Queen of the Sun is now available at Netflix and at the film’s website.
A world without bees?
Bees pollinate 40% of our food, says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. “That’s four out of every 10 bites you consume.” “If we didn’t have bees to pollinate our crops, we’d have to eat just bread and oatmeal all the time, and a couple of nuts,” according to Kirk Webster, an organic beekeeper and queen breeder.
Industrial agriculture, with its use of monoculture farming, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, threaten the very insects that make food possible, says Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved.
Habitat loss has taken a toll. The mechanization of beekeeping to make it profitable has sapped the honeybee’s vitality and health, experts say.
Monocultures may be efficient but they are not sustainable, Pollan explains. Allowing natural ecosystems to thrive around farmland is Nature’s pest deterrent.
World headlines warn of colony collapse disorder. “Vanishing bees threaten U.S. crops,” the BBC News reported. “Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons,” wrote The New York Times. America had lost 5 million bee colonies at the time of filming.
“The problem is an inner one,” says Gunther Hauk, a biodynamic beekeeper and owner of Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary, now in Floyd, Virginia. “Crisis will give us the possibility to learn something if we are willing. If the heart opens up enough to tell the mind something.”
“There is a reverence to bees,” says Ian Davies, a rooftop beekeeper in London. He believes we should revere bees “because they’re actually keeping us alive.”
Willing to change
Hauk and other beekeepers address the heart of the matter. Monoculture farming and widespread pesticide use contribute to the problem. Can we find the willingness to change? “Nature is much wiser than we are,” says Hauk.
It’s the people who are leading. Rooftop and backyard beekeeping are on the rise. Beekeeping was legalized in New York City in 2010, to the relief of many urban beekeepers.
Working against Nature
Extreme practices by agribusiness are revealed. California almond trees are grown on 600,000 acres in the state’s central valley. A monoculture crop, it lacks natural ecosystems where bees can live and feed.
Each year, three-quarters of all bees in America are trucked to California, says Pollan. Bees from other countries are shipped too. The bees are fed high fructose corn syrup laced with antibiotics, then released to pollinate the almond trees. Chemicals used on bees end up in honey and in humans, Pollan warns.
Millions of bees die in holding yards before pollination. More contract viruses before they are returned. Eric Olson, a migratory beekeeper, admits that the system is good for profits, but not for bees.
Who are the bees?
Bees are 150 million years old, says Yvon Achard, a 70-year-old bee historian in Grenoble, France. The honeybee was considered sacred in ancient cultures, a guardian of life and fertility. Beautiful footage of bees and beekeeping around the world is featured. Animation helps lighten the dire situation.
“To be a beekeeper is a kind of art,” says Achard. Like a yogi, “you have to be quiet. You have to explore your soul.” Achard’s bees seem to know him. Gently, he brushes them with his long mustache. “They like! They like!” he whispers. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Queen of the Sun, you might enjoy: Anima Mundi; Dirt! The Movie.
Queen of the Sun / 2010 / NR / 1 hour, 23 min
Cast Overview: Gunther Hauk, Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Kirk Webster, Carlo Petrini, Yvon Achard, Ian Davies, Eric Olson, Raj Patel, Michael Thiele, Johannes Wirz, May Berenbaum, Scott Black, Philip Schilds, Hugh Wilson
Directors: Taggart Siegel
Genres: Documentary, Nature