Bee-Friendly Companies Are Getting the Science of the Crisis Completely Wrong
Companies profit on fears of bee extinction, but their ‘save the bee’ marketing is not always backed up by science
Earlier this year, Pornhub put out a press release and launched Beesexual, a website featuring an entirely new genre of “porn”: honeybees pollinating flowers. The site includes over a dozen streaming videos of bees boinking in blossoms, dubbed with the voices of adult-content performers. For each view — so far, more than 1.9 million — Pornhub has promised to donate to bee-preserving charities.
You’ve probably seen other corporate efforts to “save the bees.” From McDonald’s installing “bee hotels” on restaurant signs in Sweden to General Mills’ making the Cheerios’ bee mascot disappear for its Bring Back the Bees campaign, brands proclaiming to be dedicated to the protection of honeybees are on the rise.
They raise the concern that some modern crops heavily rely on pollination in order to bear fruit or vegetables and that if pollinators go, so will many foods like broccoli, watermelon, cucumbers, and avocados. As catastrophic biodiversity loss and devastating pollinator decline threaten the planet, these campaigns promote the idea that we must do everything to save the most recognizable agent of pollination: the honeybee.
While likely well-intentioned, however, not all of the advertising around bee friendliness is necessarily well-informed.
Trying to save honeybees in lieu of native pollinators, entomologists say, is like trying to conserve chickens because you’ve heard North American birds are vanishing.
The black-and-yellow bug on cereal boxes, bear-shaped honey containers, and websites like Beesexual is not the bee that needs saving. Called Apis mellifera, it’s a domesticated bee — think of it as a tiny flying cow or pig — introduced to the Americas from Europe only a few centuries ago.
Native Americans pollinated their crops for generations without depending on this insect. Instead, they relied on over 4,500 bee species native to North America…