Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Eileen E. Schell


agricultural rhetoric, composition, environmental communication, environmental rhetoric, genre, narrative

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


This dissertation analyzes the rhetoric surrounding the environmental crisis of the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder, commonly known as CCD. Since 2007, the United States has lost on average a third of its honey bee colonies each year to CCD. The crisis has potentially serious environmental consequences. Without honey bee pollination services, over $14 billion worth of crops in the United States alone are in jeopardy. Drawing on environmental rhetoric, genre theory, and agricultural rhetorics, I offer a rhetorical analysis and genre analysis of the narratives surrounding CCD from select popular press newspaper articles, documentaries, nonfiction works, and personal interviews with beekeepers that cover the span of the early years of the U.S. crisis from 2007 to 2011.

I argue that specific narratives of CCD offered by stakeholders such as scientists, reporters, beekeepers, policymakers, and environmentalists both constrained and invited deliberation about the synergistic causes of the crisis. One narrative I examine in detail in Chapter Two is the nesting genre of the “crime mystery” of CCD in news stories that often reduced consideration of the causes of CCD to a warring search for a pathogenic solution. This focus on a “smoking gun” for CCD focused the public’s attention on scientists seeking a single solution instead of considering multi-factoral causes. The genre also reduced consideration of the multiple roles stakeholders played in the crisis. In contrast, beekeepers’ protests, insights and perspectives (Chapters Three and Four) and the trope “listening to bees” popular in nonfiction media (Chapter Five) expanded consideration of systemic economic and cultural causes for the crisis, and allowed bees and beekeepers to emerge as informative agents. This project considers, too, how American beekeepers have approached CCD in largely individualistic terms in contrast to French beekeepers who have collectively organized in large groups to protest their sense that CCD was caused by the sale of a pesticide by the Bayer Corporation.

I apply rhetorical and genre analysis to representations of CCD in popular media and beekeepers’ discourse. I cite stakeholders such as scientists, researchers, journalists, beekeepers, and protestors. This dissertation contributes to scholarship in environmental rhetoric and environmental communication that analyzes the narratives and causes of environmental crises. This project evaluates the solutions and challenges that varied stakeholders have posed, specifically through analyzing the shaping and impact of their narratives. Ultimately, the concluding chapter argues for the trope of “listening to bees,” the idea that bees are a critical indicator species whose behavior informs how we should approach and potentially solve this crisis.


Open Access