Monday, July 22, 2013

"More Than Honey": the secret lives of "alien" social insects

The documentary “More Than Honey”, by Austrian filmmaker Markus Imhoofm provides a detailed look at the commercial bee industry in the United States (especially California and western states), Australia, Germany and Austria, and China.
The film goes beyond a targeted look at “colony collapse disorder” , to present a whole way of life for people who work in the industry, which has become big agribusiness even though, like most agriculture, it started in families.
The film also presents a detailed look at the “secret life of bees”.  Life in the colony is complete communism, with individual workers fulfilling their genetically programmed roles and sacrificing themselves for the group.  Male drones die after mating.

Does the entire colony have a "soul" that might correspond to the volitional consciousness of a human being or higher mammal.  Bees and ants seem like alien life in this movie.  Suddenly, we feel we're a lot like our own cats (especially big ones), dogs, and dolphins -- as they all have individual personalities -- but not like social insects.  Maybe only in North Korea.

Even if the hive as a whole has a group mind (that was even true of the alien spaceship hive in "Independence Day" (1996)), in the film a lone female worker bee goes on reconnaissance to find a new cave location for the an entire colony. She must think she' special.
Commercial operations make colonies more productive by splitting them up and creating new queens.  The biological process of a queen’s development is shown in fascinating detail.
Colony collapse disorder may have not a particular single cause, but may be the cumulative effect of commercialization of the industry.
Toward the end, the documentary examines the effect of the new Africanized bees, which seem stronger and which, despite the fear of them, may save the industry.
The official site (Koch Lorber) is here

A film by Walt Disney, "Secrets of Life", in the 1950's, had also provided a detailed upclose look at social insects (ants and bees both).  

There was also a film about "Bees" shown at the Science museum in Amsterdam, at least in 2001.  

I saw the film at Landmark E Street before a small crowd on Sunday night.  

Picture (first): Hungary, from Smithsonian folk life' (second); NC Blue Ridge. 

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