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Honeybee Population Collapse Sparks Strange Theories

The answer to what happened to America's vanishing honeybees is simple, a caller told entomologist May Berenbaum: Bee rapture. They were called away to heaven.

No, wait, it's Earth's magnetic field, another caller told the University of Illinois professor.

And when Berenbaum went on the Internet, she found a parody news site that quoted her as blaming rapper Kevin Federline and his concerts for the disappearance of the bees. Berenbaum loved it.

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The sudden disappearance of one-quarter of America's honeybees has brought out some strange ideas and downright myths.

"I just can't get any work done," Berenbaum said. "I'm overwhelmed by e-mails. I can't keep up."

A couple of bee myths are big on the Internet.

A small German scientific study looking at a specific type of cordless phones and homing systems of bees exploded over the Internet and late night television shows.

It morphed into erroneous reports blaming cell phones for the honeybee die-off, which scientists are calling Colony Collapse Disorder.

The scientist who wrote the paper, Stefan Kimmel, e-mailed The Associated Press to say that there is "no link between our tiny little study and the CCD-phenomenon ... anything else said or written is a lie."

U.S. Department of Agriculture top bee researcher Jeff Pettis laughs at the idea, because whenever he goes out to investigate dead bees, he cannot get a signal on his cell phone because the hives are in such remote areas.

Also on the Internet is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein on how humans would die off in four years if not for honeybees. It's wrong on two counts.

First, Einstein probably never said it, according to Alice Calaprice, author of "The Quotable Einstein" and five other books on the physicist.

"I've never come across it anything Einstein has written," Calaprice said. "It could be that someone had made it up and put Einstein's name on it."

Second, it's incorrect scientifically, Pettis said. There would be food left for humans because some food is wind-pollinated.

For his part, Pettis jokes that the bees are out creating crop circles "and it's working them to death."