I saw a post on Facebook yesterday that included a quote supposedly said by Albert Einstein. Since I usually save all the photos of Prof. Einstein I find and put them on my Pinterest board dedicated to the Austrian genius, I saved it. Today I started thinking about it , wondering what might have caused the great man to remark on honeybees; I decided to find out when he said it and why.
When I searched for it on Google, I found a number of articles about this particular quote. (I also learned a lot about honeybees, among other things.)
Thankfully, I learned that the world would not end in four years if the honeybees did, indeed, become an extinct species. The demise of the honeybee might not bring about our own destruction immediately, but it would certainly initiate a much sadder situation than the loss of the dodo and one that would rival the extinction of the dinosaurs as far as affecting our lives. Not only would three quarters of all our flowers disappear to the great detriment of the earth’s natural beauty, but most of our fruits and vegetables would likewise disappear, along with nuts and legumes as well. Food would certainly become scarce, famine would escalate dramatically and eating a nutritional meal would become so costly very few people would be able to afford a decent salad. The only things not pollinated by bees are the grain crops.
We would have plenty of bread to eat, but it would be rather tasteless without honey or jelly or even butter or cream cheese, since both beef and dairy cattle would be decimated by a lack of fodder crops and pasture flora. Of course, we can feed the cows grains, but cows are meant to eat grass, not corn and we are already experiencing problems stemming from grain-fed beef (a story for another blog, perhaps. Read more: Science Daily).
In one article from 2007 in The Daily Green (Good Housekeeping) quoted an official of the National Academy of Sciences as saying: “They [bees] are so integrated into so many different markets that I imagine there would be all kinds of collapses,” said May Berenbaum, who was chair of the NAS committee that developed the pollinator report. “To illustrate how pervasive the honey bee is, consider a Big Mac,” she said. “All beef patties, the pickles, onions, lettuce, the cheese, the sesame seeds on the bun – that’s a lot.” (Read more: The Daily Green)
The point is, in spite of whether or not Prof. Einstein said anything about honeybees, our bees are dying and the problem is no longer a localized anomaly. It has become a world-wide debacle and it seems no one cares or notices anymore. We have environmental action groups for numerous causes: Birds and Butterflies, Crocodiles and Frogs, Horses and Whales, etc. What we do not seem to have is priorities. One of my supervisors used to say ‘if we take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves’.
Honeybees and bumblebees may be small creatures when compared to hump-back whales and wild mustangs, but if we do not pool all the resources at our disposal and work to save these tiny, but all-important members of our living global society, there will be few, if any, birds or butterflies left, leaving us with an overabundance of mosquitoes, termites and roaches to fill the void. Furthermore, it would be horrific to think what might replace our planet’s flora. Fungi? Molds? Bacteria? How sad would we be if we had to live on mushrooms, bread and beer? We’d have no sauce for our pasta. No cheese for our bread. No olives for our pesto! What good is beer without chips and salsa? And who wants a pan pizza with mushrooms, hold the cheese, hold the sauce, hold the pepperoni?
The mysterious decline in bee populations can be attributed to a number of different things, apparently, ranging from early spring snow melt (Global Warming) to farm chemicals (pesticides) and genetically modified food plants (Read more: Ag Weekly) and, in keeping with modern trends, have even been attributed to Zombees.
Ah, but before you go, in answer to the original question, Prof. Einstein probably never said anything about honeybees and impending apocalypse. An article from Snopes.com has been unable to find any proof that he really said it, but neither did they find proof he didn’t say it. (Read more: Snopes.com)
The only proof I can find in favor of it is in the fine print at the bottom of the above referenced article under Sightings where it states that Bill Maher used the quote in 2007 and attributed it the famous physicist. This alone might be enough to convince a large percent of the population of the United States who get their news from Comedy Central everyday, but no official record of the quote has been found so far.
(To read more about environmental groups associated with the preservation of wildlife and nature: NRDC: Wildlife Links)