Yeah, you heard me: Dr. Seuss killed the bees. No, wait, stay with me here: See, pesticide kills bees, and, says Mother Jones, a lot of the credit for our widespread use of pesticides may go to Mr. Lorax himself.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

Before he was Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel did cartoons for Standard Oil advertising their Flit bug spray. According to organic farming writer Will Allen, Geisel’s whimsical cartoons made people comfortable with the idea of spraying for bugs. Dr. Seuss, writes Allen, “is generally acknowledged to be responsible for greatly popularizing the use of household poisons.”

Dr. Seuss isn’t really the Once-ler here; it’s not like he developed the bug spray himself. But Allen argues that he put a charming, friendly face on pesticide use, one that shifted the general public’s attitude towards chemical pest control — and that eventually paved the way for DDT. In fact, says Allen, The Lorax may have been Seuss’ attempt to make amends.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Of course, it’s not really fair to cast blame on Dr. Seuss for paying the bills by advertising a product that, at the time, was not even known to be harmful. But it is kind of startling to realize that an advertising illustrator could end up being one of the most beloved writers of all time. Could the guy who draws the constantly pooping baby bear in the Charmin commercials be next?