Documentary Review: Vanishing of the Bees

The world over and throughout history, bees have always been held in high regard. They work hard, they work together, they save up…and they help our food to grow.

Bees play such a vital role in our existence. As much as one third of the food we eat is effected by bee pollination. Yet honey bees have been disappearing all over the world. The reason why is a mystery…or is it?

This film follows a couple of conventional beekeepers in the U.S. as they try to discover what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in their beehives. The beekeepers send their bees out on trucks to various parts of the country to pollinate big farms. The long rides on trucks are stressful to bees. They also use miticides and other unnatural treatments on their bees. And at the end of the season, they take all of the honey, leaving the bees to survive on sugar syrup through the winter. They also breed queens artificially, selecting for specific traits, which some criticize for narrowing the gene pool. Could these practices be causing CCD?

The holistic beekeeper, Gunter Hauk seems to think so. He puts his honeybee farm in the heart of Monsanto country, as if to prove that he could raise healthy honeybees using natural methods, and “to heal the heartland.”

Colony Collapse Disorder does seem very mysterious. One day the bees will be there in their hive, and the next day they are gone. Not lying dead in or around their hive, but actually gone. Disappeared.

The story gets particularly interesting when the beekeepers discover that the same thing happened in France about ten years prior. Only they were able to reverse it. Turns out their bees were being killed by pesticides. Not just any old pesticides, though. The latest generation of engineered crops have pesticides build right into the plant. The pesticides stay with the plant throughout its life. These are called systemic pesticides. Since the pesticides never leave the plant, the bees get pollen that is poisonous to them. Sometimes it doesn’t catch up with them until months later, making it extremely difficult to trace and just about impossible to prove.

In France, when there is a suspicion about safety, they will ban or suspend something until it can be proven safe. They banned systemic pesticides, and the bee population bounced back within a year. In the U.S., unfortunately, something has to be proven dangerous, rather than proven safe, so of course systemic pesticides are still in use. Maybe one day the government will get tired of importing bees from other countries to replenish our dwindling supply and wake up to the reality of what is going on.

The holistic beekeeper says he has never had CCD in his hives. He keeps the bees on his own organic farm.

Favorite quote from the movie.
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