|Are Cell Phones Killing Bees? How the False Meme Spread|
|Written by Jeremy Bloom|
|Monday, 16 May 2011 08:04|
Written by Jeremy Bloom
You may have seen the sensational stories on the Internet the past 24 hours that it’s finally been confirmed: Cell Phones KILL Bees! The only problem is… it’s NOT confirmed. That’s not what the study says. It’s not even what the original article says.
Yes, cell phone radiation harms bees. A Swiss researcher placed cell phones next to hives and recorded what happened. When the phones were active, the bees emitted “piping” sounds – the high-pitched tones that spread the message through the colony that something disturbing is going on.
Piping can be a signal for the colony to swarm… but that didn’t happen here, and the researcher let the phones go as long as 20 hours. He did report that the colony didn’t return to baseline normal state for many hours after the phones were switched off and removed.
Nowhere in the report does it say anything about bees dying. So what happened?
The first story
The original article was accepted for the scientific journal Apidologie last year.
The story was picked up by the British tabloid The Daily Mail yesterday. That paper is known more for its sensationalism than its accuracy, and they don’t disappoint – the second sentence claims “In the first experiment of its kind, a bee expert placed a mobile phone underneath a hive and then carefully monitored the reaction of the workers.”, which is simply not true – there have been other experiments of this type.
But the article actually gets it right on the subject of bee death – it explicitly states (all the way down in paragraph 17)
But the headline writer may not have read that far. And it’s the headline writer’s job to pump things up to make sure that folks read the article. So he went all out.
Headline: “Why a mobile phone ring may make bees buzz off: Insects infuriated by handset signals”
Tagline: “Phone signals confuses bees and cause them to begin flying erratically before suddenly dying”
Photo caption: “Researchers placed mobile phones in bee hives under controlled conditions and monitored the results. They found the phone signals confused the bees who begin to fly erratically before dying suddenly”
How it spread
And that’s when things went bad. The meme left the hive, as it were, and flew off and started pollinating other websites.
Many of us who write for the web get our leads by what we read on other blogs. Going back to original sources takes time and effort, and a lot of us aren’t paid very much. We’ve gotta just grab the stories and run with them.
So, Inhabitat, which credits the Daily Mail with the story:
and another 54,000 or so websites picked up on the story over the past 24 hours.
Or the Portland Mercury:
Followed by this exchange in the comments:
Oh, wait! That’s from FOUR YEARS AGO. I guess this isn’t a new phenomenon, either…
Source: Clean Technica
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