“Vanishing of the Bees” (film review)

I think about bees a lot. Even before I watched the bee documentary last night. I think about them a lot. The picture above is of a swarm of bees that decided to try to make a hive on the exit sign on my back deck. It was not a great place, so I did what any other person who is preoccupied with the well being of bees would do – I called a beekeeper. I located one that lived in town and he came and got the bees. He explained to me (and anyone else who would listen) that the honey bees wouldn’t sting because they were all singularly focused on constructing a hive. I got pretty close to them, but the closer I got, the  more they buzzed past my ear and I didn’t like that too much. I think we’re all programmed to believe that anything that buzzes by your ear is out for blood, but that’s not always the case.

Honeybees are gentle and vital to our ecosystem. I’m a big tree hugger and I love all bugs except flies. (I draw the line at those nasty things.) I have a particular affinity to lady bugs and I have a deep respect for honey bees, even more so now that I watched “Vanishing of the Bees.” This beautiful documentary explains the workings of a bee hive and it delves into the problem of disappearing bees. The problem, know as Colony Collapse Disorder, is when worker bees inexplicably leave their hives in droves. No one knows where they go and there aren’t any dead bee bodies left behind. This leads me to believe that they don’t necessarily die, they just leave their hives, but I could be wrong. I read an article today that says that parasitic “zombie” flies may be to blame for the disorder. (This would not surprise me because flies are disgusting and fully capable of something hateful.) Even so, something about the new discovery doesn’t seem right. I am no scientist, but the documentary I watched said nothing about finding larvae in the bees they collected and studied from various hives throughout the country.

The documentary did reveal that the bees were suffering effects from systemic pesticides found in seeds commonly used in factory farming. Systemic pesticides coat the seeds of the crop that are then planted in the ground. They are designed to grow and get in the soil and prevent bugs from eating the plants from the seedlings on. The poor honey bees go out and do their pollination thing and they get all confused and disoriented because the plant they’re fertilizing is juiced up with pesticides. It’s the saddest sight to see a poor honey bee struggling to do its job when it’s feeling the effects of the juiced up plant. I get pest control, but I don’t get trying to kill the honey bees that are responsible for pollinating the crops. It seems, well, counter productive.

“Vanishing of the Bees” came out in 2009 and I am not sure if the honeybee shortage has gotten any better. What I do know is that I want to be a beekeeper. I want hives. If I thought my neighbors wouldn’t flip out, I’d put one on the back deck. Judging by their reaction to the swarm of bees last summer, I am fully confident they’d take to my hive with a lighter and can of bug spray the second I turned my back. They wouldn’t do it maliciously. They’d do it because they are programmed to think innocent honey bees are going to sting them for no reason. I’m not saying honey bees don’t sting because some of them do, but they only do so when they feel threatened. And then, poor dears, they die. A honeybee has to be so scared that it’s willing to give its life to sting you. I think that’s pretty profound.

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