Thursday, June 20, 2013

The World's Most Beautiful Bee Movie: More Than Honey

Last night I got to see the most beautiful bee movie ever made. More Than Honey is a visual feast the likes of which you have probably never seen before. It also packs quite a wallop, in a quiet, understated, nonhysterical way about the plight of bees today - and our shared fate.

You will never look at a bee the same way - or perhaps an almond "orchard" too - the vast plantations of industrial agriculture in California where 80-90 percent of the world's almond crop is raised.

See the trailer here:

While the trailer is fascinating, I found the clip posted by the Toronto International Film Festival even more enticing - bees mating in mid-air. I can only imagine the drone set up for cameras - must have been amazing.

I could tell you more about the plot and protagonists, but I think it's best left unsaid and better off SEEN.

Markus Imhoff, Director

The director, 70-year-old Markus Imhoff, discusses how this amazing footage was shot on the film's web site:

We had our “bee whisperer” traveling with us. Without him a lot of this would not even have been possible.

We had two teams, one for the crew and one twice as big for the bees. To film the honeybees we used high-speed cameras and endoscope lenses, like the ones used for operations on humans. If you film a colony of bees at the normal tempo, all you get is a hive buzzing with nervous activity. With 70 pictures per second, meaning slowed down three times the normal tempo, the bees move about as fast as we humans do, and you can see exactly what they’re doing, their fascinating legs, their huge, hairy eyes, and their tongue.
Sometimes we used mini-helicopters for the flights. All of the bees in flight were filmed with 300 pictures per second. One second of reality amounts to 12 seconds of film, but don’t forget that I had to capture the right second. For the queen bee’s wedding flight, which was 36 seconds, we worked for more than ten days – and we only actually saw it one and a half times. After two years of shooting, we had 205 hours of footage, with which we spent one year in the editing room.

The film appears in theaters soon - or you can arrange a group or community screening. See the film web site for details.

Bees have died in China as a result of the overuse of insecticides
so humans now take bee pollen and pollinate the flowers.
The movie is subtitled when non-American or non-English speaking participants are talking which probably represents about half of the 90 minute screening time.

The stresses on bees are partly due to mites, which are displayed in dazzling detail in the film, as well as insecticides which are only briefly seen in the movie. The EU has put a two year ban on bee toxins in order to see how the bees respond whereas in the US the EPA has refused to ban the bee toxins, which are more widely applied here on corn seed.

Miller, who appears in the film, is one of the commercial
beekeepers whose hives travel to pollinate almond orchards in
Across the state, California farmers used more than 290,000 pounds of imidacloprid, just one of a number of top bee toxins used here. Others include methoxyfenozide, and chlorantraniliprole along with the suspected toxin boscalid.

Commercial beekeepers have sued the EPA for failing to ban bee toxins. To see a map where the use of neonicotinoids is highest in California, check out the Pesticide Research Institute's page here as well as PRI's Bee Resource pages.

See the New York Times review here. You can listen to NPR's coverage here.

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