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Michael McCarthy: A worrying and convincing thesis


Something is certainly causing terrible problems for honey bees in much of the world, and one of the most affecting aspects of Vanishing of the Bees is its portrayal of some of America's beekeepers, watching in stunned bewilderment as their livelihoods disappear before their eyes: Brett Adee, said to be the largest-scale beekeeper in the world, takes 80,000 hives full of bees to California for safety and returns two months later to find most of them empty.

The film also enlightens on the various scientific efforts to try to understand what is going on, which have not so far reached a conclusion. But be advised, this is more than a documentary; this is, in essence, a piece of polemic, starting from the standpoint of already knowing the answer: its thesis is that a new family of pesticides, the neonicotinoids, are the real cause of the trouble. In this it is very much in the genre of two other recent green polemics put out by its independent distributor, Dogwoof, The End of the Line (about the over-exploitation of fish stocks) and The Age of Stupid (about global warming).

Clearly, the disappearance of honey bees is of the same order of concern; if we lose such major pollinators we could lose one-third of the world's agriculture, and at the very least, Vanishing of the Bees makes a convincing case for more research to prove beyond doubt the pesticide manufacturer's assertions that there's nothing to worry about. Worth seeing.