Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?
Taggart Siegel & Jon Betz
review by Sarah Jameson
From the ethereal opening sequence of a woman dancing gracefully in the open air, upper torso draped with a brown and buzzing ‘jacket’ of swarming honeybees, you have the sense that Queen of the Sun is out to capture your imagination.
I have watched many – often excellent – documentaries about bees and other insects, about their lifecyles, their astonishing symbiotic relationships with plants around the world and the threats to their survival, but Queen of the Sun is quite a different experience.
An elegant paean to the honeybee, it combines beautiful music with animation and fascinating interviews with passionate beekeepers – from rooftop beekeepers in New York campaigning successfully to lift a ban on city beekeeping, to a marvellously flamboyant French beekeeper practising yoga next to his hives.
The film is no sugary offering, however. The problem of colony collapse disorder (CCD), which has already caused the loss of 5m honeybee colonies in the US (each containing up to 60,000 bees) and a discussion of the possible causes, form the heart of the film.
The finger is pointed squarely at commercial agriculture with its monoculture systems, use of pesticide sprays and GM techniques. The vast acreages of almond orchards in California, are a particular case in point. Farmed in such a way that they cannot sustain their own native populations of honeybees, they require a staggering three quarters of the US honeybee population to be trucked in for 3 weeks each year to pollinate the blossom.
As honeybee populations decline globally (a situation predicted by Rudolph Steiner in 1923, due to increasing mechanisation in beekeeping) there is a very real threat to the survival of our own species, since 40% of what we eat has been pollinated by honeybees. Perhaps it is this that will make agronomists and politicians finally sit up and take notice?
Many of the beekeepers interviewed follow organic or biodynamic principles and I was particularly drawn to the words and manner of Gunther Hauk, who reminds us that honeybees were once highly revered – their image can be found in many carvings and works of art from ancient Greece to the Mayans.
The mechanisation of honeybee farming (including artificial insemination of queens) and the use of chemicals are two of the chief reasons behind colony collapse, Gunther believes. He explains that we have lost touch with the sacredness of the honeybee and we need to start to listen to what they are telling us. “We can learn from them if the heart opens up to tell the mind something,” he says.
Despite the situation honeybee populations face, Gunther and others remain positive – optimisic that nature still has extraordinary powers of regeneration, if we can give her the space and respect she needs.