Film Review: Queen of the Sun

How bees can save us—but only if we save them.

Film trailer from DocumentaryTrailers on YouTube.

Gunther Hauk has dedicated his life to nurturing honeybees. He loves, maybe even worships, the fuzzy black and yellow insects. Thirty years ago he bought a farm and planted a variety of flowers, plants, and herbs, all for the benefit of the bees. “I had that feeling of urgency to start this biodynamic farm with a bee sanctuary at its heart,” he says.

Hauk is just one of the passionate beekeepers in director Taggart Siegel’s Queen of the Sun, a creative documentary that chronicles the startling disappearance of entire hives, while offering a gorgeous, romantic, and sometimes eccentric tribute to the honeybee.

The film also shows why bees need devoted advocates. Colony collapse disorder, in which whole hives die off, has been responsible for alarming losses in recent years. The epidemic threatens more than just honey production, as bees play an important role in pollinating 40 percent of crops. There is no one proven cause of colony collapse disorder, but the most likely suspects­—monoculture on a monstrous scale, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and industrial beekeeping, which limits genetic diversity and disease resistance—are described.

“If we kill all the bees, there will be no agriculture,” Slow Food president Carlo Petrini says in the film. That may be an exaggeration—flies, beetles and other insects also pollinate crops—but bees are vital to our current food crops. Queen of the Sun makes a good case for bees as “the canary in the coalmine” that signals the damage we are causing to other pollinators and the natural world.

Taggart Siegel juxtaposes facts and statistics with episodes of nature worship that, although whimsical, highlight the intrinsic value of bees, the honey they produce, and the colorful flowers that employ them and have evolved alongside them. Bees are small but essential engines of the ecosystem. “We should actually be revering them because they are actually keeping us alive as opposed to the other way around,” says one rooftop beekeeper in London.

The filmmaker’s enthusiasm for the beauty of this creature is infectious. If Queen of the Sun doesn’t inspire you to become a beekeeper, it will at least give you a deeper appreciation for the essential work bees do, and our own stake in their survival.