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 2018 article in The Scientist summarizing a 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 in 2017.
- “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 in a Tennessee newspaper in 2018.