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The Supposed Disaster of the Disappearance of Bees

I was recently asked a question in regard to the imminent die-out and extinction of bees and if that was going to cause humans to also become extinct. It was a legitimate question, but it was based on a faulty premise and blatantly incorrect facts.

The question was spawned by an article that was written on CNN. I make no pretense about my feelings about CNN. They offer commentaries that don’t have a basis in fact and pass those commentaries off as factual news, despite not being factual and not being news. 

What they publish, often, is the very definition of fake news and many people in the US as well as overseas fall for it, actually believing it. Mind you, they’ve done this in regard to President Trump, ‘Global warming’, gun control, and a host of other topics. It is simply commentary that is designed to earn more of the market share and money. In other words, it is sensationalized opinions on the news that is often based on falsehoods.

In this particular case, the CNN story was in regard to how bees were on the verge of extinction and how humans would die off within 4 years of the imminent demise of the bees. That was the reason for the question.

The thing is that they never bothered with the facts and that prompted the question I answered. The primary issue is with the European honey bee. It is a major pollinator of many plants. It is dying in droves due to a number of diseases. However, it isn’t the only pollinator of many of the plants that it pollinates. Wasps, ants, flies, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats also pollinate many plants. They aren’t as efficient as honey bees, but without honey bees, most of the plants would still get pollinated.

Also, European honey bees are only one species. There are around 35,000 species of bees. Not all of them make honey, but many of them are resistant to the diseases affecting European honey bees. That includes American honey bees and bumblebees. Bees are nowhere close to becoming extinct. 

If the European honey bee died out, it would have a huge impact, However, other creatures would no doubt still perform the pollination duties. The net result is that very few plants would die out.

What’s more, a large number of food plants aren’t pollinated by bees, wasps, and so forth. Plants like corn and wheat are wind pollinated and some, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating. 

This totally destroys the myth used by a news agency that was designed to sell the news. Perhaps you can now understand why I am strongly against fake news that plays on fears rather than facts.

  • Have you heard that bees are on the brink of extinction?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Have you heard that mankind is supposed to die out if the honey bee becomes extinct?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Do you think that agencies like CNN should be allowed to pass commentary off as truthful news?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

16 points
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Written by Rex Trulove

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19 Comments

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  1. I just did an article on this. There was a 37% loss of honeybees in the United States this past winter due to the winter mite. This was way over the average winter loss. No, not all the bees will disappear, nor will the pollinators; but it’s still cause for concern. A very good article, Rex.

    • Yes, it is a cause for concern. I totally agree. It doesn’t mean that humans will die out in 4 years, though. For a major news agency to make such a claim actually distracts from the concern and drives people away from supporting efforts to do something about it, if possible.

  2. The reality is this.

    Lies exist. When liars are not bound to facts they destroy credibility.

    1. A commentary is an opinion – I agree.
    2. If it is reported as news then it must not be a commentary.

    The reality of bees dying out isn’t that human beings will die. That is an exaggeration and should be stopped.

    But the other reality is also true. The extinction of Frogs, Bee’s and other environmental bellwether animals should scare people. That tells of a much more serious problem.

    • Unfortunately, news agencies sell more news when they predict doomsday scenarios in which humans will disappear. As long as they continue making money from such irresponsible reporting, or think that they will make money from it, they are likely to continue doing it.

      Meanwhile, the real issues that they are twisting and reporting about still exist and aren’t getting any better. Scare tactics do honestly scare some people, but it is just talk. The words don’t get anything accomplished.

      News outlets know that, of course. However, their purpose in instances like this isn’t to inform, it is to sell ‘news’ and to make money. A large number of people understand this, too. The market share for CNN has been dropping for a couple of years. Their doomsday reporting isn’t helping them, and it certainly isn’t helping the readers/viewers, yet they persist in doing it. What was it that Albert Einstein said about insanity…doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results each time?

      • The market analysis points to CNN leveling out, as the other organizations now do 24 by 7 news.

        The largest decline overall is in the virtually all commentary Fox news morning broadcasts. They aren’t even fact adjacent.

        • I suspect that if that is the case, CNN execs would probably take that to mean that doomsday articles are helping it keep afloat. That wouldn’t bode well for people who simply want to have factual, unbiased news. There are a few outlets that try really hard to put out factual, unbiased news, but unfortunately, none of them are mainstream and none have even close to as large an audience as mainstream outlets.

          • My father always told me the following:

            Understand both sides, that way you can be the filter.

            There are news sources that have great reporters.
            there are those that are more interested in ratings.

            We, have to be the filter.

  3. One important thing to bear in mind is that many plants have evolved in such a way that their flowers can only be pollinated by a very limited number of insect species. There is no “quick fix” by which the loss of one species can be quickly substituted by another.

    • That is true. Some plant species would likely die out of the primary or only pollinator for that plant became extinct.

      If Yucca moths became extinct, the Yucca plants would become extinct. Yucca plants and yucca moths require each other for survival. However, yucca plants aren’t the only species of plants.

      Likewise, if any species of bee became extinct, the plants that can only be pollinated by that bee would likely become extinct. If the plant happened to be a food plant, it would have an impact on what people eat. However, there are almost certainly many other food plants that don’t require that species of bee in order to be pollinated and bear fruit. Many of them don’t require insects at all for pollination.

      • I live in a village surrounded by farmed countryside. It is noticeable that most farmers round here are growing wheat this year, whereas not many summers ago there was a sea of yellow from the fields of oil-seed rape. Why? It would not surprise me to learn that yields from rape crops were falling off due to poor pollination, which is not a problem with wheat.

        • Right here this year, I haven’t noticed a difference in the number of wild honey bees this year over the last couple of years. However, I have noticed a huge increase in the number of bumblebees. It will be interesting to see what shows up with my onions bloom. When that happens, it usually draws bees and wasps. The sweat bees are also particularly plentiful this year, at the church flower beds.

  4. If only one news agency was publishing a story that was not being published by others, that would be a good reason for claiming “fake news”. But that is not the case here. The bee crisis has been widely reported by many agencies, and also by many non-news agencies such as scientific bodies around the world.

    One problem is over-use of pesticides, and that affects many pollinating species, not just honey bees. Another problem is the decline in flower meadows. Another is the spread of mites that decimate bee colonies.

    It is a complicated picture, with many variations in different localities, and it is important not to be complacent about what is happening.

    • I have no problem at all with acknowledging that there is a problem, primarily with honey bees, and actively trying to do something about it. You mentioned a few of the issues. GMO plants have also been implicated. Also, although American honey bees don’t have anywhere near as much of a plight as do European honey bees, American honey bees are also not as docile, nor do they produce as much honey.

      All of that is true and it has been studied for decades. The problems are getting worse with time, but they are definitely not anything new.

      What I’m against is sensationalizing it, making it sound like a totally new issue, and claiming that it is a doomsday scenario, specifically to influence emotion rather than rational thought. Passing off commentary as news and giving a blanket statement that says that bees are becoming extinct and are in imminent danger of dying out is irresponsible and ignores how many species of bees there are. Further saying that because the bees are dying out that humans are on the brink of extinction goes way beyond being irresponsible.

      If other news outlets report that there are issues with bees, such reporting isn’t a bad thing. If CNN just did that, they wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. If any news agency tries using scare tactics to say that humans are going to become extinct because of the issues with honey bees, they are just plain wrong, regardless of the news agency. It is something that various news agencies has been doing for many years, but the only purpose it serves is to make money for the agency.

      • I can’t comment on the exaggerations of certain media channels, given that I do not see the output of American news stations! However, it is not sensationalist to point to the logic of certain situations in the form “If X happens, then Y will be the consequence”. The problem is deciding on the likelihood of X happening, and also on whether X really is X!

        I get the impression that most American media outlets are politically motivated. That is not the case with many (by no means all!) European outlets. I would certainly trust a Nature programme broadcast by the BBC to give the facts as they are, without bias, and this is a topic that has been covered many times by them.

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