Vanishing Of The Bees documentary

BeesssssHoney bees are dying in vast numbers and nobody knows exactly why. As honey bees are responsible for pollinating a third of the crop species in the US alone, this phenomena, called Colony Collapse Disorder, is potentially very bad news for everyone. "Vanishing of the Bees" is an independent documentary currently in production about this ecological nightmare and its potential impact. The trailer is beautiful, provocative, and deeply moving. I hope the filmmakers gather the funds to complete the full movie. Link (Thanks, Kelly Sparks!)


  1. The place I go for the straight dope is, well, “Straight Dope” and the truth is that the vanishing bee colonies (specifically of one variety of bee) is hardly a “nightmare”.

    It is instead, it is – for the most part – just a mystery (which may just reoccur historically) which has been hyped by the media (remember Africanized “Killer Bees”)?

    Read more here at STRAIGHT DOPE

  2. Didn’t the bee population start re-stabilizing a few months ago? There was lots of news about die-offs last year; but I can’t find any similar reports for this winter.

  3. Albert Einstein: “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

  4. interesting…lowlights yur linky is broke? not that it stops me or anyone else for that matter, checking it out.

  5. MattyMatt : During the winter the bee colonies hibernate so it’s a lot harder to detect a die off since you don’t want to open up the hives when it’s so cold. We’ll see how many died off in a couple months time when spring shows up.

    Also, from what I remember we did discover the cause. It was an Israeli virus that was given to Australian bees. in 2003 the Europe and American bee import laws were relaxed and the infected Australian bees were brought over here and met with our European (yes, there are European been in America) bees who couldn’t handle the disease.

  6. Mites killed my hives off before this latest horror. BUT, I did see a lot more bees in the garden this last summer, more than in the past.

  7. #4 :

    don’t go throwing that quote around. There’s a good chance Einstein didn’t ever say it.

    #2 :

    It’s not just one kind of bee vanishing. It’s the 3 main kinds of European bees (Italian, German and French). At this point the vast majority of bees in the US and EU are these kinds. There’s very few wild bees left, so this is a BIG DEAL.

    so your site, Straight Dope, looks pretty pathetic to me if that’s the kind of information they’re giving you.

  8. I think scientists are starting to understand this collapse as being the result of bees being imported from Australia. The imported bees have a virus, which is either directly or indirectly responsible for this collapse. The relationship of the collapse to the imported bees appears to be substantiated, though the exact mechanism that leads to the collapse of a hive is still being investigated.

  9. It is worth noting that there is not much natural about the bees or the collapse of these hives. These bees are only here because of beekeepers, who make their living by trucking bees from farm to orchard or wherever. The hives are placed in the area to be pollinated and then after some time moved to the next job. I would imagine those beekeepers who have lost almost everything would take exception with the way this serious problem is being used politically.

  10. Good point, WWEBoing: there’s no immediate calamity and the problem isn’t that humans are destroying their only habitat; the world probably has good odds to outlast humans.

    The problem is that human action is making the Earth less and less suitable for human life. As WWEBoing points out, this doesn’t mean we should feel guilty about being “bad”… we should feel stupid for being shortsighted.

  11. I’m a backyard beekeeper. I lost two of my three hives in March last year. I lost a hive or two the year before that at about the same time of year. I don’t know if it was CCD or just the change in the weather (a short warm spell followed by a cold snap) but many of the other hobby beekeepers in my area (SE Michigan) had similar losses.

    My point: it’s too early to tell if the problem with the bees was just a fluke of the last year. It’s an issue that requires serious study.

    At $60 for a 3 lb. package of bees, I can easily replace my losses; but that price adds up fast for the commercial beekeeper who may start with 1,000 to 80,000 hives and then suffers a 50-80% loss. If they can manage to stay in business that replacement cost is going to start being reflected in the prices we pay at the grocery store.


  12. Acrocker (#8): the “3 main kinds” of European bees are all the same species. The Straight Dope article refers to “one species of bee” which is completely correct. The Italian, German, and French bees are all the same species. They are a different subspecies, but that doesn’t mean they’re a different species.

    So your dismissal based upon that is uncalled for.

  13. I certainly don’t know more about d’bees than anyone else who can read, but Michael Pollan talks about it in this NY Times article (on page 2).

    #9 “It’s largely a myth by the doom-and-gloom, mankind-is-killing-the-planet crowd. The losses are either within normal range, or are associated with beekeeping practices known to be bad. The narrative of “bad mankind” is so attractive to some…”

    Don’t “bad beekeeping practices” fall under the category of “bad mankind”? I agree that, to some extent, environmentalism builds a mythos, and your link is interesting… But that doesn’t mean bad practices shouldn’t be addressed.

  14. “If we were to wipe out insects on this planet, which we are trying hard to do, the rest of life and humanity with it, would mostly disappear from the land and within a few months.” E. O. Wilson

    I haven’t visited “The Straight Dope” site, but I guess they doing what the mainstream media is doing; oversimplifying a complex problem. The issue might not be about honeybees going extinct, it might be about their populations dipping to the point where it has a serious impact on many kinds of agriculture.

    Yes, Apis mellifera are in trouble. Yes, they are an introduced species. No, they aren’t the only pollinators. There are other bees that pollinate, other kinds of insects that pollinate.

    But if you think that honeybees aren’t an issue for humans, think again. Vast monocultures depend on these insects. Civilization depends on vast monocultures. Some crops such as corn are wind pollinated. Some, like blueberries, require buzz pollination, sonication! (I love that word.) Call in those beefy bumblebees.

    Honeybees aren’t sonicators. Unlike most species of bee, they aren’t excavating nests from substrate, that may be why they have largely lost the ability. Other bees and wasps actually move stubborn materials when they are digging by buzzing them loose. Bzzzzzrrrppt! How cool is that?

    But if honeybees go, and we’re all going to be hungry.

    No doubt, transporting hives around stresses the bees. And it also probably speeds the spread of diseases and parasites. Pesticides are obviously a problem and changing habitat is a problem.

    Even for native species, not all the damage done by big agribiz. Look at all the private homes where native plants and even the native soils are removed for “landscaping”, for lawns. Ugh. I hate lawns. Most folks don’t even sit on their lawns. They’re just nasty resource-gobbling little rugs of real estate wall-to-wall, signs of status and the status quo.

    There are lots of other species of bees, native bees. Nothing so spectacularly eusocial as A. mellifera, but some pretty nifty little insects. Many species have been extirpated. But how many species have been lost? No one knows. And just what species of bees are still around? Are there some we could bootstrap to help out with the pollination work so we would still have our delicious apples and almonds? Um gee, we don’t really know. As a culture, we don’t really pay much attention to insects, or any invertebrates, unless they get in our way. So now we have a problem and there will be some scrambling to find a solution. It would help if there were good bee censuses from all over the country. It would help if the pollination folks paid close attention to their taxonomy because there are a lot of bees who ain’t doing any pollinating, parasites that happen to look a heck of a lot like their hosts.

    We need to start paying attention.

    I like my native bees and my honeybees. I want my honeycake and to eat it too!

    I love bees.

  15. #17 : You’re right, of course. If I had looked at Straight Dope I would have seen that they do mention that it is one species of bee, the European Honeybee. I had just assumed that lowlights had cited his source correctly, but he didn’t say “species”, he said “variety”. There’s a big difference.

    So I should not have dismissed the source, nor made the assumption that it was being reported accurately here.

  16. Papyrus? Nooo!

    Seriously though, this is a great idea for a documentary and looks really well done.

    I hope it is funded so it’s finished as well.

  17. Reading up on this makes it seem possible that a virus might be part of the problem. I had previously heard that it might be a fungus.

    Kind of weird to think that the U.S.’ gigantic agribusiness apparatus could be laid low by bees. (I’d say kind of awesome if food prices and starvation weren’t at stake.)

  18. Hello Everyone. Thank you for your interest in our film. I encourage you guys to check out my blog where i set teh record straight on many things. For instance, that Einstein quote is bogus. If anyone warned about the abuse of the bees it was Rudolph Steiner. And as far as IAPV, that is not the cuase of CCD. It was discovered that this virus has been in the country since 2002. The bees pretty much have aids. It is not one thing that is killing them but one things for sure their immune system is trashed. And so there are a handful of things that can put them over the edge.
    Also i personally think that “BiG Ag” is perfectly fine without bees. When i say big ag, i mean the ones who are producing wheat, corn, soy, etc.. Do we want to become a country that is dependant on another for real food? George and I (who have started working with the producers of the 11th Hour. THey are going to help us secure funds) just spent a week at the first-ever National Beekeeping Conference. Come see our blog to learn more. and please email me with any questions or comments. The bees really are wonderul creatures.
    OUt of 50,000 beees in a hive only 200 are drones. The rest are sisters. And they work for the greater good. We have a lot to learn from them. And if they go, we;ll be eating gruel…
    thank you!

  19. I’m happy to hear that the Einstein quote is bogus, because it always rankled that Einstein should be quoted all the time about fricking ecology. Now I know it was just some poseur trying to make a quote sound authoritative without doing the work to find a real quote.

  20. Toby,

    Wilson didn’t say all life, he said most life on land. (Insects don’t have much impact on ocean life. Out in the midocean, over deep water, there are just a couple of species of water striders and that’s it.)

    I provided a link to Wilson’ TED talk from which I pulled the quote. You can see it for yourself.

  21. i watched the documentary twice, it’s so light on scientific proof i’m surprised they even released it. the whole documentary is an exercise in speculation, it speaks for itself.

  22. @ROLLERSKATER, you watched Vanishing Of The Bees already? Twice? That’s amazing, especially since it isn’t close to completed yet.

  23. We interviewed practically all the scientists in the CCD working group and we’re headed to Florida to hang out with two in the field. What science do you need in a seven minute trailer? We established that the ‘scientific’ autopsies showed that they have all the possible diseases possible. They’re dying and we’re out of sync with nature. We need to question what we are doing to our Mother and where are food comes from. And the next time you buy honey, read the labels carefully. Are you eating want-to-be honey from China? Are you eating a mouthful of pesticides?

    Well you watched it twice. that’s a compliment in my book. thanks!

  24. We interviewed practically all the scientists in the CCD working group and we’re headed to Florida to hang out with two in the field. What science do you need in a seven minute trailer? We established that the ‘scientific’ autopsies showed that they have all the possible diseases possible. They’re dying and we’re out of sync with nature. We need to question what we are doing to our Mother and where are food comes from. And the next time you buy honey, read the labels carefully. Are you eating want-to-be honey from China? Are you eating a mouthful of pesticides?

    Well you watched it twice. that’s a compliment in my book. thanks!

  25. Well, it certainly seems to be a valid subject for a documentary. It’s both interesting to all the people who’ve posted here, and, judging by the variance of opinion, it seems like we could all stand to learn a thing or two about the subject. From the information that I read about CCD, it seems like studies are inconclusive about how badly this is affecting the bee population. It seems to be localized to, well, the colonies. So some individual bee-keepers are having huge drops in their population while others aren’t.

    I just hope that the documentary does not sensationalize the topic. There are very few things in the world that we know will destroy the earth. The rest is speculation.

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