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Honeybee Blues (2009)


Australian bee pathologist Dr Denis Anderson is on a quest to save the honeybee from the devastating Varroa destructor mite. Honeybee Blues follows Anderson across Australia, Papua New Guinea and the USA revealing just how dire the plight of the honeybee is, how it reached that point, and what steps are being made to save them.

Curator’s notes

Honeybee Blues offers an accessible-to-all-ages warning about the consequences of losing the world’s honeybees. As pollinators of a sizeable proportion of the world’s food supply, this timely documentary affects us all. It fits with a series of acclaimed ecological and conservationist documentaries produced around that time, including: Food Inc. (2008), The Cove (2009), Earth Days (2009), No Impact Man (2009) and Crude (2009).

Writer-director Stefan Moore has been producing documentaries for over 30 years and worked on The Trouble With Medicine: Conceiving the Future (1993), Super Flu: Race Against a Killer (2005), the Emmy award-winning Presumed Innocent (1979) and The Cars That Ate China (2008). The subject matter of Honeybee Blues is deathly serious: if the bees die, we too will eventually die as a consequence of having no bees to fertilise the plants that yield our food. Moore offsets the seriousness by introducing laid-back blues music (also implicated in the title) as well as several entertaining animated segments highlighting the history of the bee and the introduction of the parasitic Varroa destructor mite.

Whether as a matter of coincidence, or in an effort to achieve maximum impact, Honeybee Blues aired not long after the publication of Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum’s book, A World Without Bees (2009), a cautionary tale with a similar message and equivalent urgency. Moore’s film features Dr Denis Anderson, a leading bee pathologist internationally. Anderson’s enthusiasm for the bees and their livelihood is as deeply affecting as his research into how to prevent the Varroa mite from decimating bee populations is compelling.

Together, the filmmakers have produced a powerful film. ’Not enough is being done to save the bee. Governments are still reluctant to take the honeybee seriously’, Anderson has said in interviews, but surely this documentary takes a giant step in the right direction.

Honeybee Blues premiered on SBS on 1 December 2009. It won the Director’s Choice Award at the 2010 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film Competition, was a finalist at the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Science Journalism and a finalist for Best Documentary in the Science, Technology and the Environment category at the 2010 ATOM Awards.