Voices for Biodiversity

Vanishing of the Bees

Ouch! To some, the sight of a honeybee evokes a reaction of fear of a painful sting. However, the honeybee (Apis sp.) also provides us with food, and not only in the form of honey. One-third of the foods most humans eat are dependent on bees for pollination. Bee colonies also serve as an example of how a social group can function fluidly with hard work, unity and cooperation. Unfortunately, our current agricultural system, the very practice the honeybee supports, may be causing massive declines in bee populations, a problem called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Compelled by the sheer magnitude of the crisis plaguing bees, filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein investigate the mystery of honeybee demise in their film Vanishing of the Bees.The film sheds light on industrial monoculture, pesticides and their detrimental effects on bees and other pollinators. Occurrences of honeybees abandoning their hives were first recorded in Europe during the mid-1990s and then in the United States in 2006. Without the support of a hive, honeybees die within twenty-four hours. Currently, billions of bees die each year as a result of this syndrome. Military and civilian scientists conducted a study last year and found that a combination of fungus and disease may be the ultimate cause of the bees demise (Johnson 2010), but Langworthy and Henein believe they have identified the deeper root of the problem: It’s our method of growing food, and there is much more to the story.

Scientists in Europe have found evidence that certain systemic pesticides have devastating effects on pollinators, especially honeybees. Such pesticides lead to poor immune function in bees, which in turn leaves bees susceptible to viral and fungal infections. Because systemic pesticides don't immediately kill bees, they are often overlooked as the source of the problem.

While making Vanishing of the Bees, Henein "found an eerie parallel between bees abandoning their hives and humans symbolically abandoning Mother Earth." Truly, acting to save the bees helps save the human species in return. After all, the desire for responsible and healthy food production runs parallel to promoting the conservation of what might be the world's most important insect, the honeybee.

References
Johnson, K. 2010. "Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery." The New York Times. October 6th, 2010. Accessed March 3rd, 2011 at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/science/07bees.html?_r=1

George Langworthy possesses twenty years of experience in film, primarily in music and documentary work, and has a keen interest in environmental documentaries. When he heard about the bee decline in 2007, Colony Collapse Disorder was just beginning in the U.S. Intrigued by the mystery of what causes Colony Collapse Disorder , he signed on to the production of the documentary.

Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist in the field of film and television with more
than ten years of experience. Following a near-death experience, Maryam began working on films relating to health and the environment, including a documentary about the Exxon Valdez oil spill. After realizing the magnitude of the Colony Collapse Disorder crisis, she became highly motivated to work on Vanishing of the Bees. She believes bees can be viewed as a sister society and should be valued as such.

Video is copyright protected and is used by permission by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein. Video may not be reproduced without permission. Visit the website http://www.vanishingbees.com to find a screening near you or to order your own DVD. Photo of the authors are used with the permission of George Langworthy and Maryam Henien. Photo of the bee is used with permission of Kathryn Pardo and Jonmikel Pardo.

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