More Than Honey (DVD review).

 Narrated by John Hurt, ‘More Than Honey’ is a documentary movie about the demise of the honey bee. Recent years have seen a remarkable decline in the numbers of the insect responsible for the pollination of about one third of our food. If extinct, the disappearance of the honey bee would leave us on the point of starvation. That is the seriousness of the problem! Trying to discover the reasons for the decline is the subject of the DVD and it makes interesting comments which tell you something about the bee and humanity as well.


The documentary takes you from idyllic settings in the Swiss Alps to industrialised farming of almond trees in California. Almonds are enjoyed by many people but their production comes at a cost. In plantations that extend as far as the eye can see, hives of honey bees are employed to carry out the pollination of the blossoms which form the nuts. Of course, after this has taken place there is no need for bees in a totally unnatural setting. After being blitzed by pesticide, they are sent elsewhere to pollinate other crops. This is industrialisation on a large scale. It has been taking place for many years and nature is protesting. The documentary does not preach and protest, rather it depicts what is happening for us to make up our own minds. While no comment is made about the treatment of bee colonies transported for thousands of miles across the USA and other countries, we can see for ourselves the results of making money.

While not being Science Fiction, it is a factual movie about an impending apocalypse totally instigated by humans. In taking bees out of their natural environment, industrialising their lives for our benefit, they have become susceptible to parasites, diseases and, most of all, insecticides we employ to keep down agents that attack the crops. In showing all this with spectacular photography, the message subtly gets home. We can’t blame the farmers because they react to our demand. The shelves in the supermarkets have got to be filled up!

There may be many reasons for the bees decline. Some have suggested, not in this documentary it must be added, that mobile telephones could be partly responsible with their signals disrupting flight-paths but whatever the reason, it’s happening now. World starvation could be an outcome. Of prophetic significance, a depiction of Chinese farmers pollinating trees by hand, having already wiped out bees by overuse of pesticides, may be pointing to the future but while labour may be currently cheap and abundant in China, it may not be in the future. Chairman Mao in the past made a decree that sparrows should be wiped out because they ate grain. After billions were killed, parasite insects flourished! Pesticides subsequently devastated the countryside, all through ignorance and greed.

The amazing life of the honey bee with their intricate signalling dances and social structure was interesting to watch. Collectively these insects take on a completely new identity, a much more complex organism. A scene of a motorway mesh, with automobiles moving in all directions, made you think that we are possibly not far removed. Individually, they don’t amount to much but collectively humans are a significant force. One is reminded of Frank Herbert’s novel, ‘Hellstrom’s Hive’ from the early 1970s. The force of humanity surges and there seems to be inadequate response to our effect on nature.

It seems that the bees may be making a sting. Killer bees are on their way from South America, attacking people and animals. According to the documentary, they are not to be messed with and maybe more difficult to handle than the comparatively mild honey bee, they could be more numerous in the future. The future may be bleak but whatever the outcome, the results will be here within a short time. The next 20 years may see extinction and starvation, a sad message and one that is conveyed in a very good documentary which should be watched.

Rod MacDonald

July 2013

(pub: Eureka Entertainment. 1 DVD 91 min. ASIN: B00EB88MAM. Price: £10.21 (UK))

narrator: John Hurt

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Released: 11 November 2013


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