Because I’m a writer, I tend to look for opportunities that can only be described as “experiences I can share with my daughter, but also write about.” Part education, part entertainment, part social and journalistic experiment. That sort of thing.
So it was with the “Vanishing of the Bees” movie trailer during National Honey Bee Day back in August (see the trailer below). In a shamelessly deliberate attempt to create one of these opportunities, I sat down with my 6-year-old in front of the laptop, clicked play, and watched with her as beekeepers and nature-loving academic types talked about colony collapse disorder, the mysterious phenomenon that is, quite literally, making honey bees vanish.
As you’d imagine, the trailer was compelling, the kind of teaser that tweaks heartstrings and makes you curse the travesty of industrial agriculture. (Well, aside from a very strange opening moment, in which an animated bee emerges from the mouth of a boy who may be sleeping or may be dead. It’s not clear. I must be missing the artistic point. Or something.)
My daughter knows her bees. She tracks them in action in the garden, has seen both demonstration hives and working hives, and watches rapt during “The Magic School Bus” episode where the kids turn into bees and busily gather nectar, pollinate plants and make honey.
She’s a bonafide flower lover, fruit and veggie eater, and honey worshipper who understands that bees make her sweet world go around. So when the trailer was over, I figured I’d give a little kid-friendly lesson on the agricultural and food crisis that will ensue if bees keep disappearing. I’d translate talk of pesticides and other toxins, use analogies, ask how she’d feel if — like bees in the traveling hives used for commercial pollination — her home kept moving. I’d be all teach-y and stuff.
But before I could ask what she thought, Tess looked me square in the eye and said: “If I were a bee, I’d leave, too. I’d find somewhere warm and safe and cozy with lots of flowers. And I’d stay there until they made the world better again.”
Then, for good measure: “And we should plant lots of flowers that bees like.” (You know, in case the bees want to live with us during their respite.)
To be fair, she’s heard all kinds of eco talk from us (OK, incessantly). And part of her comment echoed an expert in the trailer. But still. What struck me was that she delivered her conclusion without prompting. And that little triumph was proof to me that she’s getting it, that maybe all these “experiences I can share with my daughter, but also write about” are paying off (even the ones as contrived as watching a bee movie trailer on bee awareness day). Who knows? Maybe I’ve got a Birke Baehr in the making.
Here’s to kids and their amazing capacity for empathy and intellect. Greater, perhaps, than the so-called adults who make the decisions that got us in this pickle in the first place.
(Update on Oct. 8: A group of military and academic researchers on Tuesday published a paper claiming definitive answers on colony collapse disorder. Almost immediately, the skepticism began. Now comes this story questioning conflicts of interest and the legitimacy of the findings.)
What are your thoughts on bees? Smart kids? The power of tiny beings to do big things?
A version of this piece appears in my “Rooted” column in the September-October issue of the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.