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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Einstein’s Bees

Albert Einstein is supposed to have said:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

And he has been quoted widely and credited with the remark in National newspapers and, apparently, on thousands of blogs.

But Einstein, though he knew a lot, didn’t know anything about bees. There are many people still searching through Einstein texts, trying to discover if the quote is correct and from which lecture or publication it has been taken.

But he didn’t say it.

It’s just a rumour.

24 Responses to “Einstein’s Bees”

  1. anne says:

    So if global warming alarmists use this to bolster their call to arms, I can chuckle derisively in my honey-sweetened tea, right?

    jb says: Whatever floats your boats, Anne.

  2. Brian Hadd says:

    Research! This call is out–research the speeches, the writing!

    This incorrigible information shall be wrung off and all information proceeding it. It cannot be!

    jb says: It would be good to know who it came from. Does sound a bit like Albert.

  3. Ksenia says:

    You may be right about the fact that Einstein didn’t really study bees but he’s right. Botanist have been trying to artificially pollinate plants for years. We could, but everyone in the world would have to stop what they were doing and hand pollinate everything. If we did manage to survive it would send us back to the stone age and cost us most of our resources. Most of the animals would die, so we’d many be eating plants. If the bees died, 80% of living things would die; personally. I wouldn’t want to live in that world.

    jb says: Don’t get me wrong, Ksenia, I like bees.

  4. Laurelin says:

    Ok, first of all, you can’t prove one way or the other whether or not Einstein actually made this statement. How do you know he knew nothing about biology? Honestly, it’s common knowledge that bees polinate about 80% of human plant-based food sources. Therefore, although the figure may not be accurate, the concept is correct. Anyway, does it really matter who made this statement or if it’s entirely true? The point is that if the bees are “mysteriously” dying off then we need to do something about it, even if it’s just to save our food source. And if you’re nonvegetarian, keep in mind that land animals need plants for food… which need bees to polinate them and grow.

    jb says: Hi Laurelin. Did I make an argument against the concept? I don’t think so. I agree with you, of course, we need to do something to counteract the disappearing bee population. I was a beekeeper for many years. I love them.

  5. TheRealDeal says:

    There is no evidence that global warming has anything to do with bee populations and their decline.
    What people are talking about today is ColonyCollapse disorder (CCD).

    Its not global warming it is parasites such as trachial mites and corea mites aKa “Vampire Mites” in pop culture. also a type of beetle that lays its eggs in colonys.
    Its just a phrase.
    its not 80% of crops its 1/3 of vegetables and crops.
    Honey bees are NOT native to america so dont expect them to have any kind of mortality outside a conlony since NONE exist or ever have here.
    There is NO way to artificially pollinate the plants effected by this phenomenon yet.
    good quote dont care who said it but its true.

  6. GEORGE HERR says:

    Interesting but somewhat obsure comment or observation credited to Einstein.
    It was put forward on Jay Leno last night (04/24/07)by
    Bill Maher. So, now I suspect it will become a national topic. All of the Bee/Einstien experts will come out of the woodwork and weigh in on the subject.
    Yes there is a problem but can it be attributed to global warming, I suspect the jury is out. Is global warming just a natural happening of the earth or not? I don’t know nor do I think anyone really “knows”.

    jb says: I’m more or less with you on this one, George. We should be doing more than we are. But there’s still a lot of education to get through.

  7. Ed Schwartz says:

    Typical of Bill Maher to say things as absloute fact when it is indeterminate if Einstein said or did not say that quote attributed to him. (I know he used it to get attention, which he has, but I also believe he really thinks Einstein said it. It’s typical of him not to vet things if it supports his agenda.) Check this link at

    That being said, whether or not Einstein said it, of course we should be concerned and research the problem.

  8. Chris Schultz says:

    I believe the connection between Einstein and bees was made in 1994 when the British media reported on a protest by English beekeepers over import-export issues that would have had a negative economic impact on beekeepers in that country. One of the beekeepers pointed out that 80 percent of the wildflowers and perennials in England are pollinated by bees. If the bees disappear “it’s going to be a chain reaction,” the beekeeper (identified as Mr. Potter) said.
    Chainreactions. Bees. Einstein can’t be far behind.

    jb says: Thanks for Holmesian detective work, Chris.

  9. Gabe says:

    If Albert Einstein said that and he was right what would us humans do about it

    jb says: Hi Gabe, I expect we’ll do what we’re going to do anyway. Wait for an ‘expert’ to tell us what to do next.

  10. Stephen Mikesell says:

    It’s not just indigenous bees, however, many pollinators are disappearing. Read, for example, the book The Forgotten Pollinators. I have been closely watching my garden for the past decade. This is the first year I’ve seen no honey bees at all. Furthermore, I’ve seen only three bumble bees. Even last year I used to see and get stung by wasps, which are predators, but I have not seen even one wasp either. Something is happening that is far more widespread than just honey bees, and considering that pollinators and angiosperms evolved together, the problem is much bigger than just were we will get our food. I don’t think it takes an Einstein to warrent the truth of that observation.

  11. ke... says:

    * i am currently constructing an installation of a large scale model of a honeycomb {paper, tulle, metal, wax, text}. while working with wax {yes, i have since learned that it takes bees 8 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax; “robbing the bees”, if you will} the bees are flying into my house. even before i began melting the wax, the bees have been finding me, in public and private…dying by the dozens. aside from those that i see perished, there are still many many around my town (pdx) alive, buzzing, and aching to get out of my house and back into the flowers.

    the past/current role of bees in our culture is to be applauded and revered. maybe this will teach us to ultimately respect these creatures…

    jb says: Respect, ke…, I was a beekeeper for some years.

  12. susan joyce says:

    …..if human beings cannot survive without the honeybee (learned that from my 6th grade science teacher)……another 4-4 1/2 years from now would take us to the year 2012…..which is the end of the Mayan Calendar. Maybe the Mayans new something about pollination that we do not know as of yet.

  13. The Ville says:

    Not being a global warming ignorer, i find what is happening alarming!
    I think the biggest problem some humans have is the total detachment they have from the fundamentals that basically allow them to exist.
    Bees are perfect adaptions that do a near perfect job efficiently and sustainably, whilst at the same time have a life of their own. From a human perspective one couldn’t invent an efficient way of replacing them and even if we did, it would probably require at least ten times more energy and would probably result in hundreds of other species going extinct.

  14. joe says:

    wow, i think susan is right. we really need to do something. and fast.

  15. While listening to Radio Netherlands tonight, I just heard this amazing factoid:
    “Einstein once said that if people do not give Tony King $500,000 by 2009, all humankind will die!”

    OK. So. Umm, perhaps Einstein supposedly said it about bees.
    No matter.


    Are you ready to save mankind? My paypal account shall appear here shortly.

  16. PAUL SCREETON says:

    In an article BEEMERGENCY! on 1 June 2008, The Mail on Sunday (UK), Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, wrote: “Einstein was said to have calculated: ‘If bees disappeared off the surface of the globe then Man would have only for years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more life’.” Sounds like Green propaganda, probably true, but Einstein? Doubt the latter.

  17. mjs says:

    Wether Einstein said it or not its not far from the truth! Bees play a
    vital role in the workings of nature .We are going to meddle and poision
    ourselves out of existence .

  18. uksceptic says:

    It might well be common knowledge that “bees polinate about 80% of human plant-based food sources.” But as is so often the case common knowledge is wrong.

    The figure that is usually cited is that they pollinate 30% of crops. However even this is wrong! It’s probably true that 30% of crops are insect pollinated, but other groups such as hoverflies play a role in this, rather than just bees.

    What IS true is the following;

    In a recent study the “Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops” Klein et al 2007 it said “Honeybees, mainly Apis mellifera, remain the most economically valuable pollinators of crop monocultures worldwide, […] and yields of some fruit, seed and nut crops decrease by more than 90% without these pollinators”

    Please note this does not mean that honeybees pollinate 90% of crops, this means that for some fruit, seed and nut their yield can decrease by more than 90% without honeybees as pollinators.

    There is no doubt that bees are important but lets not get all over the top about it when the truth is shocking enough!

  19. Beekeeping says:

    I strongly believe in what Einstein has said regarding the importance of bees in the life of the people. Let us save the bees and bring back the beauty of the Earth.

  20. Nikhil Mathew says:

    Even if He said that, I dont think he is trying to tell the greatness of bees. He must have been trying to give an example about how every species is linked to one another by the nature and breaking a link would break the chain.

    He must have been trying to say how vulnerable our existence is..

  21. john says:

    i think the quote is right but i dont think he said it

  22. Russ Hendrix says:

    I strongly believe in what Einstein has said regarding the importance of bees in the life of the people. Let us save the bees and bring back the beauty of the Earth.

  23. Leon says:

    I think Einstein was indeed referring to our vulnerable position and our dependent(ness?) of bees and other pollinators. Just think logically; insects were the first creatures to colonise the land about 360 million years ago. So basically all plants and ecosystems -thus dinosaurs, animals and humans- are depending and thriving on their work. If they are to disappear, well…
    For the people that are interested in reasons regarding the global decrease in pollinator polulation at some places up to 85%, United Nations Environment Programme issued a report/global alarm 10th of march 2011 titled; ‘Bees under bombardment’ that can be found on


  24. Stephen Mikesell says:

    It is not as bad as my previous post 4 years ago. This summer, after more than a decade of doing without the chemlawn of the previous owner, and with organic gardening and letting my suburban yard bio-diversify, so to speak (some might say go to seed), I observed a good number of bumble and other bees this summer. My daughter said I should have been documenting how my yard has been changing and the increasing diversity of plant and animal species, to say nothing of the change of character of soil and so forth.