A dramatic decline in bees and other pollinating insects poses a threat to global food supplies but is barely covered in mainstream news. This is the result of a study by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign published this week in a special edition of Procedure of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was based on a search of nearly 25 million news items from six popular US and global news sources, including the New York Times, Washington Post and The Associated Press. The study found "vanishingly little attention to pollinator population issues" over several decades, even compared to what many would consider limited coverage of climate change.
The study, titled "No Buzz for Bees," was led by Scott Althaus, director of the U. of I. Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, and May Berenbaum, a leading pollinator collection expert, head of Illinois entomology, and one by three editors of the PNAS Special edition.
The research used the Cline Center's Global News Index, a unique database of millions of news items from thousands of global news sources published over decades.
"Such a study has never been carried out before, and certainly not on this scale," said Althaus, also an expert on reporting and its effects. "There is simply no academic research on the evolution of reporting on pollinator decline, despite the importance of this topic in the scientific community."
The study also analyzed decades of coverage in three English-language wire services abroad: Agence France Presse in France; German Press Agency in Germany; and Xinhua General News Service in China. Berenbaum, often referred to as an "ambassador for insects", initiated the project out of a desire to measure public awareness of the problem of pollinator decline. She said she was surprised with the results.
"As much as the entomological community is affected by this impending crisis, the public doesn't seem to be paying much attention," she said. "It's not that people are indifferent, it's just that they don't even know about it." And they need to know, she said, because "it's a serious problem for everyone. Insects provide essential ecosystem services that humans do not know and take for granted, and for which we have no substitute."
The Cline Center researchers, including study co-authors Jenna Jordan and Dan Shalmon, found that the minimal coverage of the decline in pollinators that appeared in the six news outlets, the New York Times and Washington Post, and Then what was most often concentrated was relegated to science or other subject areas. Pollinator news rarely appeared on the front page, Althaus said. "It doesn't make it into the mainstream of public affairs reporting. When we look at the coverage of wired services in the US, we see little coverage of the issue."
This was also true of the three English-language foreign wire services they looked at, Althaus said. "It is really difficult for us to know if there are any specialized publications in these countries dealing with the issue. But what we can see for the widespread coverage of wired services is just not on the radar of important news. " Organizations in these other parts of the world. "
With the vast majority of pollinator decline studies being conducted in Europe and North America, Berenbaum said, "We don't even know how serious the problem is. Most of the insect biodiversity, including pollinator diversity, is in the tropics."
Regarding the factors contributing to the decline in pollinators and the decline in insects in general, Berenbaum referred to the introductory article for the special edition of PNAS, "Insect Decay in the Anthropocene: Death by a Thousand Cuts", of which she is also a co-author. There is "no nice, clean story with an evil one and an easy solution," she said, but almost all causes relate to human activities, from climate change to pollution to agriculture.
On an individual level, Berenbaum said, "We can make a difference in the choices we make about what flowers we plant in our gardens, what weeds we tolerate in our yards, and how we deal with insect pests. One backyard beetle zapper , z For example, tens of thousands of harmless insects can be killed in one summer, including many pollinators, while hardly a foxglove full of mosquitoes is killed. "