The outside of the DVD box says, ”Warning: The information you are about to see will result in hives.” It is true that the documentary Bee People is a very passionate polemic meant to get people excited about the idea of having their own backyard beehives. Bees are one of the most important parts of the ecological network, because they pollinate most of the foods and flowers across the planet, and bees are disappearing. It is actually a very alarming fact that bees are disappearing, because we don’t know why, nor what the eventual outcome will be if they cease to exist.
The importance of the bees has been known for thousands of years, back to time of Plato and before. Greg McMahon is the Bee Guru in this film and the cheerleader for all of us to bring back the bee. He goes to schools to get young kids excited about the idea of their own hives. He goes to homes to rescue swarms that have taken residence where they are not wanted and gives them a new home. He’s always excited and happy to preach to the uninitiated with the hope of a world where there is a backyard hive every two miles. Most of the movie is a fairly do-it-yourself type project by people fanatically interested in the importance of this project. It is similar to many types of programs you might see on Animal Planet in which a small segment of the population is given a close-up look.
Most of the film is just following McMahon and his associates as they go on various rescues. One particular one is almost more than they can handle. They show up bright and early at 7 AM with a big crew and wind up spending at least 12 hours in protective bee suits trying to clean up a giant swarm. Lots of discussion is given to how many stings everyone has gotten over the years. It remains to be seen whether the passion they convey is contagious, but they definitely show the many pleasures of this occupation. You’ve got to love honey, because they often find many uses for it, including a form of vodka. Most of the film takes place around Denver, Colorado, but there is one visit to New York City to spend time with the Bee Cop, who handles most of the removals for the city of New York. They visit little hives of enthusiasts all around who share their desire to make the bee population grow. It’s hard not to share their enthusiasm, but I hesitate before making the leap into having my own hive. The movie is very instructive in all the things that are required if one were to do it. I would suggest anyone who has even as little as a half acre should consider it. It is much like the idea of committing to recycling. If you care about the Earth, you do what you can.
Most of the people who do this like to grow lots of plants, since they tend to go hand in hand. The bees fly around and pollinate. They also tend to be pretty particular about their equipment, especially if they are into harvesting honey. After one rescue they show what happens when you marry two hives. It usually causes a lot of angry bees, because most of the girl bees who do most of the work are not happy about being bothered. If the reaction of our bee fanatics is any indication, this is the most dangerous thing they do. They coat the bees in sugar, which apparently is the secret to a good marriage.
This all leads to man-on-the-street interviews which test people on their bee knowledge. It is an important subject, but with everything most of us have to deal with in our lives, fairly low on the totem pole of importance.
I generally found the participants a little too overenthusiastic and was kind of bored by the end the show, but I would recommend this to anyone who likes to spend time outside in their backyard. It does seem to be something that is important to all of us in the long run, and it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. So, everyone, get out there and make some honey. I probably won’t.