other pollinators

Chocolate pollination: not the job of bees

Like mushrooms on the forest floor, new pollinator charities pop up every week. About a month ago, one of these nascent groups asked if I would endorse them and link to their website. This is a common request, so I know what to look for.

Within 30 seconds of landing on their home page—of which they are “extremely proud”—I read that chocolate is pollinated by bees. I didn’t need to look further to know that their so-called information is nothing more than re-hashed misstatements from the net.

We like to think the bees did it

I was friendly this time. I actually wrote back and told them how chocolate is pollinated and where they could read more about it. Of course, they never responded. Today, out of curiosity, I decided to check back. Sure enough, chocolate is still pollinated by bees. Really? They want you to give money, but they can’t be bothered to get their facts straight?

Frequently, pollination statements are dead wrong. I think it works like this: Someone says a certain crop depends on pollinators. The next person states it differently, saying the crop is pollinated by insects. The next person takes “insects” to mean bees, and the next assumes “bees” means honey bees. Pretty soon, honey bees are doing all the work and no one else is doing anything.

Now, chocolate is one of my favorite foods and honey bees are one of my favorite creatures, but that doesn’t mean they have anything to do with each other. No matter how romantic the notion, it just ain’t so.

The chocolate midge does the work

In truth, the chocolate plant, Theobroma cacao, is pollinated by a small fly called a midge. According to the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, this little fly—only one millimeter long—is the only pollinator that can negotiate its way into the complex chocolate flower. The fly is in the same family as the no-see-um and has virtually nothing in common with a bee.

Of course, it’s probably a lot harder to raise money with a “save the flies” campaign, but that’s no excuse. These people should be denied chocolate for the rest of their natural lives. In short: if a fly does the work, a fly should get the credit—even if no one can see-um.

Honey Bee Suite

Also see: The Chocolate Midge


  • I believe it is the same outfit that contacted me… requested twice by email. I simply responded to last email – not interested. I’d be curious where they’re getting the email addresses… probably from my domain registration or Google search for beekeeping web pages?

  • Good for you! We loose credibility when false statement fly around the internet and publications. It is just like that supposed quote by Einstein. In reality he never said anything about bees being that important!

  • Thank you for the information about chocolate pollination, Rusty. Is there any reference for pollinators and what trees they work on?

    Thank you

    • Information about who pollinates what is scattered and often hard to find. I don’t know of a comprehensive reference.

  • Thank you Rusty for telling us the truth. I like that this little fly goes into a trip inside the chocolate flower. If every flower and every pollinator was the same, life would be boring.

  • If the honey bee ever goes extinct I believe it will be in large part because of outfits like the one who thinks that honey bees pollinate chocolate. The only currency an advocacy organization has is their good name and reputation. Once that is trashed it is a long slow slide into oblivion.

    • A good point. Just in this little group, I didn’t link to them and neither did Brad Raspet. Maybe they are already sliding.

  • You might want to check out the educational kids show “The Magic School Bus” season 3, episode 11: In The Rainforest. It teaches about all the different species interacting in the pollination of Cocoa. It’s on YouTube.

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