The new 5G technology is supposed to make mobile networks super fast. However, some claim it's harmful to bees. Is there any truth to that?
Fears and conspiracy theories about mobile phone radiation are already fairly widespread, and they have been given an added boost by 5G, the latest generation of the technology standard for cell networks. One of the claims circulating is that 5G is harmful to bees. But is there any scientific evidence to back up that claim?
High-frequency electromagnetic fields are used for mobile communications. It has been scientifically proven that these transmissions can have a heating effect on living organisms within their range. However, there's no evidence of a harmful effect if the radiation is below the limits set for it.
"The intensity of the fields emanating from transmitters is not sufficient to cause biologically effective heating of living beings," according to Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).
BfS experts have examined dozens of different studies on the dangers of mobile phone radiation. They've concluded that studies on the subject of bees and mobile communications do not sufficiently meet the scientific requirements.
For example, in a study in India, mobile phones were attached to beehives. The insects were subsequently found to have built up lower stocks of food and to have orientated themselves less well than bees that weren't exposed to radiation.
However, the BfS scientists point out that only four beehives were examined in this study, and other possible adverse factors such as diseases, parasites and pesticides weren't taken into account.
The BfS says it has seen similar deficiencies in other studies.
Eklipse, an EU network for information exchange on biodiversity and ecosystems, held an online conference in January 2018 on the effects of electrical, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields on living things.
The conference report concluded that, at that time, "the majority of experimental and field studies did not meet scientific standards."
Measurements could not be reproduced, and test conditions were unrealistic or not described adequately. For a well-founded assessment, the network called for further research of high quality.
Critics of mobile phone transmissions cite beekeepers and researchers who claim to have observed bees so weakened by cell phone radiation that they become more susceptible to diseases and parasites like the Varroa mite. This in turn can lead to the collapse of bee colonies.
However, the radiation protection experts at the BfS don't believe that electromagnetic fields from cellphone towers play any role in bee deaths.
They point out that in large cities, which are particularly well supplied with mobile communications, bees are increasingly spreading and thriving better than in areas with intensive agricultural use.
The current evidence suggests that the observed decline in bee populations may be due to a number of factors, including the Varroa mite and agricultural pesticides. – dpa