Feel­ing the sting

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Jonathan Richards For The New Mex­i­can

IQueen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? doc­u­men­tary, not rated, CCA Cine­math­eque, 3.5 chiles What scares you? Ter­ror­ists? Global warm­ing? The debt ceil­ing? Bed­bugs? Don­ald Trump? That mys­te­ri­ous sound com­ing from the base­ment?

Well, make a lit­tle room for bees. And not bee stings, al­though the venom in the lit­tle crit­ters’ stinger is sim­i­lar to the stuff rat­tlesnakes use. But it would take hun­dreds of bee stings to do the same amount of dam­age.

What is se­ri­ously fright­en­ing is the ab­sence of bees. Honey­bees are dis­ap­pear­ing world­wide at an alarm­ing rate. And when you’ve had a look at Taggart Siegel’s doc­u­men­tary Queen of the Sun, you’ll have a pretty good idea of just how scary that is. This prob­lem has been around for a while now. In­ter­est in what is known as colony col­lapse dis­or­der was high about four or five years ago, but the world pro­vides plenty of other ter­rors, and the bee cri­sis lost its sting for a while. Siegel’s movie could move it back to the front burner.

Con­sider this: ac­cord­ing to the movie (and other sources), honey­bees have pol­li­nated some­thing like four out of ev­ery 10 bites of the food that we con­sume. A per­ti­nent quote that is pop­u­larly as­cribed to Al­bert Ein­stein has it that, “If the bee dis­ap­peared off the sur­face of the world, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pol­li­na­tion, no more plants, no more an­i­mals, no more man.” Queen of the Sun doesn’t use that quote, no doubt for the very good rea­son that Ein­stein may not have said it. Or at least if he did, he didn’t write it down.

But that doesn’t make the prob­lem any less real. And bees are dis­ap­pear­ing in mas­sive num­bers. The phe­nom­e­non of colony col­lapse dis­or­der is cause for se­ri­ous concern. Siegel of­fers a statis­tic that we’ve lost more than five mil­lion bee colonies (con­tain­ing 50,000 to 60,000 bees each) in this coun­try alone, and the epi­demic has now spread to Europe as well. (In Aus­tralia and New Zealand, ac­cord­ing to beekeepers in­ter­viewed in the movie, the phe­nom­e­non is still just a trou­bling bit of hearsay that has not yet reached their shores.)

Buzzed: bee­keeper Gun­ther Friedmann

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