Fighting Insectageddon: Why Bugs Matter
Al Jazeera (2017)
This is a brief documentary about three programs in New Zealand, the UK and the US seeking to address an alarming drop in insect populations. A 2017 German study reveals some areas of the world have experienced a 75% drop in insect populations in 27 years. Entomologists blame excessive pesticide use and loss of natural habitat. The survival of the human species is totally dependent on insects, both for food crop pollination and waste decomposition.
The New Zealand program is a industrial-scale wetapunga breeding program at the Auckland zoo. The wetapunga is an enormous prehistoric locust-shaped insect dating from the dinosaur era. Once the nearly extinct wetapunga reach adolescence, they are released to special predator-free islands where there are no introduced mammals (eg rats, ferrets, stoats, etc) to eat them.
The UK program seeks out abandoned industrial sites (brown fields) to transform into insect reserves. One abandoned, these sites are rapidly reclaimed by wild vegetation. This makes them perfect for insects because the soil is totally pesticide-free.
In the US, an entomologist has invented a special microphone that can be hidden in beehives to monitor for signs of colony collapse.
More Than Honey
Directed by Marcus Imhoof (2012)
More Than Honey is a documentary investigating colony collapse disorder, the mysterious condition that threatens to wipe out the global honeybee population. As the great majority of our food crops rely on bees for pollination, this would also have dire consequences for humankind.
Scientists featured in the film report that colony collapse disorder has three main causes: insecticide (neonicotinoid*) poisoning, veroa mites and “stress.” They emphasize that the European honeybee (also the sole source of the US honeybee population) has been “domesticated,” just as larger farm animals have. This domestication reduces their stress tolerance: they can no longer tolerate two day trips across the US (in trucks) the way they once did.
More Than Honey includes some fabulous footage of bees doing their elaborate wangle** dance and struggling with mite infestation and after effects of pesticide spraying.
What I found most intriguing about this documentary was learning that Africanized honeybees may be the salvation of the domestic bee population. Commonly maligned as so-called “killer bees,” African bees are good pollinators and honey producers. They are also resistant to veroa mite.
* Since More than Honey was made in 2012, the EU has placed a total ban on neonicitinoid use.
**When bees return to the hive, bees perform a special wangle dance to communicate to other bees the location of a good nectar source.