November 30, 2013 at 12:41 am #1479MikeKeymaster
Dead birds ‘rain down’
It sounds like pages from the pages of Exodus, but thousands of dead birds rained down in Esperance, Australia.
And on two streets in Austin Texas. Both up to 8 January 2007.
Coincidences happen, but what could have been the cause?
The Australian event (latitude 34 degrees south) took place over several weeks in Esperance, a coastal town. The end came when no birds were left. The birds showed no common injury, detectable toxins, or cause of death. 24 degrees longitude away, the Texan event (latitude 30 degrees north) took place in Austin, and appears to have been more localised and sudden. Again, autopsies of dead birds revealed no cause.
Speculation has abounded and been related on blogs and news forums, focusing on the bizarre and the unlikely. Let’s just consider the possibilities more methodically, based on the fact that these are birds dying in flight, across several species, as highly localised events not trends:
the birds died elsewhere but were deposited by freak weather conditions
they flew into highly localised severe weather conditions (turbulence, downdraught)
they flew into some form of toxic cloud
the birds ingested toxins
the birds has some kind of virus or bacterial infection
they encountered aircraft they could not avoid.
This seems to be a different class of event from attested showers of frogs or fish that would appear to result from tornadoes or weather incidents. There have not been weather reports to support the first two points, and the birds were local and were not bedraggled.
On the third point, if an airborne toxin was involved (poison gas cloud), how was it confined by weather conditions in sufficient concentration for sustained slaughter in a small area? If death is slower with dispersed toxin, then there should be a very wide spread of fewer deaths considerably further afield. Also, presumably the toxin would be detectable, but has failed to show up.
The question that should be asked for the fourth possibility, is why multiple species of birds, why a confined location, and why not also larger insects too, or terrestrial animals that may feed on the carrion (the Esperance event was over several days). Have foxes or cats died eating a dead bird? If a food toxin is supposed, do all these species share the same diet? No toxin has been identified after autopsies in either location. Finally, if true, a large number of birds would also begin to be too unwell to fly, and deaths on the ground near roosts would be apparent.
Is disease a clue? Bird flu has been ruled out, but could several species become simultaneously infected, display a very close response to it, be able to fly and then suddenly die together on the wing? These events are also dissimilar to mass deaths of waterfowl, where periods of death can be related to infection or water contamination.
The sixth point has no real significance in terms of collision, or the birds would be severely injured, and aircraft damaged.
Is there any other possibility? Perhaps: there could be short-lived electromagnetic concentrations at certain locations and altitudes, resulting (for example) from military experiments, where high energies (eg the HAARP series of transmitters) or experimental vectored intersections, interfere with avian bioelectromagnetics such as nervous or cardiac regulatory systems. Let’s not stray into conspiracy theories (plenty of opther sites do that!). However, we do know that powerful electromagnetic disturbances are caused by military equipment, and there is plenty of evidence that long-range effects from EM beams and energies are not only of strategic interest, but in various stages of development around the world.
When two streets are involved, and ground-level effects are not exhibited (affecting anaimals, ground birds and people), this is not an environmental toxin indicator, but a temporal- and spatial-specific impact on life systems at altitude.
Perhaps this indicates either a ‘useful experiment’ or an accident.
How the events were variously reported in the news:
Mystery as thousands of birds fall from sky (10 Jan. 2007)
Poison suspected of causing Esperance bird deaths
Birds fall from sky over town
Austin shuts downtown after dead birds discovered
Downtown Austin reopens after dead birds found (‘not unusual’?)
Bird kill proves costly. Businesses suffer when cleanup shuts Congress Avenue
Dead birds rain down on towns half a world apart (10 Jan. 2007)
Similar event with crows, Lewiston, Maine, US, December 2006
What else do we know about birds and electromagnetic fields?
(We will leave you to find out about HAARP and scalar waves and weapons.)
Investigations on birds and man-made EM fields centre mainly around bird navigation, but anecdotal evidence is strong that birds, while they may perch on power lines and mobile phone masts, dislike these environments for roosting and rearing.
Homing pigeons have in recent years become lost en masse, birds have fled and gardens become silent as mobile phone masts and TETRA have been installed (especially songbirds), gulls have left longstanding nest sites, and the decline of sparrows in cities has been associated with the spread of mobile communications.
Climate change has coincided to some degree with losses of sparrows and songbirds, but people sensitive to EM fields, who themselves physically feel mobile phone masts or power lines, have observed adverse bird behaviour at times of change (new installations etc.).
It may appear inconclusive: is natural geomagnetic navigation by birds being interfered with (either the natural fields, or the birds’ magnetic sensors)? Are lights on masts at night disorienting? Are air ions around masts disturbed, making birds uncomfortable?
Whatever the case, birds are sensitive to EM fields, and we have changed the natural EM environment beyond comparison with ‘weak’ transmissions, as well as strong (eg HAARP). Here the parallel of powerful extreme low frequency (ELF) submarine sonar and cetaceans might be made:
Ocean Mammal Institute
Navy transmissions and beached whales
The development and impact of low frequency active sonar
Birds, magnetic and electromagnetic fields
Mobile phone masts blamed over the vanishing sparrows
Mobile Phones and Vanishing Birds (Institute of Science in Society)
A Possible Effect of Electromagnetic Radiation from Mobile Phone Base Stations on the Number of Breeding House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Joris Everaert, Dirk Bauwens (Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, Volume 26, Issue 1 January 2007)
US and German scientists have shown that oscillating magnetic fields disrupt the magnetic orientation behaviour of migratory birds (Ritz T et al. ‘Resonance effects indicate a radical-pair mechanism for avian magnetic compass’, Nature 2004, May 13, Vol 429, p. 177). Migratory birds are known to use the geomagnetic field as a source of compass information and there are two competing hypotheses for the primary process underlying the avian magnetic compass, one involving magnetite, the other a magnetically sensitive, chemical reaction (see links below).
The researchers found that robins were disoriented when exposed to a vertically aligned, broadband (0.1-10 MHz) or a single-frequency (7-MHz) field in addition to the geomagnetic field. In the 7-MHz oscillating field, this effect depended on the angle between the oscillating and the geomagnetic fields. The birds exhibited seasonally appropriate, migratory orientation when the oscillating field was parallel to the geomagnetic field, but were disoriented when it was presented at a 24- or 48-degree angle.
The authors state that their results are consistent with a resonance effect on singlet-triplet transitions and suggest a magnetic compass based on a radical-pair mechanism. They comment:
‘The magnetic compass of birds is light-dependent and exhibits strong lateralization with input coming primarily from the right eye. However, the primary biophysical process underlying this compass remains unexplained. Magnetite, as well as biochemical radical-pair reactions have been hypothesized to mediate sensitivity to Earth-strength, magnetic fields through fundamentally different physical mechanisms.’
In the magnetite-based mechanism, magnetic fields exert mechanical forces. In the radical-pair mechanism, the magnetic field alters the dynamics of transitions between spin states, after the creation of a radical pair through a light-induced electron transfer. These transitions in turn affect reaction rates and products. Although in most radical-pair reactions the effects of Earth-strength magnetic fields are masked by a living system’s background ‘noise’, model calculations show that such effects can be amplified beyond the level of background ‘noise’ in specialized, radical-pair receptor systems.
Alasdair Philips (Powerwatch) comments:
‘The support for a possible mechanism is interesting. However, medium- and short-wave frequencies have been used since the 1930s with little evidence of any effect on bird behaviour. But since the mobile phone networks went up there have been increasing reports of birds, especially homing pigeons, getting lost. Research now needs to look at the effects of base station signals, particularly in view of the disorientating effects of EMR ‘noise’ reported in this study.’
An early warning?
In 1956 a military radar engineer working on the Sussex Downs witness first hand the effect of 3GHz microwave radiation on migrating birds. Before leaving UK shores for other destinations, the birds would gather at high altitude, between 3 to 10 thousand feet, spend some time circling chosen landmarks for perhaps 20 minutes, then disperse. This was a well known and documented phenomenon amongst technical personnel at coastal radar stations.
One day, while testing a new form of radar with a very fast rise time and very short duration pulse (very much like pulses now used in digital communication systems) he noticed the echoes from the flock of birds (mainly swifts and house martins) suddenly disappear from all their radar displays. Some time later they had reports from veterinary sources and other concerned parties that thousands of birds had been found either dead or dying, spread over a wide area.
The fatalities, it seems, only occurred with the then ‘new’ radars being rapidly installed because of the Cold War situation with East Germany and the USSR. The specific frequencies and pulse widths in use then are no longer used – at least not by the military. However, what is of great concern is that they are being used by the mobile phone industry.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Simon Best and Cyril Smith attempted, via various publications, to caution the government, radio engineers and the public about possible biological hazards if similar frequencies and pulse widths became commonly used for civilian broadcasts and/or telecoms. However their sound advice was overruled by senior members of the then NRPB (now part of the Health Protection Agency).
Resonance effects indicate a radical-pair mechanism for avian magnetic compass, (Nature, May 2004)
On the use of magnets to disrupt the physiological compass of birds, (Physical Biology, 2006)
Research on the radical-pair theory of magnetic sensitivity; ‘weak electromagnetic fields at appropriate frequencies in the radio frequency (RF) range should disrupt or change magnetic orientation behavior if the magnetic compass were based on radical pair reactions.’
A Model for Photoreceptor-Based Magnetoreception in Birds, (Biophysics Journal, 2000)
Other effects and observation on birds
The gardens around a football club in Worthing were well-tended, with hedges and ivy, and trees. And they were well-populated with birds as the residents fed them in the winter. The small birds nested in the hedges and (less popular) gulls nested every year on the chimney blocks. On one occasion a bird of prey devoured a pigeon in a garden. This was the pattern through to the 1990s. Then through the early 2000s mobile phone masts started going up around the ground. In February 2004 the fourth, TETRA went live.
During that year the small birds left. The nests were left empty, and the gardens silent. Only pigeons and seagulls would pass through and perch. That winter, for the first time, the gulls did not roost.
Coincidence? If it wasn’t for so many other similar reports during this time, one might suppose so. But in Bognor Regis, where TETRA had also caused the people a lot of problems, the birds returned, well out of season, when the illegally erected TETRA was removed.
Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields from Phone Masts on a Population of White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), A Balmori
Birds suffer from biological effects of GSM, 3G (UMTS), DECT, WIFI, TETRA. We have many reports, particularly concerning songbirds, of departures following introduction of TETRA, and returns after its removal.
Cell, TV towers pose risk for birds
Pulsed microwave radiation and wildlife. Some discussion.
Birds suffer from biological effects of GSM, 3G (UMTS), DECT, WIFI, TETRA
Cell, TV towers pose risk for birds. Accounts of bird kills around transmission masts.
Pulsed microwave radiation and wildlife. Some discussion.
Where have our friends the birds gone?
Mystery as thousands of birds fall from sky (January 2007)
Decline of bees, UK and worldwide
Massive and sudden declines have occurred in bee populations across the world in 2006-2007. Honeybees sustain agriculture through pollination so human food supply depends on their well-being.
Sudden and wholesale loss of bee colonies is described as Colony Collapse Disorder, but does not explain the reason. Primary reasons suggested, and sometimes in the past confirmed, include parasitic mites and consequent viruses. More recently pesticides, GM crop use and climate change have been suggested. However, as this page seeks to demonstrate, the electromagnetic environment is also crucially influential on honeybees, and is undergoing rapid and enormous change from human communications systems.
Infestations such as the varroa mite can be tested for quickly and easily, and could confirm this as the current cause, but this has not been reported this time.
Pesticide use has not been suddenly altered across the world (Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Germany, Greece, the UK and 24 states of the USA).
Agricultural methods are more intensive: hives may be fumigated, electric fan-ventilated, permanently illuminated, bees fed on the wrong sugar solutions over winter, and grown to be over-sized.
GM crops have been introduced, and not always as openly as some would like. These indeed can affect insect balance, but again this has not been evenly building across all the affected areas and would be more localised.
Climate change is undoubtedly altering plant diversity and honeybees can be very specific, but this would suggest more gradual population density movements rather than disappearance.
The sudden declines are marked by bee disappearance rather than just hives full of dead and diseased bees. The empty hives are not plundered by neighbouring colonies and other insects are not filling the pollination gap. This leaves two further possibilities:
the hives are acting as a deterrent to bee return
the bees are losing the ability to navigate or communicate.
Nothing in the bees, hives or honey is pointing to chemical toxicity or bio-predation. Since the studies lower down this page show that honeybees depend on natural electric and magnetic fields, and that they are frequency-specific in their communications, it is urgent that this line of enquiry is opened up.
Whilst the last bee species extinction in the UK occurred in 1988, there has been a steady decline in the bee population.
It’s a particularly bad time to cut funding on bee inspectors, but this is exactly what has happened in the UK: Funding cuts threaten bee health (2004).
Bees are not just nice to have around and make honey; they are crucial to crop pollination and a vital element in agriculture and food production. The global economic value of pollination may be as much as £50bn. In June 2006 it was reported that bee decline may hit food crops in Northern Ireland, and the UK in general. The cause appears to be mites and late flowering losing synchronicity with the bees’ nesting cycle. Farmers have been making efforts to restore habitat (eg field margins), and some decline appears to be restored.
Why this is not just interesting, but a critical issue: ‘Approximately 80% of all insect pollination is accomplished by honey bees. According to the University of California at Davis publication “Don’t Underestimate the Value of Honey Bees,” the remaining 20% of other insect pollinators are drastically reduced in number as well, making one wonder if the problem is the varroa mite or something else affecting the broader insect world.’ [Source: Suite 101]
Then in February of 2007 the bad news arrived of massive colony collapses across the US:
Mystery killer silencing honeybees. If the die-off continues, it would be disastrous for U.S. crop yields.
Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Keepers in Peril
Species under threat: Honey, who shrunk the bee population?
Bee mystery buzzes area
Bee Alert survey with hive signs and symptoms
initial survey results: analysis of viruses
In Austria, an enquiry was made via the beekeepers’ newspaper. 25 replied that they encountered problems after mast installations in the proximity:
37.5% reported an elevated bees aggressiveness
25.0% reported a tendency of bees to leave the hive
62.5% reported the collapse of the bee population.
No-one knows why
Pesticides and habitat?
Central to the argument of pesticide use has been Imidacloprid [more], a systemic nicontinoid agent that accumulated across harvest seasons and becomes available to pollinators. It attacks the nervous system, affecting learning and memory. See: Honey Bee Disappearances: Could Pesticides Play A Role?
Whilst pesticides and loss of habitat appear mostly to blame, it isn’t just farmers who can make a difference. Growing traditional plants in gardens would help, but we must remember that climate change is already visible, with the migration of many species (butterflies, insects, birds, fish etc.) all on the move, in a northerly direction. It may be worth considering therefore, the predictions about domestic gardens and the change to mediterranean plant varieties.
Another possibility is that agricultural methods, including bee-keeping is increasingly monocultural, reducing variety in both bee populations and the nectar they collect. See: A surprising decline of pollination services in USA. One factor in agricultural methods is bee size, and this does appear to make a difference in their resilient to mites. By pushing cell sizes up, commercial beekeepers develop bees up to 50% larger, that ostensibly are more productive. However, pushing this boundary has led to greater varroa problems that organic, natural-sized bees just do not suffer. [Opinions from an organic beekeeper.]
Some have pointed to GM crops, but this does not explain either the 20 year trend, the international aspect, or the suddenness of the 2006 USA event:
Are GM Crops Killing Bees? (Germany)
Collapsing colonies: are GM crops killing bees? Der Speigel, March 2007 (Germany)
Furthermore the bees have not just been dying in the hives, or being found dead, they have just been disappearing in their millions.
April 07, Palm Beach News reported: ‘Troy Fore [executive secretary of the American Beekeeping Federation] and other bee industry figures and scientists said the phenomenon resembles many of the ways bees have always died, but for one notable exception: the empty hive is shunned by other bees and also by insect scavengers.
‘“I was very much a skeptic about this thing when I first heard of it,” said Danny Weaver, a Novosota, Texas, bee breeder who is president of Fore’s group.
‘He said his skepticism vanished when he obtained honeycomb from a collapsed hive and put it in an area heavily populated with bees and bee parasites, including wax moths.
‘“Nothing would go near it,” Weaver said. “Ordinarily, other bees would be robbing that honey, moths would be all over it. But nothing.”’
Urgent investigation required
This observation must be tested further. A comb from a deserted hive and a comb from a thriving hive must be placed together where other species are plentiful.
If the ‘affected’ comb is rejected but the ‘control’ is robbed, then this indicates the issue is embedded in the comb, not with the bees.
If the comb and honey are then separated, each could similarly be tested for its influence on bees.
If neither comb attracts other than opportunistic attention, then either the environment is disturbing normal activity or the bees and moths are being affected by something in the environment around the combs.
The combs could then be tested separately to determine if one is itself influencing the environment of the other.
Since this is easily repeatable in many sites, it would quickly focus attention where it is due: comb, honey, pollinators or surrounding environment. (See below on bees, EM fields and their sense of smell.)
A man-made electromagnetic environment?
One trend that also causes concern is the electromagnetic environment. Ironically, power line pylons provide agricultral margins that are a haven for bees. In the US, it has been proposed that utilities do not mow the power line strips in order to halt the US decline in bees. Studies by Ulrich Warnke on bee behaviour in low frequency fields have, however shown supressed metabolic rates in bees, and a paper by J O Husing, ‘Biene und Elektrizitat’ in Imkerfreund (Beekeeper Friend) in 1965 noted effects of low frequencies on bee behaviour patterns. See also Bee World, 1976: Effects of Electric Charges on Honeybees.
There has been a deal of research on other insects, some relating to dimensional aspects on insect antennae. T Jaski noted in 1960 (‘Radio waves and life’, Radio Electronics, 31. pp. 43), that orientational reactions were observed in large ants when exposed to a SHF field of 10,000 MHz. They oriented their antennas along this electric lines of force and lost their ability to communicate the location of food to others. It was noted that the antenna length of the ants used in these experiments was almost a quarter of the wavelength to which they were they were exposed.
High electric fields present a greater problem in conductive hives (Bidokas et al., 1988).
But it may not be hives and electrical fields that add to bee problems, so much as magnetic fields. Bees have a magnetoreception system sensitive down to 26nT at 10 to 60Hz, according to Kirschvink et al. (1997), decreasing rapidly with increasing frequency. Maybe living under power lines isn’t a completely good idea. Balmori 2006, ‘Effects of the Electromagnetic Radiation emitted by Mobile Telephony on Insects; Ecosystems’ recounts the effect of mobile phone antennas on insects more generally.
Are EM fields to blame? This is one environmental burden that matches the decline of bees, and the rapid recent rise in universal infrastructures may explain more.
Orientation and Navigation of Bees may be disturbed by man-made electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields: a six-point statement by Dr. rer. nat. Ulrich Warnke, University of Saarland
Bees that vanished when a house went wireless
There was only one snag with Ryan Ferguson’s new home, a three-storey Georgian house in Bath. When the 29-year-old digital sales director moved in three years ago, he found 30 nests of bees in his attic. ‘They got everywhere
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