This weekend, I was hanging out with my roommates, and we decided to watch Bee Movie. It first came out back in 2007, and I hadn’t seen it since then. While I greatly enjoyed the film this time around, I have to say that I noticed that the movie is wildly inaccurate. I’m sure that these scientific slips were for the sake of the story, and that the writers figured that since the film was meant for kids, not beekeepers. However, I’m still going to go through them and set the record straight.
Let’s start with the most obvious one (aside from bees wearing clothes): Barry is said to be a worker bee. This is impossible, as he is a male. Drones do little to no work around the hive, as their sole purpose in life is to procreate. This also leads me to the fact that Barry has a stinger, as do all of the other bees in his hive. Drones do not have stingers – that particular piece of anatomy is reserved for female bees.
Now let’s talk about worker bees. We’ve already established that worker bees are females, so let’s move on to how their jobs work. In Bee Movie, a bee graduates and then chooses the job that it is going to do for the rest of its life. In actuality, a worker bee’s job is dependent upon her age. They start out as cleaners, then after a couple of days they become nurses, then builders, then guards, then foragers.
Speaking of foragers, there was a glaring error in the foraging scene. The bees are shown to be collecting nectar and pollen from a variety of flowers on their trip. In reality, the bees would only collect from one type at a time, making sure that they had pollinated all of the flowers of that kind before moving onto the next kind.
Rewinding to the opening line of the movie, the narrator says, “According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.” Firstly, this idea pertains only to bumblebees. Secondly, a study has shown that bumblebees do not actually defy the laws of physics to fly – scientists were simply comparing their flight to that of birds or planes, which use far more rigid wings. I’ll allow that particular error to slip, though, since that study was in 2009, two years after the movie came out.
We’ve talked a lot about what this movie got wrong, so let’s discuss what they got right. Firstly, Barry’s relationship to the other bees in the hive is brought up a couple of times. Early in the movie, Barry tells his friend Adam that all of the bees in the hive are cousins. This is somewhat true, though the bees would be more along the lines of half-siblings. A queen will mate with many drones from other hives, and then lay her eggs back in her own hive. Therefore, all of the female bees will have the same mother, but different fathers. Since drones develop from unfertilized eggs, they are full brothers.
Bee Movie was able to break down and simplify the idea of the workings of a hive, where bees all work together for the good of the whole. The quote that really stood out to me was “Every small job, if done well, means a lot.” Worker bees have a lot of jobs, and while they may all seem small, they all contribute towards the hive’s health.
The subject of stings was also discussed. The bees talked about how a classmate of theirs had died because he had stung a squirrel, and that “everyone knows: you sting someone, you die.” This is a great message to send to kids, because it helps them to understand that bees don’t want to sting them, and will only do so if they really need to in order to protect their hive.
The biggest thing that this movie got right was the scope of what would happen if bees were to disappear. When the bees got all of their honey back and went on “vacation,” all of the flowers, trees and crops began to die. There was an imminent food shortage, and many people’s livelihoods are at risk. If we were to lose bees, this is what would happen, and it would be far grimmer, because they wouldn’t just be taking a break. This is the part that made me really like this movie. The rest of it was cute and fun, but I wasn’t quite sure what the message was supposed to be up until this point.
So, to sum up: is this movie scientifically accurate? Not by a long shot. It is, however, a fun movie that has a great message – bees are critical to our livelihood, and we need to do everything in our power to protect them. By gearing this movie toward children, the filmmakers found a way for kids to become aware of the issues surrounding bees, and to inspire a new generation of future beekeepers.