Back to Africa Check

No evidence Einstein warned of human extinction from disappearance of bees

“According to Albert Einstein, if honey bees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within four years,” declares a meme shared on Facebook in Uganda and Egypt.

The claim also appears in a quote attributed to the famous 20th century scientist, published on quotation webpages. It reads: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left.”

But did Einstein make any prediction about bees and human extinction? We investigated.



‘Probably not Einstein’


The “bees” quote is listed in the “Probably not by Einstein” section of the book The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, a collection of his sayings.

According to the fact-checking site Snopes, the quote first appeared in a pamphlet distributed during a protest by beekeepers in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, in 1994. 

The quote does not appear in database searches of Einstein’s writings and books.

In 2014, ecologist Michael Pocock reportedly told business website Forbes there was no evidence Einstein ever made any statement about bees.

Extinction of bees would not mean end of people


Forbes also reported Pocock as saying that if pollen-spreading insects such as bees died out, it could lead to mass human starvation but it “probably wouldn’t be the end of mankind”. 

Honeybees play an important role in mass flowering crops but some plants would survive their extinction. 

Other plants are wind pollinated and grown via different methods leaving little need for insects. While there might be a decrease in the quality of crops, it would not mean the end of humanity, according to Pocock. 

And there is no evidence that Einstein had anything to say about the subject. – Butchie Seroto




 

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Further Reading

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters