Mobile Phones in Honeybee Hives Cause “Worker Piping”: Research Study

Over the past few years, a number of researchers have looked at the possible impact on honeybees of electromagnetic waves produced by human-made devices. One such study, published in Apidologie, Volume 42, Number 3 (May 2011), observes that active cellphones placed in bee hives cause the workers to pipe — to make the same sounds that normally signal either that the colony has been disturbed or it is about to swarm.

The study, conducted by Daniel Favre of the Laboratory of Cellular Biotechnology (LBTC), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and the Apiary School of the City of Lausanne, Switzerland, “electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones were tested for potential effects on honeybee behavior.”


The worldwide maintenance of the honeybee has major ecological, economic, and political implications. In the present study, electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones were tested for potential effects on honeybee behavior. Mobile phone handsets were placed in the close vicinity of honeybees. The sound made by the bees was recorded and analyzed. The audiograms and spectrograms revealed that active mobile phone handsets have a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.

Interestingly, although the workers piped, the colonies did not produce a swarm as they would normally be expected to so shortly after that signal, and no queen piping was observed. The author suggests that perhaps worker piping is only one of a number of a signals that the bees rely on to trigger a swarm.

Favre further notes that the experiment placed cellphones right inside the hive itself — putting the bees in much closer proximity to the source of electromagnetic waves than they would be in normal circumstances. The question is raised, however, whether long-term exposure to low levels of these waves might have a similar “dramatic impact” on bee behavior. More research will be required, however, before scientists can draw any conclusions about the implications for the beekeeping industry and our honeybee populations.

Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping by Daniel Favre may be read in full online at Springerlink: DOI 10.1007/s13592-011-0016-x. Apidologie, an official publication of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) and Deutscher Imkerbund E.V. (D.I.B.), is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the biology of insects belonging to the superfamily Apoidea.

US Farmers Plant to Feed Bees

Farmers in California and other states are turning over a percentage of crop land to wildflowers and shrubs that are attractive to bees. Improving bee habitat and nutrition, they hope, will boost the dwindling populations of native bees and help cut the costs of commercial pollination.

The bee habitat enhancement effort was organized by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit group out of Portland, Oregon.

Getting farmers to plant bee habitat is key, [Mace] Vaughan [the group’s pollinator program director] said, because bees with nutritionally sound diets are better able to fend off diseases and other problems.

Bee habitat can also reduce a farmer’s costs and alleviate the stress on honeybees. Through research on California’s watermelons, University of California, Berkeley, professor Claire Kremen found that if a farmer sets aside between 20 percent and 30 percent of a field for bee habitat, the farm can get all or most of its pollination from native bees.

That’s unrealistic for most farms, but Kremen said adding hedgerows and other plantings can help sustain a beneficial combination of native and commercial bees. Research has found that native bees make commercial honeybees more efficient pollinators by getting in their way and making them take a more circuitous route from plant to plant.

“What it means is you don’t have to have a huge number of native bees, but if you have some then the combination of honeybees and native bees has a huge effect,” Kremen said.

Other researchers have found that setting aside bee habitat leads to better crop production on the remaining land, compensating the farmer.

Read the full story, Farmers Add Plants to Attract, Nourish Bees at the National Public Radio website,

New Commercial Beekeeping Course Unique in Canada

The first beekeeping vocational program in Canada for the education and training of commercial beekeepers will be offered at the Fairview campus of Grand Prairie Regional College (GPRC), Alberta, Canada. The college is now accepting applications for the program’s January 2012 launch.

Certificate in Commercial Beekeeping

This 45-week course of vocational training will provide its graduates with the substantive knowledge, skills, and practical experience needed to work in commercial beekeeping.

Graduates will be prepared for employment in Canada, the US, and other parts of the world as:

  • Apiary assistants and field supervisors with commercial beekeepers;
  • Technicians with government agriculture departments;
  • Self-employed beekeepers; and/ or
  • Project coordinators for beekeeping/honey production projects
    in the developing world.

Continue reading New Commercial Beekeeping Course Unique in Canada

2012 Canadian Beekeeping Convention slated for Winnipeg, Manitoba

Held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the Canadian Honey Council and Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, the 2012 CANADIAN BEEKEEPING ANNUAL CONVENTION will take place on January 26-28, 2012. The convention and symposium will be hosted by the Manitoba Beekeepers Association at the historic Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Convention Theme:
Healthy Environment – Healthy Bees – Healthy Honey

Keynote Speakers

  • Marion Ellis – Professor and Extension Apiculture Specialist, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
  • Jerry Hayes – Apiary Inspection Assistant Chief, Florida Department of Agriculture Services, Gainesville, Florida, USA
  • Danielle Downey – Apiculture Specialist, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Hilo, Hawaii, USA

All interested beekeepers and related industry people are invited to come out to hear what is happening in the Beekeeping Industry across Canada and USA. The 2012 Canadian Beekeeping Convention is held in conjunction with the Canadian Honey Council (CHC) and Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) Annual Meetings, and thus should provide an action packed week for all attendees. In addition, CHC will be hosting special meetings earlier in the week for their members and guests.

Agenda details, hotel information, registration form, convention costs, and other important information can be found on the Manitoba Beekeepers Association website (

The Perfect Design of Honey Bees

This video is a segment of “Silence of the Bees,” a remarkable documentary mini-series that premiered on PBS in October 2007, when the apiculture community was just beginning to suspect the devastating effects that Colony Collapse Disorder would have on honeybee populations.

As the video explains, and as beekeepers know by their own observations, bees are “just this magnificent little engineered thing, just perfect for all the things they can do”:

An architectural marvel, the honeybee’s design is an elegant fusion of form and function. A proboscis for ferreting out nectar stored deep in a flower’s folds. And powerful mandibles for eating, feeding young, and manipulating wax.

Photo: Bee on lavendar via Flickr

Two compound eyes are comprised of 6,900 lenses and covered with sensory hairs for detecting wind speed. Three additional eyes, called ocelli, receive light signals for orientation.

Four wings clasp together with tiny hooks and beat up to 230 times a second.

For defense, a double-edged, serrated sting, which she can use only once — at the cost of her own life.

Hind legs are broadened into special baskets for carrying heavy cargo of pollen to the hive. Feathery hairs coat the body and build up a static charge as the bee flies. When the bee lands on a flower, pollen literally jumps on to her body.

Nature’s award-winning Silence of the Bees was narrated by American actor F. Murray Abraham, winner of the 1985 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus. It was produced by filmmaker Doug Schultz — and if you’re interested in what went on “behind the scenes” in making the documentary, you can read an interview with Doug Schultz at the PBS program website.

Silence of the Bees is available on DVD (packaged together with an equally interesting documentary, Parrots in the Land of Oz). You can get it direct from PBS online or from in the United States and from in Canada.

So You Want an Observation Hive?

Constructing an Observation Bee Hive is written by Malcom T. Sanford, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida. It includes simple plans for building an observation hive, and tips on maintaining a hive if you plan to keep bees in it for longer terms, rather than simply for a display.

(You may recognize Dr. Sanford’s name as the entomologist who updated a classic beekeeping book by Richard E. Bonney for the Storey Publishing company’s Down-to-Earth Guides series in Fall, 2010.)

Constructing an Observation Bee Hive

If for some reason the FullScreen and Download buttons at the top of the embedded document aren’t working for you — those darned computers! — you can download a printable PDF version of this document at directly. That way, you’ll be able to see the measurements and instructions on the observation hive plans included.

Build or Buy an Observation Hive

If you’re looking for an alternative style, plans for building a 3-Frame Observation Hive are available free at Bee Source. Also, a fellow on the Beemaster’s International beekeeping forums has posted step-by-step photographs and description of building an observation hive.

Long-time Central Beekeeepers’ Alliance member Earl Gilbey has a four-frame observation hive that may interest and inspire you, too — see Inside An Observation Hive to read about it.

If you’re not into woodworking, you can still enjoy bee-watching as a hobby. you’ll find a remarkably wide range of observation hives for sale at Draper Bee — some of which are quite showy, more like livingroom furniture! — or visit Dadant to see a nice simple 2-frame observation hive priced at just under $100 US (plus shipping, of course).

Honey Bees & Beekeeping