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Electromagnetic radiation of mobile telecommunication antennas affects the abundance and composition of wild pollinators

  • Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA)/ Dept. Biology University of the Balearic Islands
  • Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Abstract and Figures

The exponential increase of mobile telephony has led to a pronounced increase in electromagnetic fields in the environment that may affect pollinator communities and threaten pollination as a key ecosystem service. Previous studies conducted on model species under laboratory conditions have shown negative effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on reproductive success, development, and navigation of insects. However, the potential effects that widespread mobile telecommunication antennas have on wild pollinator communities outside the laboratory microcosm are still unknown. Here we studied the effects of EMR from telecommunication antennas on key wild pollinator groups (wild bees, hoverflies, bee flies, remaining flies, beetles, butterflies, and wasps). We measured EMR at 4 distances (50, 100, 200 and 400 m) from 10 antennas (5 on Limnos Island and 5 on Lesvos Island, eastern Mediterranean, Greece), and correlated EMR values with insect abundance and richness (the latter only for wild bees and hoverflies). All pollinator groups except butterflies were affected by EMR. In both islands, beetle, wasp, and hoverfly abundance decreased with EMR, whereas the abundance of underground-nesting wild bees and bee flies unexpectedly increased with EMR. The effect of EMR on the abundance of remaining flies differed between islands. With respect to species richness, EMR only tended to have a negative effect on hoverflies in Limnos. As EMR affected the abundance of several insect guilds negatively, and changed the composition of wild pollinators in natural habitats, it might also have additional ecological and economic impacts on the maintenance of wild plant diversity, crop production and human welfare.
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Electromagnetic radiation of mobile telecommunication antennas
affects the abundance and composition of wild pollinators
A. La
A. Chroni
T. Tscheulin
J. Devalez
C. Matsoukas
T. Petanidou
Received: 9 October 2015 / Accepted: 17 April 2016
ÓSpringer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
Abstract The exponential increase of mobile telephony
has led to a pronounced increase in electromagnetic fields
in the environment that may affect pollinator communities
and threaten pollination as a key ecosystem service. Pre-
vious studies conducted on model species under laboratory
conditions have shown negative effects of electromagnetic
radiation (EMR) on reproductive success, development,
and navigation of insects. However, the potential effects
that widespread mobile telecommunication antennas have
on wild pollinator communities outside the laboratory
microcosm are still unknown. Here we studied the effects
of EMR from telecommunication antennas on key wild
pollinator groups (wild bees, hoverflies, bee flies, remain-
ing flies, beetles, butterflies, and wasps). We measured
EMR at 4 distances (50, 100, 200 and 400 m) from 10
antennas (5 on Limnos Island and 5 on Lesvos Island,
eastern Mediterranean, Greece), and correlated EMR val-
ues with insect abundance and richness (the latter only for
wild bees and hoverflies). All pollinator groups except
butterflies were affected by EMR. In both islands, beetle,
wasp, and hoverfly abundance decreased with EMR,
whereas the abundance of underground-nesting wild bees
and bee flies unexpectedly increased with EMR. The effect
of EMR on the abundance of remaining flies differed
between islands. With respect to species richness, EMR
only tended to have a negative effect on hoverflies in
Limnos. As EMR affected the abundance of several insect
guilds negatively, and changed the composition of wild
pollinators in natural habitats, it might also have additional
ecological and economic impacts on the maintenance of
wild plant diversity, crop production and human welfare.
Keywords Bee flies Beetles Butterflies Distance to the
antenna Electromagnetic smog EMR Hoverflies
Species richness Wasps Wild bees
Pollinators play an important functional role in most ter-
restrial ecosystems and provide a key ecosystem service
that is vital to the maintenance of wild plant communities
and agricultural productivity (Klein et al. 2007; Kremen
et al. 2007; Potts et al. 2010). Over the past decade, several
studies have warned about the decline in pollinators
(Biesmeijer et al. 2006; Pauw 2007; Goulson et al. 2008;
Burkle et al. 2013) and the serious consequences this may
have (e.g. Ashman et al. 2004; Burkle et al. 2013). This
pollinator loss has been related to anthropogenic distur-
bances such as alterations in land use, habitat loss and
climate change (Kearns et al. 1998; Aguilar et al. 2006;
Hegland et al. 2009; Potts et al. 2010). At the same time,
the use of mobile telephony has grown exponentially dur-
ing recent years, resulting in a pronounced increase in
electromagnetic fields in the environment. Detrimental
effects of electromagnetic exposure have been shown for a
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s10841-016-9868-8) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
&A. La
Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of
Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill,
81100 Mytilene, Greece
Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies, C/Miquel
`s 21, 07190 Esporles, Balearic Islands, Spain
Department of Environment, University of the Aegean,
University Hill, 81100 Mytilene, Greece
J Insect Conserv
DOI 10.1007/s10841-016-9868-8
variety of living organisms, from vertebrates to inverte-
brates, plants and bacteria (see reviews in Cucurachi et al.
2013; Balmori 2015).
The majority of studies on the effects of electromagnetic
radiation on insects have been conducted on two model
species: the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and the
honeybee (Apis mellifera). The studies of electromagnetic
radiation on the fruit fly have mostly shown developmental
delays (Atli and U
¨2006) and negative effects on
reproductive success (e.g. Panagopoulos et al. 2004; Atli
and U
¨2006,2007; Panagopoulos and Margaritis 2010;
Panagopoulos et al. 2010; Chavdoula et al. 2010; but see
Weisbrot et al. 2003 for a positive effect, and Vijver et al.
2013 for no effect) due to DNA fragmentation and repro-
ductive cell death (Chavdoula et al. 2010; Panagopoulos
et al. 2007,2010). In honeybees, radiation decreases col-
ony strength and oviposition rate (Sharma and Kumar
2010; Sahib 2011), and induces worker piping, a behaviour
associated with swarming (Favre 2011). Electromagnetic
radiation also interferes with honeybee navigation, as
honeybees use compass mechanisms for orientation based
on magnetite structures in their bodies (Kirschvink et al.
2001; Wajnberg et al. 2010;Va
´and Va
´cha 2012;
Balmori 2015). Due to electromagnetic smog, honeybees
are often unable to return to their hives (Harst et al. 2006;
Favre 2011; Sharma and Kumar 2010; Sahib 2011), and the
resulting massive loss of workers then leads to a colony
collapse (e.g. Harst et al. 2006; Sharma and Kumar 2010),
which is why electromagnetic radiation has been suggested
as one of the potential causes of the colony collapse dis-
order (CCD; e.g. Warnke 2009; Sahib 2011). Fewer studies
exist in the literature regarding other insects, but it is
known that radio frequency magnetic fields disrupt mag-
netoreception in the American cockroach (Va
´cha et al.
2009). In ants, electromagnetic radiation affects visual and
olfactory memory, influencing their ability to associate
cues to food (Cammaerts et al. 2012), as well as locomo-
tion and orientation (Cammaerts et al. 2014; Cammaerts
and Johansson 2014). Although most of these studies are
conducted on model organisms and under laboratory con-
ditions (Cucurachi et al. 2013), current evidence strongly
indicates that insects in natural and protected areas may be
negatively affected by the presence of base-station emitters
of electromagnetic radiation (Balmori 2015). It still
remains unknown, however, whether the presence of
telecommunication antennas can modify wild pollinator
communities by altering species abundance and/or species
richness, thus threatening the maintenance of pollination as
an ecosystem service.
In this study we investigate whether the electromagnetic
radiation emitted by mobile telecommunication antennas
affects the abundance and diversity of wild pollinators, as
suggested by a preliminary study (Tscheulin et al. 2010)
that indicated an effect of distance to the antenna on some
pollinator groups. To do this, we measured the intensity of
electromagnetic radiation at different distances from 10
telecommunication antennas in two Mediterranean islands,
and correlated these measurements with the abundance and
species richness of wild pollinators. Since the susceptibility
of insects to radiation may differ, we hypothesized that
electromagnetic radiation would modify the composition of
the insect community and affect species richness nega-
tively. Our specific questions were: (1) does electromag-
netic radiation affect the abundance and richness of
pollinating insects? And if so, (2) does the effect differ
among taxonomic groups and nesting behaviours?
Materials and methods
Study sites
The study was conducted on two Mediterranean islands
(Lesvos and Limnos) in the north-eastern Aegean (Greece),
characterized by a variety of natural and managed habitats
that support a great diversity of pollinators. In particular,
the bee-friendly habitats the study was carried out in were
phrygana (i.e. low scrub habitats with high pollinator
diversity and abundance; Petanidou and Ellis 1993; Nielsen
et al. 2011), which is dominant on Limnos and to a lesser
degree on Lesvos; and olive groves (i.e. semi-natural
habitats cultivated for centuries using non-intensive meth-
ods; Potts et al. 2006; Nielsen et al. 2011), which are co-
dominant on Lesvos. Both these habitats have been shown
to be equally rich in bee diversity and abundance (Potts
et al. 2006; Nielsen et al. 2011).
In each island, we selected 5 mobile telecommunication
antennas (antennas, hereafter; Fig. 1) as study sites, located
in either phrygranic habitats or cultivated olive groves
(Table 1). All study antennas were mobile telephony base
stations, using frequency bands between 800 and
2,600 MHz, and were located at altitudes below 350 m in
homogeneously flower-rich landscapes, and were separated
by a minimum distance of 5 km. We have no reason to
believe that antennas in the two islands differ in their
emitted frequencies as all providers in Greece use similar
frequency bands. Antennas located at high altitudes or in
coniferous habitats were excluded in order to avoid pro-
nounced differences in pollinator communities among
antennas and sampling points (see below). Each of the
study islands (and all the sites within them) is homoge-
neous in terms of climate and vegetation, and there are no
apparent differences in land use management among sites
(mostly light livestock grazing, beekeeping, and traditional
ploughing of the olive groves).
J Insect Conserv
Measurements of electromagnetic radiation
In April 2012, we measured the electrical field E compo-
nent of electromagnetic radiation (EMR, hereafter) at 4
distances (50, 100, 200 and 400 m; sampling points,
hereafter) from each of the 10 study antennas. These
sampling points were selected in order to achieve a large
range of EMR intensities at each study site, based on the
inverse-square law, which states that an isotropic physical
quantity or strength is inversely proportional to the square
of the distance from the source of that physical quantity
(Goldsmith 2005). However, the spatial structure of the
electric field around the base station can be quite complex,
and depend on factors such as topography, antenna vertical
tilt and emission lobes (Balanis 2005; Goldsmith 2005). At
each sampling point we also measured elevation with an
altimeter, to account for differences in elevation with the
distance to the antenna in the statistical analyses.
For the EMR measurements we used the device EMR-
Narda (Narda EMR-300 Broadband RF Survey Meter;
¨ge 2004) equipped with electric and magnetic probes.
The electric field E probe has a wider frequency spectrum
Fig. 1 Map of the study sites
on Lesvos and Limnos Island
(north-eastern Aegean, Greece)
Table 1 Study sites, respective habitat, coordinates, and mean EMR ±SD (V/m; see text for details)
Island Site Habitat Latitude Longitude Mean EMR
50 m 100 m 200 m 400 m
Lesvos Aghia Paraskevi Olive
39°16021.4000N26°12053.3900E 0.376 ±0.042 0.313 ±0.054 0.670 ±0.015 0.271 ±0.058
Karava Phrygrana 39°15026.2600 N26°23039.0700E 0.385 ±0.012 0.341 ±0.037 0.611 ±0.030 0.632 ±0.041
Nees Kydonies Phrygrana 39°13056.7400N26°26046.0900E 0.516 ±0.121 0.350 ±0.049 0.069 ±0.056 0.010 ±0.004
Parakoila Phrygrana 39°11011.9500N26°8029.5600E 0.236 ±0.112 0.149 ±0.028 0.110 ±0.184 0.118 ±0.095
Pigi Olive
39°10041.1800N26°24040.4600E 0.100 ±0.054 0.077 ±0.034 0.074 ±0.028 0.061 ±0.019
Limnos Aghios
Phrygrana 39°54019.5400N25°4044.6600E 0.512 ±0.134 0.556 ±0.057 0.169 ±0.035 0.358 ±0.085
Moudros I Phrygrana 39°50020.0600N25°18036.3000E 0.083 ±0.086 0.020 ±0.055 0.084 ±0.014 0.067 ±0.012
Moudros II Phrygrana 39°51052.5700N25°17011.6400E 0.139 ±0.015 0.066 ±0.043 0.010 ±0.013 0.057 ±0.030
Plaka Panaghia Phrygrana 39°59025.8000 N25°24049.3000E 0.278 ±0.007 0.288 ±0.014 0.386 ±0.012 0.196 ±0.023
Thanos Phrygrana 39°51034.1900N25°4041.5900E 0.327 ±0.099 0.232 ±0.247 0.132 ±0.014 0.309 ±0.078
Sampling points at 50 and 100 m were within the emission lobes of the antennas, except in Pigi (50 m ?100 m) and Moudros I (50 m)
J Insect Conserv
response than the magnetic field B probe, namely
100 kHz–3 GHz and 80 MHz–1 GHz, respectively. In
these frequency ranges, the EMR wavelength is much
smaller than the measurement distances from the antennas,
so one can safely assume that we are measuring in the far-
field and consequently either E or B measurements are
sufficient. We therefore chose to measure the E field, due to
its wider frequency spectrum. E measurements in units of
V/m are hereafter referred to simply as EMR measure-
ments. The aforementioned frequency ranges contain all
frequencies used by mobile telephony services. They also
include radio and television communications, which are not
serviced by the antennas at the locations monitored. In
order to record potential diurnal EMR patterns, EMR was
measured continuously during 24 h at the sites Karava,
Kydonies, and Pigi on Lesvos Island, and at Aghios
Athanasios, on Limnos Island. Following these measure-
ments of EMR, shorter-term measurements (2 h) were
carried out in all the remaining study sites. In total,
between 115 and 1,400 measurements were recorded at
each site and sampling point, each of these measurements
corresponding to a 6-min average of electrical field.
Insect abundance and richness
At each sampling point we collected insects three times
during the main flowering period (April, May and June) in
2012, using the pan trapping method (Westphal et al. 2008;
Nielsen et al. 2011). Samplings were carried out under
good weather conditions, i.e. temperature [15 °C, sun-
shine, low wind speed and relative humidity lower than
65 %. We arranged the pan traps in triplet units, with each
triplet comprising three pan traps of a different UV-bright
colour: blue, yellow, and white. These colours account for
different colour preferences of pollinating insects (West-
phal et al. 2008). Five triplets were set up at each sampling
point of an antenna complex, on the ground, with any two
triplets being separated by ca. 10 m. During each sampling
round, pan traps were filled with 400 ml of water con-
taining 1 drop of aroma-free kitchen detergent to break the
water surface tension, and left for 48 h covering the entire
flight activity period of diurnal and nocturnal pollinators.
Collected insects were transferred to small plastic zip-
lock bags and refrigerated if they were to be processed
within 24 h, otherwise deep frozen until pinning. After
processing in the laboratory, bees and hoverflies were
identified to species level (where necessary with the help of
European specialists), while the remaining insects were
assigned to one of the following taxonomic groups: beetles,
butterflies, wasps, bee flies, and remaining flies that
included all flies not belonging to hoverflies or bee flies
(i.e. flies mainly belonging to the families Anthomyiidae,
Muscidae, Calliphoridae, Nemestrinidae, Empididae,
Tachinidae, Stratiomyidae, Asilidae, Rhagionidae, and
Tabanidae). Honeybees were excluded from the analyses
because they are managed, and their abundance is therefore
biased by beekeepers’ decisions. All identified insects are
deposited in the Melissotheque of the Aegean (Petanidou
et al. 2013).
Pollinator abundance at each sampling point for each
group was estimated as the total number of individuals
collected at that sampling point, pooling the data of the
three sampling rounds together. Similarly, species richness
was calculated as the total number of species collected at
each sampling point during the three sampling rounds (e.g.
Westphal et al. 2008; Nielsen et al. 2011;La
´zaro et al.
Wild bees were categorized following their nesting
behaviour, i.e. underground versus aboveground nesting,
based on existing literature (Michener 2007;Mu
¨ller 2015),
and our own observations (see Table S1 for categories
Flower cover
Flower cover measurements were conducted in ten
1m91 m squares selected at random at each sampling
point and round, within the area where insects were col-
lected. The total number of functional reproductive units,
i.e., flowers or inflorescences depending on the species
(‘flowers’ hereafter) for each plant species was counted
within these squares. For each sampling point we calcu-
lated flower abundance as total number of flowers recorded
in the ten squares, and flower richness as the total number
of flowering species recorded. Plant specimens were
deposited in the herbarium of the Laboratory of Biogeog-
raphy and Ecology at the University of the Aegean.
Statistical analyses
All the statistical analyses were carried out using general-
ized linear mixed models (GLMM, library lme4) conducted
in R 3.1.2 (R Development Core Team 2008), where site
was included as a random variable to avoid pseudorepli-
cation. To study how EMR varied with the distance to the
antenna, the elevation and the island, we ran a model
(Gamma distribution, log link function) with distance and
elevation as continuous variables, and island as a cate-
gorical predictor variable. Full models on the abundance
and species richness of insects were conducted separately
for each taxonomic group and included EMR, distance,
elevation (log transformed to improve model fitting), total
flower abundance, and flower richness (to control for
variations in the flowering community that could affect the
response) as continuous predictor variables, island as a
fixed predictor, and the interaction between EMR and
J Insect Conserv
island, to detect any difference between islands in the
response to EMR. For wild bee abundance and richness, we
ran additional models in which the nesting behaviour of
wild bees was included as a fixed categorical factor (un-
derground vs. aboveground nesting), to test whether this
factor affected the response to EMR. Due to the loss of
some pan traps during sampling, and to control for the
potential effects of these small changes in sampling effort
on the results, we included the number of pan traps (log-
transformed) as an offset in the models (Zuur et al. 2009).
Due to the nature of the data, we used Poisson distributions
and log link functions in these analyses. In some Poisson
models we included an observation-level random intercept
to cope with overdispersion (Zuur et al. 2013). Prior to
analyses, we ran variation inflation factor (VIF) analyses to
identify collinear predictor variables that should be
removed from further analyses (Zuur et al. 2009). VIF
values were smaller than 3 for all variables, thus none of
the predictors needed to be removed (Zuur et al. 2009).
Before the analyses, we also used Moran’s I (library ncf;
Bjørnstad and Falck 2001) to check for any spatial corre-
lation in the data or in the residuals of the models (without
random factor). Neither the data nor the residuals showed
any spatial correlation, indicating that our mixed model
approach was appropriate. Model selection was conducted
using the ‘dredge’ function (package MuMIn; Barton
2014), including EMR in each model, and setting the
maximum number of variables to 4 to avoid over-
parametrization. Means and estimates are accompanied by
their standard error throughout the text.
EMR measurements
We found some diurnal-nocturnal patterns in EMR values
in the sites measured continuously for 24 h (see Figure S1
in Electronic Supplementary Material). However, the pat-
terns differed among sites, the effect of time was small
compared to differences among distances and sites
(Table 1; Figure S2 in Electronic Supplementary Material),
and EMR values did not differ significantly when measured
for only two or for 24 h (v
=2.53, p=0.112). Conse-
quently, in our models we used the average EMR values
measured per site and sampling point.
Overall, EMR values did not significantly differ between
islands (Lesvos: 0.27 ±0.05 V/m; Limnos:
0.21 ±0.04 V/m; v
=0.08, p=0.779) and did not
decrease with the distance to the antenna (v
p=0.398), supporting the results of other studies (e.g.
Vijver et al. 2013), possibly because some of the sampling
points located close to the antenna may have been outside
or at the edge of the emission lobes of the antenna. The
interaction between island and distance was also non-sig-
nificant (v
=0.95, p=0.329). Mean values (±SD)
recorded at each sampling point are shown in Table 1.
EMR effects on insects
On Lesvos, we collected 11,547 insects in total: 1,334 wild
bees (133 species), 41 hoverflies (9 species), 426 wasps, 75
bee flies, 2,857 other remaining flies, 6,758 beetles, and 84
butterflies. On Limnos, the total number of insects col-
lected amounted to 5,544: 2,467 wild bees (108 species),
155 hoverflies (6 species), 357 wasps, 11 bee flies, 2,263
other remaining flies, 252 beetles, and 131 butterflies.
Table S1 in the Supplementary Material shows the number
of different wild bee and hoverfly species found at each
study site.
EMR effects on the abundance of the different insect guilds
EMR had contrasting effects on the abundance of different
pollinator groups, affecting some positively, while others
negatively. In addition, for most pollinator groups the
effects found were consistent in both islands.
Overall wild bee abundance increased significantly with
EMR in both islands (Fig. 2a); however, the increase was
steeper on Limnos than on Lesvos (Table 2A; Fig. 2a).
When including the nesting behaviour of wild bees in the
analysis, the triple interaction Island 9Nesting beha-
viour 9EMR was also significant (v
=7.47, p=0.006),
showing that only underground-nesting wild bees were
positively related to EMR, while aboveground-nesting wild
bees were not affected on the study islands (Fig. 3). Again,
the response was steeper in the case of Limnos.
Beetle abundance decreased significantly with EMR in
both islands (Fig. 2b). However, as for wild bees, the
relationship was more pronounced on Limnos than on
Lesvos (Table 2B; Fig. 2b). There were significantly more
beetles on Lesvos than on Limnos (Lesvos: 337.9 ±62.8
cumulated insects per sampling point; Limnos: 12.6 ±6.3;
Table 2B).
The abundance of bee flies increased with EMR
(Table 2C; Fig. 2c), while EMR was negatively related to
the abundance of wasps (marginally non-significant rela-
tionship; Table 2D; Fig. 2d).
Wasp abundance also increased with flower richness
(estimate: 0.140 ±0.051; Table 2D) and decreased with
flower abundance (estimate: -0.008 ±0.004; Table 2D).
Hoverfly abundance was negatively related to EMR
(Table 2E; Fig. 2e) and tended to increase with flower
abundance (estimate: 0.009 ±0.006; Table 2E).
The effect of EMR on the abundance of the broad group
‘remaining flies’ differed drastically between islands. Thus,
J Insect Conserv
while EMR was positively related to the abundance of
remaining flies in Lesvos, it was negatively related in
Limnos (Table 2F; Fig. 2f).
Butterfly abundance (Table 2G) was not related to
EMR, but was significantly higher in Limnos than in
Lesvos (Limnos: 6.6 ±1.0 cumulated insects per sampling
point; Lesvos: 4.2 ±0.8; Table 2G).
EMR effects on species richness of wild bees and hoverflies
EMR was not related to overall wild bee species richness
(Table 2H), even when nesting behaviour was included in
the model (Best model: EMR: v
=0.14, p=0.71;
Nesting behaviour: v
=705.95, p\0.0001; 2.10 ±1.24
vs. 1.88 ±0.22 mean species/sampling point for under-
ground- and aboveground-nesting wild bees respectively).
The interaction between EMR and island had a mar-
ginally non-significant effect on hoverfly richness
(Table 2I). EMR tended to negatively affect hoverfly spe-
cies richness but only in Limnos, whereas in Lesvos there
was no significant relationship between these two variables
(Fig. 4).
For the first time to our knowledge, we have shown that
electromagnetic radiation as typically emitted by
telecommunication antennas affects the abundance and
Fig. 2 Partial residual plots
showing the significant
relationships between EMR and
the abundance of pollinating
insects. When the interaction
between EMR and island was
significant, the relationships are
depicted separately for each
island. The lines represent the
estimate of the best model and
the circles represent partial
residuals. Note that different
graphs vary in y-axis scale
J Insect Conserv
composition of wild pollinators in natural habitats. In both
study islands, beetle, wasp and hoverfly abundance
decreased with EMR, whereas, to our surprise, wild bee
and bee fly abundance increased with EMR. The effect of
EMR on the abundance of remaining flies differed between
islands. These differences in the response of insect guilds
are likely due to differences in their susceptibility to
We expected telecommunication antennas to affect the
abundance of wild pollinators because these animals rely
on their cognitive and orientation abilities to forage and
navigate (Chittka and Thomson 2001), and electromagnetic
smog is known to affect cognition and orientation in insects
(e.g. Cammaerts et al. 2012,2014; Sharma and Kumar
2010; Sahib 2011). Our communities were similar in terms
of habitat and human activities, and in our analyses we
controlled for the variations in flower abundance and
diversity among study sites (as these variables might
directly affect the pollinator community); therefore,
although we cannot totally discard the potential effect of an
unmeasured variable, we are confident that our results
reflect the effect of radiation on wild pollinator
Table 2 Results of the best models relating EMR to the abundance and richness of insects
Model Variables tested v
df p Estimate for relationship with EMR
(A) Wild bee abundance Island 1.79 1 0.181
EMR*Island 7.86 1 0.005 Lim (?), Les (?)
Flower richness 12.97 1 0.0003
(B) Beetle abundance Island 5.49 1 0.019
EMR*Island 85.88 1 \0.0001 Lim (-); Les (-)
(C) Bee fly abundance EMR 6.63 1 0.010 (?)
(D) Wasp abundance EMR 3.78 1 0.051 (-)
Flower richness 7.61 1 0.006
Flower abundance 5.05 1 0.025
(E) Hoverfly abundance EMR 3.98 1 0.046 (-)
Flower abundance 2.86 1 0.091
(F) Remaining flies abundance Island 0.52 1 0.469
EMR*Island 8.33 1 0.004 Lim (-); Les (?)
(G) Butterfly abundance Island 5.59 1 0.018
EMR 0.003 1 0.953 ns
(H) Wild bee richness EMR 0.10 1 0.753 ns
(I) Hoverfly richness Island 1.74 1 0.189
EMR*Island 3.13 1 0.077 Lim (-); Les (ns)
? a positive, - a negative, and ns: a non-significant relationship. When there was a significant interaction between island and EMR the sign
of the estimate is given separately for Limnos (Lim) and Lesvos (Les)
Fig. 3 Partial residual plots
showing the relationship
between EMR and the
abundance of underground- and
aboveground-nesting wild bees.
As the triple interaction
EMR 9Island 9Nesting
behaviour was significant
(p=0.006), the relationships
are depicted separately for each
island. The lines represent the
estimate of the best model and
the circles represent partial
J Insect Conserv
communities, either directly or indirectly. As expected,
EMR modified the abundance of all the studied pollinator
groups, with the only exception of butterflies; however, pan
traps are not efficient tools for collecting butterflies (they
accounted for only 1.3 % of the total specimens collected),
and maybe a more adequate sampling method would have
led to a different result. Interestingly, the effects of EMR
on the abundance of pollinators were not always negative.
More specifically, we found that overall wild bee abun-
dance and bee fly abundance increased significantly with
EMR, while hoverfly, beetle, and wasp abundance
decreased with EMR in both islands. When looking closer
at wild bees, we found that only the abundance of under-
ground-nesting wild bees was positively related to EMR,
whereas wild bees nesting aboveground were not affected
by EMR. It is remarkable though, that the effects of EMR
on insect abundance were consistent in both islands for all
the pollinator groups except for the broad group ‘remaining
flies’, which might have been due to differences in the
composition of this group between the two islands. Previ-
ous studies have also shown that the effects of electro-
magnetic radiation vary for different animals. Within
mammals, negative effects of radiation have been found in
rats and mice (e.g. Maskey et al. 2010,2012; Narayanan
et al. 2015; Sahin et al. 2015), as well as in dogs, cats, and
cows (Marks et al. 1995;Lo
¨scher and Ka
¨s1998). Within
insects, the effects on different species were also variable.
For instance, negative effects of electromagnetic radiation
have been reported on cognition, locomotion, and orien-
tation in the ant Myrmica sabuleti (Cammaerts et al. 2012,
2014), and on worker piping and navigation in honeybees
(e.g. Favre 2011; Sharma and Kumar 2010; Sahib 2011),
and on development and reproductive success of the fruit
fly (e.g. Panagopoulos et al. 2004; Atli and U
Nevertheless, a field study on the effects of electromagnetic
exposure on the reproductive capacity of several insects
revealed no effects (Vijver et al. 2013). The authors sug-
gest that this lack of effects could be at least partially
attributed to short term exposures or to the length of waves
in relation to the small size of the animals (Vijver et al.
2013). Our study, however, revealed alterations in the
structure of the pollinator community. The negative rela-
tionship between EMR and the abundance of wasps, bee-
tles and hoverflies might indicate a high sensitivity of these
insects to electromagnetic radiation. In contrast, pollinators
potentially more tolerant to EMR, such as underground-
nesting wild bees and bee flies, may fill the vacant niches
left by less tolerant species and thus result in an increase of
their populations. One possible explanation for these
results is that EMR may have particularly detrimental
effects on the potentially more susceptible larval stages of
these flower visitors. If so, larvae developing aboveground
(many beetles, wasps, many hoverflies) may be more vul-
nerable than those developing underground (underground-
nesting wild bees, i.e. the majority of Apoidea), because
the former may be exposed to higher radiation levels. The
fact that bee flies are mostly represented in our study by the
genera Phthiria and Cyllenia, which are parasitoids of
prepupal or pupal stages of moths and sawflies developing
underground (Yeates and Greathead 1997), may also sup-
port our hypothesis. At any rate, these changes in the
composition of pollinator communities may have important
ecological consequences for the maintenance of pollination
services and biodiversity, but also economic impacts in
respect to potential effects on agricultural productivity
(Gallai et al. 2009; Potts et al. 2010).
Reduced pollinator diversity in a community can reflect
disturbances of the environment (Potts et al. 2010), and
thus, we expected EMR to negatively affect overall polli-
nator species richness. However, our results on pollinator
species richness were weak and not as conclusive as those
on abundance, because we found no significant effect of
EMR on wild bee species richness, and only a marginally
non-significant negative effect on hoverfly species richness
in Limnos, the study island where the overall effects of
EMR were stronger. At any rate, the tendencies were
always negative, and therefore, we cannot rule out that an
increase in sampling effort in future research could reveal
stronger effects of EMR on species richness.
Electromagnetic radiation from telecommunication anten-
nas affected the abundance and composition of wild pol-
linators in natural habitats. EMR had contrasting effects on
Fig. 4 Partial residual plots showing the significant relationships
between EMR and the hoverfly richness. Since the interaction between
EMR and island was marginally non-significant, the relationship is
depicted separately for each island. The lines represent the estimate of
the best model and the circles represent partial residuals
J Insect Conserv
the abundance of different pollinator groups (negative on
beetles, wasps, and hoverflies; positive on underground-
nesting wild bees and bee flies), which may be due to
different susceptibilities to radiation particularly of the
larval stages. Pollinators and their host plants constitute
pollination networks. Although the architecture of these
mutualistic networks can increase the capacity of pollinator
populations to persist under harsh conditions, once a tip-
ping point in human-induced environmental change is
reached, pollinator populations may collapse simultane-
ously (Lever et al. 2014). Therefore, these changes in the
composition of pollinator communities associated with
electromagnetic smog may have important ecological and
economic impacts on the pollination service that could
significantly affect the maintenance of wild plant diversity,
crop production and human welfare.
Acknowledgments The research has been co-financed by the Euro-
pean Union (European Social Fund—ESF) and Greek national funds
through the Operational Program ‘Education and Lifelong Learning’
of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF)—Research
Funding Program: THALES: Investing in knowledge society through
the European Social Fund. We would like to thank W. Arens, H.
Dathe, J. Dils, A. Ebmer, M. Kuhlmann, V. Mizerakis, A. Mueller, A.
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... These studies indicate that EMFs lead to a higher mortality of different organisms, which may vary according to the identity of the taxa studied and the conditions of exposure to EMF, such as intensity, time, and source of exposure. In particular, in insects, EMF can directly hamper development, survival, and navigation in fruit flies (17)(18)(19) and honeybees (20), ultimately decreasing the abundance of these wild insect pollinators by negatively affecting their fitness [e.g., (21)]. By affecting pollinators, EMF might also disrupt plant-pollinator interactions and pollination services, although no previous studies have addressed this potential effect or assessed the mechanisms behind the negative effects exerted by EMF on pollinators. ...
... As observed around both the inactive and active towers, honeybee abundance was more influenced by floral display than by the distance to the towers, being greater at higher densities of California poppy and independent from the tower proximity. Similar results were found for wild above-ground nesting bees (21), where pollinator species richness was unaffected by EMF. However, previous studies did not consider plant display, which, in our study, showed an effect in the pollinator abundance, irrespective of the distance to the active towers. ...
Full-text available
We assessed the effect that electromagnetic field (EMF) exerts on honeybees' pollination efficiency using field and laboratory experiments. First, we measured levels of gene and protein expression in metabolic pathways involved in stress and behavioral responses elicited by EMF. Second, we assessed the effect of EMF on honeybee behavior and seed production by the honeybee-pollinated California poppy and, lastly, by measuring the consequences of pollination failure on plants' community richness and abundance. EMF exposure exerted strong physiological stress on honeybees as shown by the enhanced expression of heat-shock proteins and genes involved in antioxidant activity and affected the expression levels of behavior-related genes. Moreover, California poppy individuals growing near EMF received fewer honeybee visits and produced fewer seeds than plants growing far from EMF. Last, we found a hump-shaped relationship between EMF and plant species richness and plant abundance. Our study provides conclusive evidence of detrimental impacts of EMF on honeybee's pollination behavior, leading to negative effects on plant community.
... A well-designed field study on potential effects of mobile telecommunication base stations on wild pollinator communities was carried out on two Aegean islands (Lazaro et al. 2016). The field strengths of RF-EMFs were measured at four distances between 50 and 400 m in the vicinity of 10 base stations located in comparable, homogeneously flower-rich landscapes. ...
... Scientific evidence that anthropogenic RF-EMFs might impact the abundance or diversity of pollinators is limited to the single study described above (Lazaro et al. 2016). Consequently, whether anthropogenic RF-EMFs pose a significant threat to insect pollinators and the benefits they provide to ecosystems and humanity remains to be established (Vanbergen et al. 2019); given the overall decline of insect diversity and abundance, hence further investigations are urgently needed. ...
Full-text available
This report summarizes the effects of anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic fields with frequencies above 100 MHz on flora and fauna presented at an international workshop held on 5–7 November 2019 in Munich, Germany. Anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic fields at these frequencies are commonplace; e.g., originating from transmitters used for terrestrial radio and TV broadcasting, mobile communication, wireless internet networks, and radar technologies. The effects of these radiofrequency fields on flora, fauna, and ecosystems are not well studied. For high frequencies exceeding 100 MHz, the only scientifically established action mechanism in organisms is the conversion of electromagnetic into thermal energy. In accordance with that, no proven scientific evidence of adverse effects in animals or plants under realistic environmental conditions has yet been identified from exposure to low-level anthropogenic radiofrequency fields in this frequency range. Because appropriate field studies are scarce, further studies on plants and animals are recommended.
... Data displayed in the formula, i.e., coordinates x, y, and z of the center of the antenna, the direction (azimuth) of the most intensive radiation, the inclination of the antenna, the power, the amplification, line loss, coefficients, the radiofrequency of the antenna, effective radiated power of the antenna, directivity diagrams in the vertical and horizontal plane, are received from the Communications Regulatory Authority as well as referring to the technical specifications provided by the producers of mobile telecommunication antennas. The directivity factors of vertical and horizontal diagrams are found according to technical diagrams specified by producers [33]. ...
Full-text available
The last two decades have faced a significantly increased number of telecommunication antennas emitting electromagnetic radiation in residential areas. The theoretical simulation of the dispersion of the energy flux density of the electromagnetic field has been performed applying the physical peculiarities of the waves generating electromagnetic radiation. Having evaluated studies on simulation, the visual representation of the spread of electromagnetic radiation has been carried out according to the results obtained applying the AutoCad package. A comparison of the simulated value of the energy flux density radiated from antennas for mobile telecommunications with the measured one has disclosed an overlap of 30%. The simulation of the energy flux density showed that, in the close proximity zone (under a distance of 30 m), antennas radiate values within the range 10–10,000 uW/cm2. At a distance larger than 30 m, the values of energy flux density fluctuate from 10 to 0.001 uW/cm2.
A field investigation was conducted from January 2022 to December 2022 in the rural landscape of the Aligarh region to assess the effect of electromagnetic radiations emitted by communication towers on avifaunal diversity. Three significant sites in this area were chosen for the study, including one control site with no cell phone tower. At each site, avifaunal species abundance, richness, and evenness were recorded along with observations of certain bird behavioral features. The data was gathered using the point count and sighting approach. Shannon and Weiner's diversity index was used in the calculations. The LATNEX Triple Axis HF-B3GR meter was used to calculate electric field strength. The survey revealed high impact of electromagnetic radiations on the avifaunal diversity at sites under strong electromagnetic field whereas at the control site no such effect was noticed. Moreover, some distortions in the breeding & feeding patterns as well as migration rate were also observed.
Urbanization and the increasing use of wireless technologies lead to higher emission rates of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) in populated areas. This anthropogenic electromagnetic radiation is a form of environmental pollution and a potential stressor on bees or other flying insects. Cities often have a high density of wireless devices operating on microwave frequencies, which generate electromagnetic frequencies e.g. in the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands commonly used by the wireless technologies. To date the effects of nonionizing electromagnetic radiation on the vitality and behavior of insects are poorly understood. In our experiment we used honey bees as model organisms and analyzed the effects of defined exposures to 2.4 and 5.8 GHz on brood development, longevity and homing ability under field conditions. To generate this radiation, we used a high-quality radiation source which generates a consistent, definable and realistic electromagnetic radiation, engineered for this experiment by the Communications Engineering Lab (CEL) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Our results show significant effects of long-term exposures on the homing ability of foraging honey bees, but no effects on brood development and adult worker longevity. Using this novel and high-quality technical set-up, this interdisciplinary work provides new data on the effects of these widely used frequencies on important fitness parameters of free-flying honey bees.
Background and Objective: Electromagnetic fields coming from electric and electronic devices, mobile telephony antennas, or electrical installations are continuously growing and are in direct relation with population growth. In that sense, the purpose of this investigation was to determine what are the effects of artificial electromagnetic fields on the behavior and viability of bees through a global perspective (1968-2022). Materials and Methods: The methodology used in this research consisted of the review of literature obtained from platforms such as Scopus, EBSCO, IEEE, Wiley, Google Scholar and Taylor & Francis. Results: It was possible to review 36 studies on the field and to state that investigations on this topic have increased in 2019, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.86% (in a period of 54 years). Poland and USA are the leading countries in the number and importance of investigations on this topic. Keywords were grouped on the basis of the advancement of the research (honeybee, animals, Apis mellifera and apoideos). Conclusion: The study of the effects of electromagnetic fields on bees makes it possible to understand its impact on the metabolism and viability of bees.
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The overall objective of this minipaper is to develop a reflection on beekeeping practices that allow a breeding that takes into account the well-being of bees by remaining as close as possible to the natural living conditions of bees while being productive for beekeepers.
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Biological tissues, including insect tissues, are among lossy dielectric materials. The permittivity properties of these materials are described by loss factor ɛ and loss tangent tgδ. The dielectric properties of the worker honeybee body homogenate are tested in the range of high frequencies from 1 MHz to 6 GHz. The homogenate is produced by mixing whole worker honeybees and tested with an epsilometer from Compass Technology and a Copper Mountain Technologies vector circuit analyser VNA. Due to their consistency, the homogenate samples are placed inside polyurethane sachets. The measured permittivity relates to two components of a sample: homogenate and polyurethane. For five samples, two extremes were specified for the permittivity, loss factor ɛ, and the loss tangent tgδ, for the frequency range 20 ÷ 80 MHz and 3 GHz. Four techniques of testing permittivity in biological tissues were used to determine the dielectric properties of the homogenate. A calculation model was developed featuring a minimum measurement error of the loss factor ɛ and the loss tangent tgδ. The power absorbed per unit volume is described for the whole frequency range.
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Pollinating insects provide important ecosystem services and are influenced by the intensity of grazing. Based on the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis (IDH), pollinator diversity is expected to peak at intermediate grazing intensities. However, this hump-shaped relationship is rarely found. 2. The effect of grazing intensity was tested on flower cover, on the abundance and richness of bees, hoverflies and bee flies, and on pollination services to early-flowering bee-pollinated Asphodelus ramosus L. For that, we used data on 11 plant–pollinator phryganic communities from Lesvos Island (Greece) widely differing in grazing intensities. 3. Flower abundance and richness showed hump-shaped relationships with grazing intensity. Grazing affected the abundance and richness of bees and hoverflies directly and also indirectly, through changes in the flower community. Grazing influenced directly the richness but not the abundance of bee flies. Overall, pollinator abundance and richness showed hump-shaped relationships with grazing intensity, but variations in strength (hoverfly abundance) and direction (bee community) of the effect appeared along the season. Early in the season, grazing increased bee abundance but decreased richness, resulting in increased pollen limitation in A. ramosus. 4. The effects of grazing on pollinators vary with the intensity of the disturbance, generally supporting the IDH, and the timing of land-use activities may influence pollination services. Management strategies should include moderate grazing levels to preserve overall diversity in this area, however, the conservation of particular early bee or bee-pollinated species may benefit from reduced grazing in early spring.
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The rate of scientific activity regarding the effects of anthropogenic electromagnetic radiation in the radiofrequency (RF) range on animals and plants has been small despite the fact that this topic is relevant to the fields of experimental biology, ecology and conservation due to its remarkable expansion over the past 20years. Current evidence indicates that exposure at levels that are found in the environment (in urban areas and near base stations) may particularly alter the receptor organs to orient in the magnetic field of the earth. These results could have important implications for migratory birds and insects, especially in urban areas, but could also apply to birds and insects in natural and protected areas where there are powerful base station emitters of radiofrequencies. Therefore, more research on the effects of electromagnetic radiation in nature is needed to investigate this emerging threat. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Tools for performing model selection and model averaging. Automated model selection through subsetting the maximum model, with optional constraints for model inclusion. Model parameter and prediction averaging based on model weights derived from information criteria (AICc and alike) or custom model weighting schemes. [Please do not request the full text - it is an R package. The up-to-date manual is available from CRAN].
In addition to reduction of milk yield and health problems, behavioural abnormalities were observed in a herd of dairy cows maintained in close proximity to a TV and radio transmitting antenna. Evaluation of possible factors which could explain the abnormalities in the live stock did not disclose any factors other than the high-frequency electromagnetic fields. An experiment in which a cow with abnormal behavior was brought to a stable 20 km away from the antenna resulted in normalisation of the cow within five days, whereas symptoms returned when the cow was brought back to the stable nearby the antenna. In view of the previously described effects of electromagnetic fields, it might be possible that the observed abnormalities in cows are related to the electromagnetic field exposure.
Children are at potential risk due to their intense use of mobile phones. We examined 8-week-old rats because that age is comparable with the preadolescent period in humans. The numbers of pyramidal neurons in the cornu ammonis of the Sprague Dawley male rat (8-weeks old, weighing 180-250g) hippocampus following exposure to a 900MHz (MHz) electromagnetic field (EMF) were examined. The study consisted of control (CN-G), sham exposed (SHM-EG) and EMF exposed (EMF-EG) groups, 6 rats in each. The EMF-EG rats were exposed to 900MHz EMF (1h/day for 30 days) in an EMF jar. The SHM-EG rats were placed in the EMF jar but not exposed to EMF (1h/day for 30 days). The CN-G rats were not placed into the exposure jar and were not exposed to EMF during the study period. All animals were sacrificed at the end of the experiment, and their brains were removed for histopathological and stereological analysis. The number of pyramidal neurons in the cornu ammonis of the hippocampus was estimated on Cresyl violet stained sections of the brain using the optical dissector counting technique. Histopathological evaluations were also performed on these sections. Histopathological observation showed abundant cells with abnormal, black or dark blue cytoplasm and shrunken morphology among the normal pyramidal neurons. The largest lateral ventricles were observed in the EMF-EG sections compared to those from the other groups. Stereological analyses showed that the total number of pyramidal neurons in the cornu ammonis of the EMF-EG rats was significantly lower than those in CN-G (p<0.05) and SHM-EG (p<0.05). In conclusion, our results suggest that pyramidal neuron loss and histopathological changes in the cornu ammonis of 8-week-old male rats may be due to 900MHz EMF exposure. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
Publisher link to access the full text of the article: The effects of chronic and repeated radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RFEMR) exposure on spatial cognition and hippocampal architecture were investigated in prepubescent rats. Four weeks old male Wistar rats were exposed to RF-EMR (900 MHz; SAR-1.15 W/kg with peak power density of 146.60 μW/cm(2)) for 1 h/day, for 28 days. Followed by this, spatial cognition was evaluated by Morris water maze test. To evaluate the hippocampal morphology; H&E staining, cresyl violet staining, and Golgi-Cox staining were performed on hippocampal sections. CA3 pyramidal neuron morphology and surviving neuron count (in CA3 region) were studied using H&E and cresyl violet stained sections. Dendritic arborization pattern of CA3 pyramidal neuron was investigated by concentric circle method. Progressive learning abilities were found to be decreased in RF-EMR exposed rats. Memory retention test performed 24 h after the last training revealed minor spatial memory deficit in RF-EMR exposed group. However, RF-EMR exposed rats exhibited poor spatial memory retention when tested 48 h after the final trial. Hirano bodies and Granulovacuolar bodies were absent in the CA3 pyramidal neurons of different groups studied. Nevertheless, RF-EMR exposure affected the viable cell count in dorsal hippocampal CA3 region. RF-EMR exposure influenced dendritic arborization pattern of both apical and basal dendritic trees in RF-EMR exposed rats. Structural changes found in the hippocampus of RF-EMR exposed rats could be one of the possible reasons for altered cognition.
Apiculture has developed into an important industry in India as honey and bee-wax have become common products. Recently, a sharp decline in population of honey bees has been observed in Kerala. Although the bees are susceptible to diseases and attacked by natural enemies like wasps, ants and wax moth, constant vigilance on the part of the bee keepers can overcome these adverse conditions. The present plunge in population (< 0.01) was not due to these reasons. It was caused by man due to unscientific proliferation of towers and mobile phones.