The experimental hive used in this study was maintained and monitored regularly by the staff at the University of Wurzburg, Germany, and despite extreme losses of bees (>30% of foraging bees) at times, it showed no disease or pest symptoms during this investigation. Moreover, at no time was there a presence of an excessive amount of dead bees in or around the hive. Such observations are consistent with past reports of the sudden “disappearance” of adult bees from a hive or apiary. Moreover, it is noteworthy that the storm-related acute loss of bees detected during two, three-day geomagnetic storms ranged from 25,560 to 56,640 and did not result in death of the colony
. Nor did those losses produce an accumulation of dead bees in or near the hive. Moreover, diseases, pests, starvation or other environmental causes could not have produced the sudden bee losses. Furthermore, the hive was maintained in an urban environment; for that reason, agricultural pesticides
could not have been a likely cause either.
For unknown reasons, not all excessive bee losses occurred on the exact same day that a geomagnetic storm was reported. This may be because geomagnetic fluctuations occur in three dimensions – north/south, east/west and “up/down” (vertical). Disturbance measurements used in this study involved only the east/west horizontal component. One possible cause for the daily variance is that the other two vectors of geomagnetic storms were also involved in disruption in honey bee guidance and resulted in their losses. For example, severe bee losses that occurred the day before a storm was detected in the east-west horizontal component could have been due to a disturbance in the north-south or vertical components. In addition, it is possible that other sub atomic components (or interactions between them) within a geomagnetic storm cause bees to become disoriented and lost. Besides protons, electrons and electromagnetic waves, there are numerous other atomic and subatomic particles that impact Earth (gamma rays
, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, ionized atomic nuclei etc.). Proton flux intensity was used as a second indicator of a solar storm, and it too showed a strong correlation with daily bee losses. Furthermore, it is not known what effect space weather has on the time of arrival of the “active ingredient(s)” when travelling from the Sun to Earth.
It is noteworthy that in 78% of all excessive bee loss cases that occurred during the study period, losses consistently declined the following day (Table 1); thereafter, fluctuation in daily losses appeared random. One probable reason for this observation is that those foragers gathering pollen or nectar
at long distances from their hive were most vulnerable to becoming disoriented and lost because they depended on their magneto reception sense for orientation, whereas those bees foraging sites closer to the hive suffered fewer losses because they relied on other senses for homing, such as visual [9,14]. It appears logical, therefore, that fewer adult foragers were involved with performing foraging duties the day following a storm-induced severe loss. Such an explanation is consistent with the observation that foragers harvest pollen from different sites, based on different colored pellets in their corbicula, as reported earlier . A magneto receptive sense would be less important at short distances when visual or other cues would be functioning for orientation purposes.
Intense proton fluxes and severe magnetic disturbances are both associated with solar storms created by coronal eruptions on the Sun. As they impact Earth they disturb Earth’s magnetosphere
and produce excessive proton fluxes in its atmosphere. Based on statistically significant correlation coefficients, evidence obtained from the observation hive indicated that the severest of honey bee losses occurred on the same day that intense geomagnetic disturbances and proton fluxes occurred in Earth’s atmosphere. Normally, statistical correlations would not relate to “cause and effect” relationships between two variables. However, that rule makes little sense in the present case because we are faced with an illogical consequence: (A) Do geomagnetic disturbances cause bees to get lost; or, (B) do lost bees cause Earth’s geomagnetic disturbances? The answer is obvious: “A” causes “B” to occur. Furthermore, correlation of experimentally induced magnetic field fluctuations
with impairment of a honey bees homing ability reported earlier [9
] is consistent with a cause and effect relationship. Again, winter colony losses in the northeast USA also correlated with annual geomagnetic storm occurrences [9
]. Finally, the serendipitous discovery that the angle of departure of the stingless bee Girucu (Schwarziana quadripunctata) from its earthen hive was altered significantly during a spontaneous geomagnetic storm is further evidence that a magneto receptive sense is involved with orientation [15
]. Thus, research strongly supports the theory that a magneto receptive disorder (MRD) is involved with a sudden and extreme loss of honey bees from a hive.
The extreme bee losses that occurred during geomagnetic storms accounts for the sudden loss of adult bees from a hive that have been observed in the past and recently renamed “Colony Collapse Disorder” An accumulating body of evidence is consistent with coronal eruptions on the Sun as being involved with interference of a forager’s magneto reception sense here on Earth. How abnormal magnetic fields and fluctuations relate to the epidemiology of honeybee losses is consistent with their behavior and development [9
]. In conclusion, it is likely that the mysterious, severe bee losses recorded in the past 100 years or more were caused by disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere.