It has been labeled a ‘false meme’ – an idea that begins from a certain source but is then misinterpreted and spreads throughout the world as though it was true yet is not. That is the truth behind the “Cell Phones kill Bees” story that has been dominating the headlines over the past few days.
The culprit appears to be the British tabloid ‘newspaper’ The Daily Mail (though, given that it is often popularly referred to as “The Daily Fail”, that should perhaps have been enough for other news agencies to have questioned the legitimacy of the story to begin with). They took the results of a study, examining the effect a cell phone on bees in a beehive when a cell phone is activated nearby, and distorted them to give a false account. The study did not, as has been widely reported, show that the cell phone signals killed the bees, mainly because the bees did not in fact die, even though the used cell phone in question was left on for around 20 hours continuously. The cell phone did appear to have some effect on the bees, with them beginning to emit ‘piping’ noises, which indicated to the hive that something funny is going on, but while that noise can sometimes cause the bees to swarm, it did not, and it certainly did not kill them. While The Daily Mail admitted as such in the text of its article, its headline, tagline, and the caption on the photograph accompanying the article all claimed that it did… and that message has spread almost as speedily as a phone call.