Plight of Bees Affects Food Supply

Alexandra Duncan, Features Editor

Bees are hardly ever thought of as anything other than an annoying buzzing in one’s ear However, these little striped insects are, in fact, humanity’s salvation.

The 2009 documentary, “Vanishing of the Bees,” gave viewers a terrifying glimpse at the dark reality the world will face without its crucial, symbiotic relationship with bees.

The film was screened at Kreider Hall Thursday as part of the campus’ celebration of Earth Day.

As narrated by Ellen Page, the film takes a look at the beekeeping industry across the country through the eyes of beekeepers and the struggles of a dying trade. The mass deaths of bees and disappearances are known as a strange phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.

Beekeeping has become an industry in which bees are farmed like common pigs and cows.

They are transported across the country to pollinate crops according to the seasons, but this method has proven to be fatal to bees. Their constant movement from state to state via freight trucks has caused many more deaths than necessary.

Many people do not realize how totally reliant the food industry is on honeybees. It’s not just about honey. These bees pollinate one in three bites of every meal Americans consume daily.

Unnatural farming practices such as monoculture, the mass growth of a single crop, and pesticides such as systemics, which coat the entire plant including its pollen with harmful toxins, have become what farmers think is the main cause of the mass bee deaths and vanishings.

“We are not killing people with pesticides per se. We don’t see the dead bodies by the hives with the bees. We’re causing enough deterioration of systems in the body, causing autism in humans or learning disabilities and mechanisms in bees to erode to the extent where they can’t function properly,” said Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food.”

Directors George Langworthy and Maryam Heinen do an excellent job of convincing viewers that CCD is an urgent matter that must be given immediate attention.

Unlike most environmental documentaries, which doom human beings to a horrible future without possible resurrection, “Vanishing of the Bees” reveals positives that come from CCD and possible solutions.

The film encourages viewers to support local farmer’s markets, buy non-GMO produce locally and even house a beehive within the comforts of one’s backyard.

However, the cheesy animation within transitions of each chapter of the film and unnecessary quotes, some totally unrelated to the film, bring to mind a low budget television show meant for younger audiences.

The film also takes an insightful look at the government’s lack of concern for the state of America’s honeybees and its utter capitalist attitude toward our food industry.

“Colony Collapse is one the signs that our system is unsustainable,” said David Hackenberg a farmer who lost more than half of his beehives to CCD.

In contrast, members of America’s beekeeper community traveled to France, where this mysterious phenomenon also took place, but the government stepped in and banned systemic pesticides.

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live,” said Maurice Maeterlinck, author of “The Life of the Bee.”