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Originally published December 13 2011

NaturalNews suggestion for your Netflix queue: The Vanishing of the Bees

by Tara Green

(NaturalNews) "Vanishing of the Bees" provides a fascinating perspective on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The film looks at the mysterious affliction which has destroyed honeybee populations at many bee farms in the US, leaving hives deserted, yet with few bee bodies remaining to help unravel the riddle.

Bee Informed

This 2009 documentary is an excellent introduction to this environmental problem which also provides some information that may be new even to those who have read about the issue. If you are not sure why you should care about that a few buzzing insects are disappearing, the film does an excellent job of explaining the importance of this issue. As one of the beekeepers interviewed in the film points out "bees are an indicator of environmental quality. When the bees are dying, something's wrong that's going to affect all of us."

The film, narrated by actress Ellen Page, provides a wealth of information on web of influences, including consequences of monoculture farming, EPA policies and commercial beekeeping practices. This documentary incorporates brief animated segments, interviews with a broad spectrum of people including author Michael Pollan (Food Fight); scientists; both commercial and holistic beekeepers; and environmental activists; film clips of European beekeepers staging protests while wearing full bee-tending costume and archival footage of WWI chemical warfare.

Global and Historical Bees

Anyone with an interest in environmental issues, organic foods and the politics which affect our food system will find this film interesting. The movie offers a few intriguing historical and cultural facts about bees and beekeeping -- such as how the ancient Egyptians managed beekeeping, wild honey collection in Malaysian rainforests and how bees are connected both to the concept of goddess worship and to Napoleon.

The film also provides important information rarely mentioned in US media articles about CCD -- the fact that a similar disease occurred in France, where it was dubbed Mad Bee Disease. The film discusses how the French choose a different means of handling the problem than has been taken in the US. Early evidence indicates the French approach has been at least partially successful and the bees are bouncing back there.

Filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein manage to cover a great deal of ground in this short (89 minutes) and enjoyable documentary. They not only provide a more global perspective on the problem than many issue-oriented films, but also go beyond defining the issue to offer at least some notions for how to solve this concern. While the film may not cover the science of the issue well enough to satisfy experts, it does an excellent job at the balancing act all documentaries must perform -- educating viewers on a topic without becoming boring.

Further Information

The documentary is currently available on Netflix for instant viewing. If you do not have a Netflix membership, you can visit the film's website ( to watch it on a pay-per-view basis. The website also provides information on hosting a screening of the film for a group, as well as classroom educational resources and suggestions for actions you can take.

As the film points out, one of the silver linings of the publicity about the vanishing bees has been a growth of interest in small beekeeping, including changing laws in many major cities which make urban beekeeping legal. The "Vanishing of the Bees" website also includes links for people who want to help bring bees back by starting a backyard hive or two.

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