Bee Links

Chicago's O'Hare Airport had some unused land and since airports are all about flying, made this a new home for one and a half million bees. Sweet Beginnings, the organization that trains felons in the art of beekeeping and bee products, is managing the project through a local economic development agency. The airport beekeeping movement began in Germany, in 1999, when scientists used bees to monitor air quality. O'Hare, however, is the first American airport apiary. Cocktail party fact: O'Hare was once an apple orchard, which lives on in its three-letter airport code, "ORD."

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Four Not-To-Be-Missed Marvelous Bee Movies (and one Bee Viddy):

1. Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?

This is the most recent effort from Taggart Siegel, the filmmaker who gave us the wonderful and one-of-a-kind, The Real Dirt on Farmer John. Full of gorgeous photography, eccentric beekeepers, and rational scientists, this film is mostly about Colony Collapse Disorder. Regarding CCD, most people are unaware that:
  • Artificially bred bees are malnourished on a diet of high-fructose corn-syrup.
  • Many are confined in plastic hives and transported thousands of miles (as they are bombarded by exhaust fumes) only to be forced to work in crops soaked in pesticides.
  • Because of these conditions, exhausted and weakened pollinators become easy prey for mites, climate change, environmental radiation, viruses, air and water pollution, and the challenging effects of genetically modified crops.
  • In order for urban beekeepers to thrive, certain antiquated laws need to be changed.
Don't get the idea this is a downer, boo-hoo, what can we do? kind of a movie. It's not. Even the movie website is fascinating and educational without being boring. Click on the title above, go to the movie website link, and scroll down to read their Ten Amazing Bee Facts. If that doesn't give you scintillating cocktail party conversation, you need to stay home (and watch a good bee movie).

2. Vanishing of the Bees

This documentary really gets into the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder, explaining what caused colony collapse disorder, how the cause was identified, and what people can do to prevent its spread. The approach is quite scientific and includes an interview with Michael Pollan, among others.

In France, you learn that the government uses the "precautionary principle" regarding the use of pesticides: a pesticide must be proven not to have harmful side effects. In the United States, most of the studies are conducted by the manufacturers of the very same pesticides that are causing the problems.

Even so, the filmmakers are conservative when it comes to drawing firm scientific conclusions and placing blame even though neonicotinoids, pesticides made by Bayer, obviously negatively affect bees. All you have to do is watch a bee on a pesticide-treated sunflower: she loses her orientation, can't work, and falls to the ground. That alone is worth the extra effort to go find this movie.

3. Colony: No Bees. No Honey. No Work. No Money.

This might just be my favorite bee movie, ever, thanks to the Seppi brothers. These are the boys who decide to start up a bee pollinating business at the exact wrong time - at the beginning of Colony Collapse Disorder - and are the thread running through this movie that holds it together. They live in a deeply religious family with a mother who understands nothing about agricultural economics or even basics about farming business. With these two strikes against them, you can't help but get attached and watch with the hope they can persevere.

As with the first two documentaries, you get a healthy dose of David Hackenberg and David Mendes, two professional pollinators who pack thousands of their hives onto trailers and travel across the country, renting out their bees to farmers for weeks at a time. They're both quirky, honest, fascinating, and seemingly just trying to make a living at something incredibly difficult. Mr. Hackenberg is known for first identifying Colony Collapse Disorder when he mysteriously lost 80 million bees from his Florida hives. Mr. Mendes is shown selflessly trying to save his, as well as the rest of the world's, collapsing hives. They are a couple of interesting characters in a movie full of interesting characters, but the characters who stick with you for days later while you wonder and worry are the Seppi brothers, Lance and Victor. I still worry and hope the best for them, even now.

4. Nova: Bees: Tales From The Hive

This is an older documentary and, as you'll find if you click on the title, available through Amazon (and Netflix), rather than on TV or at a screen somewhere, so Colony Collapse Disorder isn't discussed. Instead you'll find the most unbelievable close-up footage of bees in flight, foraging, fighting, mating, and dancing.

If you ever wanted to be a bee, this is your movie. It's the closest you'll ever get to carrying pollen on your legs.

5. TED Talks: Dennis vanEngelsdorp: a plea for bees

One more little video, back to the subject of Colony Collapse Disorder. This is a TED talk from 2008 given by the Acting State Apiarist for Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture. Mr. VanEngelsdorp describes the role that bees (and beekeepers) play in our lives, their importance, and their future given this massive and frightening bee colony death called Colony Collapse Disorder. It's less than twenty minutes long and, like all TED talks, worth every second of your time. Every third bite you take is thanks to a bee, and if there's a better cocktail party conversation starter than that, you're going to better parties than me.