Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Save the Bees

This isn’t really related to writing except in a roundabout way. You see, this is a movie review, but the movie is a documentary, not a work of fiction. Now, I have taken it at face value and assumed (possibly unfairly) that it is mostly factual and not a piece of propaganda, like, say “An Inconvenient Truth”. I am VERY open to being persuaded otherwise. In fact, I would welcome it. If you have any evidence to cite that can argue against the theories put forth in this documentary, PLEASE share it!

First, the movie trailer:

Frankly, this movie haunts me. I first saw it a couple of months ago, before Netflix bumped up their prices and I still had the DVD plan. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I just watched it again, on Netflix streaming, because I wanted all the facts fresh in my mind when I wrote this review.

Fact: Our honeybees are dying. In HUGE numbers. I can attest to this in my home town. The shrub that provides a privacy screen between my mobile home and the home next to me (extremely close) blooms every spring. It smells very fragrant when it blooms; there is no mistaking it. In the past, it also attracted bees by the hundreds. You could not go out on a nice day and not find bees all over that thing when it was in bloom.

And on the other side of my house, in a neighbor’s yard, is a bottle brush plant (a.k.a. Callistemon). Its flowers look like those brushes they use to clean baby bottles. The “bristles” are red and the plant is messy, but man-o-man, the bees and the hummingbirds LOVE that plant. It used to be so full of bees all the time that it literally buzzed. It blooms year-round. This last spring and summer I noticed that the plants were still in bloom, and the hummingbirds still visited the bottle brush, but the bees were/are almost completely absent. Yes, I see a bee or two every now and then. They’re not extinct. But there is something very wrong.

We heard some alarming news about this a few years back. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder. I thought they’d figured out what was causing it, or at least that it was a disease that had run its course and ceased being a problem. Why did I assume this? Because I haven’t heard anything lately in the news. But that assumption is dead wrong.

According to Vanishing of the Bees, some of our beekeepers know what’s wrong, finally. This happened in Europe a decade ago. There, the laws are set up to err on the side of precaution and safety. The beekeepers lobbied to ban certain systemic pesticides that they suspected were the problem and within a year, the bees bounced back. But in the United States, our Environmental “Protection” Agency doesn’t use the same precautionary method with its emphasis on public safety. Instead, the EPA operates under “risk assessment” principles and the only research ever done is done by the very companies who stand to profit from the pesticide being licensed. Here, the beekeepers have to prove that a pesticide is killing bees before it will be banned, and it’s not easy to prove because the pesticides in question don’t kill quickly. It’s a cummulative effect brought on by the fact that these chemicals are designed to last a long time in the soil and in the plant tissues.

There are other problems in the bee industry contributing to the overall health of bees. Foreign countries have been allowed to sell “funny honey” (diluted with sugar water or HFCS) in the U.S. without full disclosure to the public. (Doesn’t it bother you that the FDA doesn’t require something labeled “Pure Honey” to actually BE pure?) Being unable to compete with cheap, diluted honey is what drove our beekeepers to some of the practices that are contributing to the stress on bees. (The beekeepers can’t make a living on honey, so they have to rely on pollination contracts. That mean lots of transportation stress and exposing bees to these pesticides in neighboring fields, even if they are pollinating an organic crop.)

I could go on and on, but I think the movie did it better than I could. If you like to eat fruits, vegetables, or nuts, then you need to care about our bees. I have never been a big proponent of organic food before now. But I think this movie presents the best case for going organic that I have ever seen. We need to fix our EPA and the FDA, but we also need to vote with our forks.

You can rent or buy the DVD. You can watch it on Netflix streaming here. Or if you don’t want to pay a whole month subscription, you can pay for a one-time streaming (currently $3.99) at

I will close with a quote from the movie I think is sad but very true:
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”
Cree Indian Proverb

We need to care. Before it’s too late.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I didn't even know this was a problem. But I live in a neighborhood where I've never seen bees. I will say this--about nine years ago, in my area of FL, they sprayed malathion to kill mosquitoes for a while. I don't think the mosquitoes dropped in population, but butterflies and other insects did. It really made me angry! Did these IDIOTS think mass spraying would actually target ONE insect species???

    Fortunately, the spraying was short-lived, and now those insects have had a chance to regenerate their populations. But I buy organic as much as possible because I can't stand the use of chemical pesticide.

    Thanks for sharing. And sadly, I agree that proverb is all too true :(.