It’s no secret that the world’s Honey bees are in a dire situation. A sudden, mysterious decline in the bee population, known as colony collapse disorder, has thrust these buzzing beauties into the media spotlight.
So when directors George Langworthy and Maryam Henein decided to join forces for a film project, Honey bees seemed to be the most fitting subject. Both directors had heard the news about the disappearing bees and were attracted to the mystery of CCD.
As a result, they released Vanishing of the Bees, a documentary that aims to unveil truths about bees, honey and the modern agricultural landscape that’s ill-suited for keeping them in production.
“If you like to eat, this movie should appeal to you, because we are on the verge of a crisis as the bees continue to disappear,” Henein says. “We are constantly being poisoned. So it’s time to get back to our roots and find out where our food comes from.”
The documentary, narrated by actress Ellen Page, intertwines the environmental and cultural importance of Honey bees to our society. Henein and Langworthy follow the work of both commercial and holistic beekeepers, who have witnessed devastating and mysterious Honey bee losses.
According to the film, the worst case of CCD reported resulted in the death of 40,000 hives and the disappearance of more than 2 billion bees. The true mystery behind CCD is where exactly the bees have vanished to—beekeepers don’t find an adequate number of dead bees to coincide with their losses.
“Bees are an indicator of environmental quality. If the bees are dying, something’s wrong,” says David Mendes, a Florida beekeeper featured in the documentary, who becomes quite emotional over the bees’ plight.
The film speculates a number of CCD causes. It alludes to the idea that systemic pesticides may be to blame, though that idea contradicts recently released research saying CCD may be related to a combination of a virus and a fungus in hives.
“As far as George and I are concerned, [the new research] is kind of sad, because people think there’s a cure now,” Henein says in light of the research she’s done for the film. She says a lot of contention has arisen on the pesticide versus virus debate, but sticks to the notion that pesticides could be hurting both humans and bees.
“These poisons are affecting us, and we don’t know how they are affecting us synergistically,” she says.
In an effort to “cross-pollinate”—that is, spread their message while helping other organizations—Henein and Langworthy launched a community engagement campaign called Bee the Change. Through this campaign, the film is available for screening to raise money for beekeeping associations, gardening clubs, women’s alliances and other nonprofit organizations as well as home-based groups. The film’s website has information on film applications and pricing.
“Tell people about the film,” urges Henein. “Education and awareness is the No. 1 step in affecting change.”
In addition to educating themselves, Henein says people can take other steps to help protect Honey bees, including eating organic produce, shopping at local farmers’ markets and planting pesticide-free gardens.