Film Review: More than Honey

Highly informative and very diverting documentary about the busiest member of the animal kingdom.

The bee, that singular, fascinating, industrious and dangerous animal, is fully explored in Markus Imhoof’s comprehensive documentary More Than Honey. It’s a vibrantly absorbing trove of information, revealing things like the “Waggle Dance,” discovered by Nobel Prize winner Karl von Frisch, the ingenious figure-eight movement bees perform to impart information about the directions and distance to vegetative sources of pollen and water and also housing locations. And, of course, that fascinating eminence, the Queen Bee, is exposed in all of her fat, completely indulged and catered-to glory, with her thousands of drone minions.

The filmmaker, who hails from a family with a strong tradition of beekeeping, traveled the globe, and his film is filled with bee experts, both scientists and rustic keepers, who weigh in on a variety of questions. The most pressing one here seems to be: What is decimating large bee populations, even in the most pristine Alpine locations, so essential to our planet’s sustainability with their life-giving pollenating? The painstaking work of beekeepers, who cultivate and try to sell colonies, is devastatingly undone by pesticides, the harm incurred during shipping, the pressing lack of genetic diversity among bees, and parasitic enemies like mites. As one American beekeeper puts it, after discovering an entire shipment literally DOA, “I’m getting real comfortable with death on an epic scale and I don’t like it.” It’s good to know, however, that the hardy Africanized (or more commonly known “killer”) bee seems to staunchly withstand colony destruction, and may provide a real solution.

The film also makes this point: When you see the hectic community that is a bee colony, in all of its synchronized productivity, the question arises, “Are bees like the organs and cells of a body (the colony), and is that organism in itself an animal?” The experts ruminate and prognosticate away, but, of course, the movie’s true star is the bee itself. The superbly probing cinematography captures these wondrous, highly photogenic furry little beasts both in flight and grounded, but never, ever, in repose.