'Queen of the Sun'

By Nancy Smorch

The girls and I just stared watching “Queen of the Sun," a very compelling documentary about honey bees.  The girls were a little unsure about the  movie in the beginning - probably because the opening scene shows a woman, kind of slowly dancing I guess you could say, with bees all over her.  It was a little bit strange.

But I thought it was important for all of us to do a little research and learn what was really behind the death of millions of bees worldwide.

I also thought it was important for us to get a better understanding of bees, their behavior, and their needs - especially since we will need their help pollinating the apple orchard this spring!

We’re only halfway through the movie (we had to take a break so the girls could take the garbage to the dump - we don’t have trash pick up here in Ocala… we have to take our garbage to the dump).

But already it’s been really fascinating (for me, anyway)!

What have I learned so far?

That one of the reasons for Colony Collapse Disorder (bee colonies dying off in massive quantities) is due to monoculture.  Monoculture is the production of a single crop over a large land area.  Take Central California as an example.  There are over 760,000 acres of almond trees in this region alone.  It is the number one supplier of almonds in the world (California as a whole produces 83% of the world’s supply of almonds).

Here’s the challenge: the success of the almond crops depends on the honey bees.  There aren’t enough honey bees in California to pollinate all of the almond trees, so honeybees from all over the country, and actually, the world, are shipped in for this critical period.

Two problems with this:

The first is that when bees are shipped in from other regions, they bring with them diseases that the local bees aren’t immune to, and they succumb to them much like the Native Americans did to the diseases the Europeans brought in.

The other issue is that with monocrops like this (and there are many moncrops all over the country), only provide provide food for the bees for a short time and then the pollen is gone.  Then, because that is all that is planted for acres and acres, there is nothing else for the bees to feed on for the rest of the season.

Also, the pesticides used on many agricultural crops contain neonicotinoids, which is a neurotoxin.  Since it messes with the neurological system, bees have a hard time finding their way back to the hive and they perish.

Not only that, but honey bees don’t have the enzymes that can break down the toxins in the chemicals contained in these pesticides.

“Queen of the Sun” is actually very inspiring for me.  I definitely want to have hives at our property where our house is.  I almost did it last year, but got a little nervous at the last minute - it felt like such a huge responsibility to care for them and I didn’t really know what I was doing.  This year, I will be armed with much more knowledge - I’m ready.

It’s also inspired me to make sure we have more than just one crop or plant where the bees are.  I doubt that our little 10 acre orchard would be considered a monocrop, but nonetheless, it would certainly benefit the bees to have more to feast on than apple blossoms.

The world needs more beekeepers.  Do you want to join me?