MORE THAN HONEY (2013) – Documentary Review

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more than honey posterMore Than Honey is a phenomenally well-researched and thorough study of bees and their complex influence on human civilization, and an in depth investigation of the honeybee colony collapse disorder, a current crisis that some experts say threatens the extinction of honeybees, which would have a potentially devastating impact on human civilization. Without honeybees and their effective cross pollination of plants, there would be no crops, no harvest, nothing for humans or other species to eat.

Of the several recently produced and released documentaries covering the vitally important issue of colony collapse disorder, More Than Honey is the most comprehensive and compelling in conveying the story of the domesticated honeybees that are mysteriously disappearing — or dying — by the hundreds of thousands each year.

Filmmaker Markus Imhoof has done a brilliant job of showing and telling all sides of the story — including what would be the honeybees version of it, if honeybees could speak.

The Not-So-Secret Lives of Honeybees

Imhoof uses extraordinary cinematography to take us inside the hives of honeybees, and to show us that bees actually do have a very highly developed social order, and that they communicate with each other quite effectively through complex patterns of movement that share information about, for example, specific flying directions to the flowers that yield the richest nourishment. They are indeed amazing creatures.

The Importance of Honeybees

The film chronicles the man’s relationship to honeybees throughout the history of human civilization, and projects what the world would be like without them. Simply put, the proliferation of colony collapse disorder makes their loss distinct possibility. Imhoof takes us to China, where there are no honeybees present to pollinate crops and farmers are dusting plants with pollen by hand. It’s an arduous process that is much less effective than the natural pollination of plants by honeybees.

In Switzerland, European honeybee breeders try to keep the genetic strain of each hive pure by keeping drones from other colonies from mating with the queen. It’s a challenging pursuit without guaranteed results.

In the U.S., honeybee herders who use semis to haul hives across the country, renting them to farmers for crop pollination nationwide, are increasingly finding that when they get the hives to their destination, the hives are empty or filled with dead bees. They’re perplexed by the phenomenon, and can’t seem to comprehend that there’s a connection between the use of pesticides, bad bee breeding practices and other factors contribute to the colony collapse disorder crisis that is killing their bees, and their business. With regard to pesticides, they believe pesticide industry disputes about what the chemicals do the the honeybees and their environment.

African Bees Take Hold

The film also informs us about the much-maligned ‘African killer bees,’ showing that these critters are actually a purer, strong breed of bee that does nothing other than what bees are born to do — pollinate plants and reproduce. They do not attack. But, they do not tame easily, either. And they prefer to build their own hives rather than occupy those that humans build for them.

The Future of Honeybees

Is there hope for survival of the honeybee? Experts seem to feel that colony collapse disorder can be treated by creating more natural conditions for honeybees, including allowing them to find their own variety of plants to pollinate, rather than being deployed from one area to another to pollinate the singular crop that’s grown in the region. Hauling the honeybees from crop to crop strains them terribly — they’re trapped in their hives, and can’t even poop for the hours that they’re on the road. They are infested with mites and viruses that cause them systemic breakdowns. Hive hauling is cruel and unusual punishment for the wee critters who’ve served the interests of our species since the beginning of recorded time.

A Call To Action

More Than Honey is free from polemics, but it is an alarming call to action. If you don’t become involved in an organized campaign to protect honey bees, you will, at least, never again swat at one of them with the intent to kill. This documentary is fascinating. It’s a must see.

If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:

Queen of the Sun: The Endangered World of Bees
The Cove
Arctic Tale
Winged Migration
Earth Days
Jane’s Journey

Film Details:

Title: More Than Honey
Director: Markus Imhoof
U.S. Release Date: June 12, 2013 (limited release, New York)
Running Time: 95 mins.
Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
Locations: Various rural areas and farmlands in the USA, Switzerland, China and Australia.
Language: English and German, Swiss German and Mandarin with English subtitles.
Production Company: Zero One Film
U.S. Theatrical Distribution: Kino Lorber

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