Bee Ethics: A Brief Addendum To Today’s Ethics Warm-Up…


I meant to have this as the opening to today’s first post, but the painting of Joe hugging Kamala while dead anti-Trump icons looked down from heaven shorted out my brain.

I believe I may have discovered the beginning of American society’s ruinous capitulation to claims of being offended and organizational submission to contrived complaints of coded prejudice and bigotry. I found it, of all places, at the end of the terrible 1978 Irwin Allen (“The Poseidon Adventure;” “The Towering Inferno”) disaster movie “The Swarm.” For some reason, TCM devoted last night to famously bad movies, like John Wayne’s hilarious “The Conqueror,” in which the Duke played Genghis Kahn for producer Howard Hughes. Many critics said at the time it came out that “The Swarm” was the worst movie ever made; I don’t know how they could say that when the sequel to “The Exorcist,” “The Heretic,” came out just a year before. I don’t think “The Swarm” is even the worst big all-star cast movie ever made: I’d give that distinction to “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

But I digress. The Swarm is about killer bees invading Texas, and the the American Bee Association threatened to take legal action against the Allen for defaming the honey bee. Yes, they really did. So at the very end of the movie, after you have seen the credits and are still wondering how all these distinguished stars ( Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, José Ferrer, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Fred MacMurray, and Henry Fonda) were conned into humiliating themselves, or how they got in such desperate financial straits that they would take money to appear in such crap, you see this:

“The African killer bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hardworking American honey bee to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation.”

15 thoughts on “Bee Ethics: A Brief Addendum To Today’s Ethics Warm-Up…

  1. Hah! I think I beat you to the punch on this. Midway through the movie (I saw it too on TCM) I did comment (I have witnesses), “Where’s the bee lobby on this?” And sure enough, we found out at the end…

  2. But look at the microaggression in that disclaimer! African bees are dangerous; good ole American honeybees are perfectly safe!

  3. It’s not really an ethics issue, I guess, so I left this tidbit out, but according to Wiki, the production removed the stingers of 800.000 bees for the actors’ safety.

    Who had THAT job?

        • Well there is certainly a disconnect of some kind there, in what you read. When you “remove a stinger from” a bee, YOU KILL IT. (Well, let’s just say, the bee doesn’t live very long after it stings, because a bunch of its rear end tears off when it stings. And frankly, it just doesn’t make sense that some “surgeon” would take the task of removing stingers from bees without killing them.)

          • Clearly the technique involved cutting off the stinger and not pulling it out. Scenes in the film show actors covered in bees, and this was before CGI. Apparently only one actor was stung in the filming. How would you accomplish that without having stinger-less bees?

            How that many bees could be so altered is another question.

  4. Drones. Drone bees can’t sting. Take the drones from a bunch of hives, and you could have a pretty believable “swarm” of harmless bees. They’re not aggressive, but I reckon of you put queen pheremones on a person, they’d cluster around them and look enough like an “attack” that it’d pass for a 1970s Hollywood effect.

    You could snip the pointy bit of the stinger off a worker bee without killing it, but that’s a lot of work when nature already makes stingless drone bees.

    Drones cone from unfertilized eggs, so you can get a hive to produce tons of them by removing the queen. Usually one of the workers will decide she’s the new queen and start laying eggs. She’s not a real queen, though, so the eggs will all be unfertilized and thus be drones.

    • This was supposed to be an answer to Jack’s question, “How would you accomplish that without having stinger-less bees?” Not sure how it got out of sequence…

      • What Jeff says makes some sense. Stinger-less drones – stimulated to clinging to “victims” by use of pheromones – okay, I’ll grant “possibly.” But not 800,000 of them. No way. Not even 80.000. I will not believe that; 8,000, I can believe. But that’s still an awfully big number.

        Another possibility is use of bee-looking, stinger-less other insects. Or…maybe there are species of stinger-less bees. I don’t know. I only know of the bees that have stingers. We’ve had two swarms make their home in our house walls within four years. The first swarm had to be killed off; broke my heart, seriously. For the second one, we found the right guy, and he rescued them, and our house wall looks good as new. My kind of hero. I didn’t even ask him if he’d share a bit of future honey production from that hive. I was just grateful for (1) their removal, and (2) their rescue. I only wish I could have taken a tax deduction for that particular incident of “environmentalism.”

        • Odds are that 800,000 number is a pretty big exaggeration. The “beard of bees” stunt that you sometimes see usually has maybe 10,000 bees, and that can just about cover a person’s face and torso completely. So 800,000 bees wouldn’t be necessary to achieve the effects that such a movie would require. It doesn’t take very many bees for the average person to perceive it as “millions” of bees. We’re kind of naturally wired to overestimate the threat of large swarms of insects…

          My guess would be that they used a few thousand drones to cling to the actors, then they either layered footage of flying bees on top of that, or used non-bee insects to provide the flying-around component of the shot.

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