britain, the statistics are really striking. It has been calculated that, if they did not pollinate our commercial orchards and gardens, the country would lose about £120m to £150m in lost agricultural produce.'

And that figure reflects only what bees produce for farmers and commercial growers. If you look at their impact on the economy, including the profits they help make for supermarkets, it is estimated that bees are worth between £500m and £1bn to Britain. Not bad for a puny insect.

Not that this industriousness is rewarded or is even acknowledged, say keepers. They have been infuriated by recent government moves which have included attempts to cut back on projects that could aid the British honey bee.

Recently ministers axed the government's contribution to a public-private project that was aimed at developing biological agents that could fight varroa in hives and halt the current waves of infection. In addition, it threatened last year to reduce funds spent on the nation's bee inspection service, staffed by men and women who monitor disease prevalence in hives across the country and who are seen as playing a crucial role in maintaining the health of Apis mellifera. Only an outcry by beekeepers and farmers halted the cutback.

'The government spends just over £1m a year on a creature that is worth a thousand times that to our economy and an inestimable amount to our environment' said Howat. 'It is quite ridiculous.'

The government has also infuriated the beekeepers' association by relaxing rules that allow people to import bees from other countries, in particular the European Union and Australia. This has only increased the risk of new disease entering Britain, says the British Beekeeping Association. Parasites like the dreaded American Fowl Brood and the Small Hive Beetle infect other nations' bees, and their arrival in Britain is now viewed as being inevitable and their consequences highly damaging.

'The trouble is that there are a lot of keepers and farmers in Britain who have contracts with orchard owners to provide pollination of their trees but are now having great difficulty is getting enough bees, so they have started to import them,' added Alan Johnston, a former chairman of the Bee Keepers Association. 'That is probably what was going on in the flight that got stuck in Kazakhstan.'

However, the risk posed by these imports is downplayed by other beekeepers. Only single queen bees are actually brought into the country, which limits the prospects for the spread of infections.

'Packages contain a fair number of bees, a single queen and a lot of workers who provide her food,' said Martin Tovey of the Beekeeping Association.

'However, workers are killed when they get to Britain and only the queen is kept. It is introduced gradually to members of a new hive. Eventually she is accepted and some of them join her to set up a new colony.'
(Queens usually cost around £20 each, although those with good pedigrees can fetch prices that reach up to £500.)

When in the new hive, the bees start to collect pollen which they then turn into honey. 'Essentially honey is just concentrated pollen with some added bee enzymes,' said Howat. 'They create honey as food for surviving winter. The good thing is that bees produce far too much honey, so we can take most of it and use it for ourselves.'

It is an industry that has endured for centuries. 'It is not coming to an end overnight,' added Davis. 'However, it is clearly now in a worrying state. If any other of these new diseases establish themselves in this country in the near future, we could find ourselves in a very worrying situation.'

*The History of Honey*

7000 BC: Cave paintings in Spain show the earliest records of beekeeping.
4000 BC, Egypt: Honey used as a sweetening and an embalming agent. Roman Empire: Beekeeping becomes a major industry; honey used to pay taxes.
11th century, Germany: Beer was sweetened with honey; peasants paid their lords feudal dues in honey and beeswax.
16th century: Conquering Spaniards discovered that Mexican and Central American natives had already developed beekeeping.
17th century, American colonies: European honey bees are introduced to New England by settlers in about 1638; natives call the bees "white man's flies". Settlers also use honey to make cement, preserve fruits and act as a substitute for furniture varnish.
20th century: Until the Second World War, honey is used for its antibacterial qualities in dressing wounds.
21st century: Nearly one million tonnes of honey are produced worldwide every year.

*Felix Lowe*

*Special reports* Conservation and endangered species http://observer.guardian.co.uk/Guardian/conservation/0,,969535,00.html

Animal rights http://observer.guardian.co.uk/Guardian/animalrights/0,,687263,00.html

Global fishing crisis http://observer.guardian.co.uk/Guardian/fish/0,,349369,00.html

Waste and pollution http://observer.guardian.co.uk/Guardian/waste/0,,747275,00.html

Informant: Teresa Binstock


Wildlife Vanished at Ouruhia

Thank you for the continuing fund of information you send to me weekly. I am sending this to you regarding the bees affected at and near my farm and am wondering if you know of a scientist who can undertake research bees exposed to MW in their hives to see if they develop diseases such as those reported in UK.??? My interest is that Dr Cherry's archives have research showing increased bacteria, fungii and micro-organism when exposed to RF/MW. We are now observiing increased fungii and lichen on trees in the areas the FM is focused through from the radio tower next to my farm. At my farm the beam is very narrow and strong as close to the tower and the affected trees are in very narrow bands -which are also incidently areas where other radio stations receptions are interfered with and cell phones will not work as well as the areas where my animals became sick and some died. Further out in the same beam lines the trees are affected over a wider area and miles from the transmitter the area affected is even larger. We have photographed the lichen and observed that some trees are nearly dead from it and when the angles seem to be lifted very slightly of the antenna the trees begin new healthy growth and there is no lichen on the new growth - further on the trees which now seem have the FM energy focused on them due to the small change in angles begin to wither and grow the lichen/fungii. I will send you a few photos of this effect which show that the FM energy seems to cause changes to trees and increased fungii/bacteria. I am told by biologists that lichen in our country should be on the south facing side of the trees - we are finding it is on the side facing to the tower and if the tower is on the south side of the tree the lichen is on the north side if the tree is on the north side the lichen is south. Not all trees are affected by this fungii - normally not evergreens but many of them show signs of browning and death on their needles which I am told would act as receiving antenna. The levels are exposure monitored are always within the ICNIRP guideline of safe exposure. In our city it is reported recently increased unusual new bacterial diseases and fungii such as athletes foot infections. I do not have the email source of the info you have sent me and wondered if you could send this on to the newspaper concerned to see if we can get some scientific study started???

Best wishes

Penny Hargreaves

Wildlife Vanished at Ouruhia

Worms, bees, trees, birds, rabbits, frogs, affected by the RF

Since Penny moved to Ouruhia in 1992 she has not seen any earthworms. Logs of wood that have been lying in a damp area for four years without being moved and usually there would be wood lice and worms under these damp logs. Friends looked several times and could only locate one earwig.

When the Hargreaves first moved to the property there were mice, rats and hundreds of birds but by 1996 they only saw very few. 1997 would find a few dead mice and birds in the stables which face direct line to the aerial.

When they moved in 1996 a few bags with oats and feed in the bottom were left in open sheds. When they returned in August 2000 no mice or rats had been there, which is most unusual. No sign of rats or mice when moving hay and straw in the barn. No droppings to show rodents had been there during the last 4 years.

In 1992 there were many bee keepers with hives along the river as they like the willow honey. Now there are none. Penny had not seen a bee all year except for one day in late 1995 when two angry swarms of bees flew in. The woman renting Walnut Tree farm house summer 2001, commented on the lack of bees and wasps, she was surprised because of the rotting peaches usually attracting wasps.

People who have lived in the Marshlands Rd area all their lives comment how the frogs have all gone in the last few years.

At Ouruhia the trees have been dying where the main beams are directed to. They seem to be most vulnerable if they have their roots in water or are close to the river. Penny has noticed this effect near some cell phone towers also.

1992 there were many rabbits. In 1995 the Hargreaves experienced an influx of rabbits around the stable area and they dug burrows under the iron barns and no longer were found in the paddocks. This was unusual for rabbits to move so close to the humans as the dogs chased them and dug out the burrows. We now know that the corrugated iron barns reflect the EMR beams which would have meant shelter inside the sheds for the rabbits after the second FM increased their exposure. By 1996 all the rabbits had vanished and no poison was used.

There are advertisements for small machines conducting MW which are used in barns to eradicate bugs and vermin. It was as if Walnut Tree farm had a giant EMR machine eradicating all the wild life. In late 2001 the tenants told her they had influx of rats and were surprised when she was pleased. The return of vermin meant the EMR effect on the farm was much less. In the German cow study the cows avoided the areas of high EMR.

In 1997, 1998, men making hay commented on the lack of wildlife on the farm.

Penny saw hundreds of birds when thye first moved in 1992. By 1996 there were only a few. The pukehoe seems to be able to cope with the RF , as does the fan-tail which stays under the trees around the house, but the hundreds of chaffinches , hammerheads and other birds vanished in 1995/96/97

Since mid 2001 the wildlife seem to be slowly returning. What is different? Two FM have been removed from Ouruhia and one FM and 2 AM from Philpotts Rd tower 5 kilometres .

This information sent to Penny Hargreaves by a bee keeper living approximately 1 kilometre from the Ouruhia tower where the licences show an FM beam is directed.

"As a registered bee keeper I have been having problems with bees dying outside the hive entrances for no reason I can come up with. I am talking hundreds of bees. As I am trying to specialise in Queen raring I have to have a lot of smaller hives. I have had major problems keeping them alive and building up their strength. With the problems I have had in this area I had to move most of these hives away from home. This has enabled me to carry on my Queen raring but the travelling takes more time and adds to my costs. With the help of my father (who was previously working for a major beekeeping firm for over 30 years as beekeeper) we have not discovered the reason why the bees are dying."

The bee keeper and his children had also become sick with symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome at a similar time in 1996/97.

Bees Commit Social suicide

Page 133. A study from Germany (Wellenstein 1973) which showed that bees, when subjected to ELF electromagnetic fields stopped making honey, sealed up their hives in mid season and therefore committed social suicide was accepted by bee keeping associations throughout Europe within a few years. And indeed it was quoted authoritatively by a local inspector to a Fishpond villager whose bees had become so savage and unproductive that they had to be moved 20 miles away – where they thrived once more His findings and subsequent related work by Dr Cyril Smith (Smith and Baker 1982) seem relevant to the earlier and more generally accepted studies on bees and homing pigeons, both of which are known to have receptors which are able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field and its variations, which they use to help direct their survival behaviour.

EMR Affects Birds and Worms

Again, in the early 1980s HV power lines near bird sanctuaries and pigeon breeding communities in Gloucestershire were buried underground because of their acknowledged disorientating effects. A US Navy ELF communication project which had to be abandoned because the electromagnetic fields produced by the wires buried underground radically disturbed the earth worms and therefore the composition of the soil. This of course sounds laughable at first, but …like this study, much of the earliest accepted evidence came from studies on bees and birds rather than humans. It remains one of the mysteries of bureaucratic arcane – or economics - that such effects on humans are still not officially accepted, at least in Britain.

Hilary Bacon in Crosscurrents (Fishpond) “comments on the bees shutting up their hives under the power lines. She also comments on a U.S. ELF communications project which had to be abandoned because the electromagnetic fields produced by the underground wiring radically disturbed the worms and therefore the composition of the soil.”

Dead Birds

A neighbour Mr Slatick’s, submission to the hearing, 1997,

“Over the last year, bird life in the area has been devastated. I feel this is caused by the broadcasting, frequencies/ intensities, from the radio tower. The area used to be abundant with all types of bird life. Now, few normally seen species can be found, and then only in minimal numbers. Dead birds and dying birds have been found over my property and my neighbours adjoining property. I have been told that effects on bird life is similar on the other side of the river. I spoke with a Professor of Physics on this and he said, “yes, this can happen if enough power is put out.”

This neighbour also stated “I experience constant ringing in my ears while I am at my home and it fluctuates from steady to low and sometimes a very high pitch. Recently there was a very high pitch which bordered on stunning, at exactly the time I experienced this, the horses in the field opposite squealed loudly as if in pain.”

This neighbour experienced problems with his radio and TV. Sometimes in the middle of the night the TV would turn itself on and radio from the tower would transmit through it.

Although his house is close to the aerial (approx 400 metres) he and his wife have not experienced severe illness. There are many trees and the river between them and the tower. These seem to absorb the power. We have found where there are trees between the houses and the tower, people are healthier than those whose houses are in open spaces, or trees behind the houses. The nearest house to the aerial is approx 250 metres but because of abundant tree growth on the river banks between, the residents cannot see the tower. Their children have experienced bad boils but otherwise healthy.

A hundred metres further out witout the tree protection, a woman taught riding, spending many hours in the open field in line-of-sight to the aerial, and in 1993 she died of ovarian cancer, aged only 33 years.

Ostrich chicks bred within 1400 metres for the aerial did not grow feathers and died.


Wellenstein, G. “The influence of high tension lines on honey bee colonies”, Zeitschrift fur Angewandte Entomoligie, 74, 86-94, 1973.

Belyavskaya NA, "Ultrastructure and calcium balance in meristem cells of pea roots exposed to extremely low magnetic fields", Adv Space Res 2001;
28: 645-650

Cadossi R, Hentz VR, Kipp J, Iverson R, Ceccherelli G, Zucchini P, Emilia G, Torelli G, Franceschi C, Eiverson R, et al., "Effect of low frequency low energy pulsing electromagnetic field (PEMF) on X-ray-irradiated mice", Exp Hematol 1989; 17: 88-95 [Erratum in: Exp Hematol 1989; 17: 922. Eiverson R [corrected to Iverson R]]


Wildlife Vanished at Ouruhia


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Where have all the bees gone?

Informant: binstock


Where have all the bees gone?



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