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Queen of the Sun

Where Have the Bees Gone?

Mar. 24, 2011
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The media has occasionally reported that bees are disappearing. According to the documentary Queen of the Sun, the empty hive syndrome is no mere rumor but a quiet catastrophe in the making. Bees don't just make honey. They pollinate our world, making farming as well as gardening possible.

For the beekeepers and food experts interviewed by director Taggart Siegel, the vanishing bees are less a mystery than a symptom of a sick environment and, perhaps, an omen of things to come. Pesticides, especially a new generation of chemicals that attack the nervous system of insects, are thinning the swarms. The unthinking monoculture of agribusiness is another killer by not providing a sufficiently diverse landscape for bees to thrive. And finally, mechanized beekeeping feeding the winged creatures antibiotics and confining them to unnatural settings are stripping the bees of vitality.

Queen of the Sun
isn't all bad news. The photography of organic beekeepers working with the diligent creatures is amazing. Like friendly cats, the bees seem to sense benevolence in people and rest peacefully against their hands. Accidents will happen, of course; a bee's venom is like a rattlesnake's but unless a person is allergic, she can sustain many stings with little harm. Finally, a growing movement of backyard and rooftop beekeepers is reclaiming the business of bees from corporations and producing better, healthier honey.

The big lesson for many of us is that bees aren't just another spotted owl, an endangered species in a remote habitat, but are central to our lives whether or not we enjoy honey on our toast. As Michael Pollen reminds us, bees have touched four out of every 10 things we eat.

March 28-31, Times Cinema.


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