Jun 292011

About lowly human parking laws at least!

Honey Bee swarm on No Parking Sign

Honey Bee Don't Care!

Yep, a honey bee swarm decided that this parking sign in our department’s parking lot was as good a place as any to settle down for the evening. Lucky for them, the parking authority goes home at 5…

Honey bees on parking sign with text saying Subject to Tow Away

We're going to need a smaller truck!


Honey bee on parking sign lateral

One of the offenders


Jun 012011

Queen of the Sun movie posterWe’ve heard it repeated in the media before, with varying degrees of alarmism; honey bees are disappearing, and society better repent before we follow them. Termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in North America, the number of bee colonies which are dying or exiting en mass (swarming) leaving beekeeper’s hives empty has garnered a great deal of attention in the past few years. Of course there’s plenty of evidence that honey bee populations have been in decline for decades and CCD isn’t really a new phenomenon, but sometimes facts just get in the way of a good story, don’ t they?

That’s the way I felt after watching the new documentary Queen of the Sun: What Are The Bees Telling Us? – the production team didn’t want to weigh the audience down with actual evidence for theories proposed by featured beekeepers or even some of the “experts”. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the film, I did, I just left feeling that so much more could have been done to educate the audience.

The movie starts off with endless acres of almond trees in California and the bees trucked in from around the USA tasked with pollinating this giant monoculture. From here the film gathers the opinions of some of the most eccentric beekeepers I’ve seen (which is saying something, trust me) on why the bees are disappearing, with some input from “experts”. It was the beekeepers which make this movie worth a watch, and while each and every one of them personifies bees more than I’d like (damn my scientific objectivity), and there is a lot of Gaiaism and Druid religious undertones, meeting and watching these beekeepers work was a lot of fun. Whether it was the bee historian/Yogi who tickles his bees with his impressive mustache or the rooftop apiculturists in London, UK & Brooklyn, New York (where in the former city beekeeping is legal and the latter illegal), the filmmakers found some very interesting people who shared a passion for their hobby/trade.

The majority of the theories on what is causing the decline of the bees comes from the beekeepers with notes thrown in from the chosen “experts”. I’m using the term “expert” loosely, mainly because there were virtually no credentials or explanation about what made each person an “expert” on the topic. Some I recognized, like May Berenbaum from University of Illinois or Scott Black of the Xerces Society and trusted their opinions because of my knowledge of their work. Others, I have no clue why they were consulted; a physicist discussing genetically-modified plants transferring modified bacteria genomes to bees, without mention of why a physicist would be involved with this research or what institute she was associated with? Providing further credentials and background for each expert would allow the audience to make an informed decision on the information provided to them.

Overall, Queen of the Sun was an entertaining movie with some beautiful photography and fantastic people. If you’re looking for a movie which celebrates individuality and passion for apiculture, then this is your movie. If you’re looking for a scientific nature documentary, stick to David Attenborough and the BBC!


May 312011

Ryan FleacrestThere are few insects which enjoy the adoration, fame and geographical range that the domestic honey bee (Apis mellifera) does, so it’s surprising that there are relatively few songs singing their praises. Of course, that doesn’t stop artists of all eras from using the sweet “nectar” produced by these entomological factory farms as a cutesy term of endearment for a loved one! Makes you wonder whether Blake Shelton is known as “honey bee” to his wife…

I first head this song on Twitter via Dr. May Berenbaum (@MayBerenbaum) which makes a slick segue into my next post; a review of the new documentary Queen of the Sun, which features Dr. Berenbaum’s expert opinions on the plight of the honey bee in America! Pretty good eh? Make sure you check it out soon, but until then, Fleacrest, out!

This song is available on iTunes – Honey Bee – Honey Bee – Single


Oct 312010

Although we had a good time carving our various insects Thursday night, we still had to come up with a new pumpkin design for our department’s contest Friday afternoon. With a pumpkin supplied by the graduate student council and 2 hours to carve our winning design, the pressure was on to uphold our title as pumpkin champions! After a strategy session over coffee, we decided to bee proactive and get busy.

Bee Pumpkin Jack-o-Lantern

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