Electromagnetic fields disrupt the pollination service by honeybees

Science Advances Vol 9 Issue 19 12may2023,

by Authors – Marco A. Molina-Montenegro, Ian S. Acuña-Rodríguez, Gabriel I. Ballesteros, Mariela Baldelomar, Cristian Torres-Díaz, Bernardo R. Broitman, Diego P. Vázquez


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.

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We have shown that the presence of EMF under field conditions significantly impaired honeybees’ pollination services to plants following a putative molecular mechanism associated with behavioral and physiological stress. Individual stress processes were driven by the activity of specific genes, an effect that we quantitatively reproduced under laboratory conditions. The organismal-level impacts translated into a lower number of floral visits that reduced seed production, which, in turn, lowered diversity and plant abundance. The negative effects, from genes to experimental plant communities, were chiefly related to distance to the source: They were observed only when transmission towers were online (thus emitting EMF).

We propose that honeybees’ exposure to EMF disturbs their foraging capabilities by altering their magnetic navigation, learning, decision-making mechanisms, flight, and foraging, thus impairing pollination activity…..

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…..In summary, our findings support the notion that EMF can have direct negative impacts on pollination service by honeybees, with detrimental consequences on the seed output of insect-pollinated plant species and indirect negative impacts on plant community (abundance and richness) due to possible impairment in the pollination service required by the plant community (40). We also highlight that the magnitude of the impact of EMF on pollination service, at local scale, can be much greater than previously thought. Honeybees use electric fields for intraspecific (within hive) and interspecific (plant-pollinator) communication (9) and are able to detect the anthropogenic EMF, and their capacity for orientation, navigation, and foraging is being impaired, which would ultimately affect their health and survival (9, 28, 45). Our study provides strong evidence of detrimental effects of EMF on honeybee’s visitation and plant reproduction and may contribute to explaining, at least in part, the global pollination crisis that risks the adequate production of many crops.

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Source – ScienceAdvances Vol 9 Issue 19 – Electromagnetic fields disrupt the pollination service by honeybees