In recent years, articles on honeybees have often started with a sentence like this: “Populations of honeybees have crashed in recent years, and many researchers have pointed the blame at a class of widely used insecticides called neonicotinoids.”
In fact, that’s how an otherwise excellent article in The Scientist summarizing a recent USDA study on honeybees’ molecular responses to neonicotinoids began. The narrative that honeybees, which are not originally native to North America, face mortal danger––has been advanced by environmental groups for years and echoed in the media, in casual blogs and the mainstream science sites alike. This twist on the news is so pervasive that it’s often accepted without question: bee populations are rapidly declining as a result of pesticide use, particularly the use of neonics, and the crucial pollinators could be edging towards extinction, plunging our entire food system into chaos.
- “Declining honeybee population could spell trouble for some crops,” blared a headline on Fox News last year.
- “Death and Extinction of the Bees,” was the banner claim on the activist Centre for Research on Globalization.
- “Honey Bees in a Struggle for Survival,” claimed a guest columnist writing earlier this month for a Tennessee newspaper.
The only problem is that it isn’t true.
Myth of Honeybee decline
Honeybee populations haven’t “crashed” in the United States or elsewhere. Honeybees are not going “extinct.” Crops are not “in trouble.”
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