The Lies of the Beedia

Why it’s more important to publish the truth about bees instead of the interesting lies about them.

Bees. Nature’s favorite pollinator. Responsible for at least 30 percent of the world’s food supplies and 90 percent of wild plants’ survival. Their populations are declining at alarming rates, and all the media seems to do is try to get the latest story on them, without truly acknowledging the problem.

In early May of 2011, news networks exploded with stories explaining the the culprit to colony collapse disorder, a new and strange occurrence resulting in the death of hives, had finally been located. The offender? Cell phones. Countless stories were published, with titles ranging from “It’s Official- Cell Phones are Killing Bees” to “Cell Phone Radiation Kills Bees”, published by major media outlets, all citing the same study or other articles, claiming that signals from cell phones would disorient bees, agitate colonies, and result with bees getting lost and dying, finally explaining colony collapse disorder. The future looked bright for bees now that the main complication of their survival had been revealed.

But here’s the thing. Cordless phones, the ones that had replaced landlines, had shown some evidence of disorienting bees. Not cell phones. Cell phones on the other hand had not been investigated with their connection and impacts on bees. It seems as if they had merely looked at the title of the study and went with what they felt was probably explained in the report. The media had not only completely blown the story out of proportion, they had blown a lie out of proportion, and by doing so they harmed efforts beeing made to help bees by spreading misinformation about one of the most important bugs to humanity.

There are many theories to what causes colony collapse disorder. One of the prime examples are Varroa mites, parasites that attach themselves to bees and weaken them, causing them to be much more susceptible to disease. Another problem is pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, which at its best leaves bees infertile, and at its worst simply kills the bee. Alternatively the problem could be that of loss of habitat due to global warming and human expansion. It could even bee a problem of lack of diversity in nutrients, due to the industrialization of farming. However, the problem of colony collapse disorder is not due to cell phones, and although it seems much easier to blame bee decline on a single factor, it’s wrong to do so and is hurting both us and bee populations by doing so.

“If bees die, people will die. Only ignorance never dies!” -Eric Pevernagie

Through this practice of bad journalism, they are harming more than just their credibility as writers and editors, they are jeopardizing their outlet’s reputation, the knowledge of the public, the time of the reader, bees, and even taxpayer dollars. By spreading misinformation from what are considered reliable sources, when the news breaks that the story was false, the source loses the trust of readers. By doubling back on what they previously published, it leads to unnecessary arguments and misconceptions of the problem with the public. Taxpayer dollars then have to be spent to ease the fears of the people, to prove that cellphones are not harmful to bees in this example, and finally that means that resources aren’t being allocated to help the bees, which should be a top priority.

Solutions can be reached with proper assistance from the media. By publishing the correct studies, not the studies that will get the most attention, we can raise awareness of the problem. But poor journalism is a major detriment to the knowledge of readers. A more recent example of media irresponsibility would be the obituary to the Great Barrier Reef, in which the false claim that the reef had passed away due to climate change and ocean acidification was widely published. Fortunately, the Great Barrier Reef is still alive, and although it is in danger of perishing, making false statements in hopes of gaining more readers statements is not the way to draw attention to the problem.

Bees are central to the world economy, contributing at least 15 billion dollars to the United State’s economy every year. They’re responsible for one out of every three bites of food we consume. To quote entomologist May Berenbaum “Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It’s the one stone that keeps the arch together. If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.” Bees are essential to our survival, and if we don’t step up our efforts to help them by cleaning up false claims on them, we’ll only distance ourselves to finding a solution.