This is my entry for “Q” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Other “Q” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Quest: A Portrait of an American Family.
Title: Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?
Release Date: April 2010
Director: Taggart Siegel
Production Company: Evan Schiller
This documentary focuses on colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon when many bees disappear from their hive for no clear reason. This was a major issue in the first decade of the 2000s leading up to when this movie was made, although we don’t hear about it much anymore. I believe there has been some recovery among the bees in recent years, although it’s definitely an issue that should still concern us. As this movie points out, around 40% of the fruit and vegetables we eat can only prosper if fertilized with bees.
The movie interviews people from around the world, including several beekeepers (both professional and amateur), farmers, biologists, and other experts (like science writer Michael Pollan). They talk about their love of the bees, their importance to ecosystems, and theories to why they’re dying out.
One potential cause is the focus on monoculture in farming. In one instance they show the effort that goes into bringing millions of bees to California for the annual blossoming of almond trees. Since the farms are covered with thousands of acres of the same crop, there is nothing for the bees to eat there the rest of the year, so they have to be trucked in from across the United States. I knew about bee hives being transported from farm to farm, but I never knew how massive the effort can be or how stressful it is for the bees.
Another danger is pesticides. Treating crops with pesticides has the effect of disorienting and sickening bees. Hives are also treated with pesticides that kill mites that feed on the bees themselves. This has had the unintended effect of evolving more resistant mites. Organic beekeepers have focused on trying to end the arms race between mites and poisons, and instead allowing bees to evolve defenses against the mites.
The final portion of the movie focuses on people contributing to the bee revival by keeping bees in their yards and rooftops. This includes a group in New York City who successfully work to overturn a local ordinance forbidding beekeeping. One way to get started on a hive is to catch a swarm that have left an overcrowded hive. Swarms are often looked on with fear, and there are many misplaced fears based on mistaking bees for other insects like yellowjackets, so being able to overcome prejudice against honey bees is one of the most important first steps.
This movie is unfortunately rather preachy. Not that they’re wrong in what they say, but I find the repetition of dire pronouncements about the demise of the bees to be less effective than the more educational parts of this movie. Nevertheless, if you know little to nothing about bees, this is a good place to start. And you may even start thinking about keeping bees!