This month, I focused on the topic of bees and colony collapse disorder by watching three different documentaries. I had heard the most buzz about Vanishing of the Bees (2009), and I found it to be a decent introduction to colony collapse disorder. However, the content was slightly dated (it's 6 years old at this point), and the visual style was inconsistent and a little lackluster. Queen of the Sun (2010) was far more colorful and entertaining; it focused on the small holistic beekeepers, their quirky personalities and their unwavering, almost religious devotion to their bees. More than Honey (2012) was the best of the bunch, in my opinion. The microphotography was exquisite - I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It allows you to see bees at their own level and in incredible mesmerizing detail. This film was the most educational of the three on the anatomy and behavior of bees, introducing some interesting scientific findings along the way. Narrated by John Hurt (on behalf of Swiss director Markus Imhoof), the film meanders through different continents, gently exploring the heart of the hive and attempting to uncover what ails the bees. It’s strangely unnerving yet beautiful, tinged with a melancholy that is impossible to ignore.
Each have their merits, and I’m glad I watched them all as I feel I now have a well-rounded view of the issue. If I were hard-pressed to recommend only one, I would suggest More Than Honey.
Interested in learning more/the latest on colony collapse? Check out these recent articles on the issue:
4/29/15 — “Bees Love Nicotine, Even Though It's Killing Them”. (Mother Jones). Far from avoiding neonic pesticides, foraging honeybees and bumblebees tend to prefer food laced with it—even though it causes them harm."Neonicotinoids target the same mechanisms in the bee brain that are affected by nicotine in the human brain." In other words, while neonics don't register as toxins, the do give bees the same buzz (so to speak) that people get from a cigarette.
4/28/15 — “How Seed and Pesticide Companies Push Farmers to Use Bee-Killing Insecticides” (Civil Eats). A near-monopoly in the seed industry leaves farmers with few other choices than seeds coated with neonicotinoids. A recent article in Progressive Farmer revealed that despite big doubts expressed by many scientists about the need for harmful pesticide seed coatings, farmers are being pushed hard by seed companies to continue using them. Most major companies do not even offer uncoated corn seed.
4/9/15 —“Lowe’s to eliminate ‘bee-killing pesticides’ over next four years” (The Charlotte Observer). Following letters and petitions from environmental groups, Lowe’s Home Improvement said Thursday it plans to phase out products that contain neonicotinoid pesticides.
4/8/15 —“Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Deaths Pose More Risks, European Group Says” (New York Times) A study finds that neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides implicated in honeybee deaths and colony collapse syndrome, may be more damaging to ecosystems than originally thought.
4/1/15 — “Portland bans use of insecticides believed to be harmful to bees on city property” (The Oregonian). Portland’s City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance on Wednesday, making a ban on neonicotinoid* insecticides effective immediately. Portland's ban follows similar actions in Spokane, Seattle (yeah!) and Eugene.*Neonicotinoids are absorbed by a plant so that the neurotoxic poison spreads throughout its tissues, including the sap, nectar and pollen. Far more deadly to insects than to mammals, they do not discriminate between harmful pests and beneficial pollinators like bees.