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The Bee Series Author Creates Movie About VP Queen Bees


My son received a grant and chose to explore his connection with the environment. He created The Bee Series and as part of the latest installment made this video. He's now a college graduate and I'm very proud of him!

The initial mission and intentions of The Bee Series were to engage with the environment outside of my own personal space; in the process, my hope was to simultaneously expand my perception of the way in which the world operates while also sharing that experience and new knowledge with readers. Specifying this mission through the industry of commercial beekeeping and apiculture was an excellent decision. Not only does the field have an incredible amount of literature and contemporary study, but the industry also captivates the public. Thus, The Bee Series became more than just an exploratory experience of an environmental issue for me: it was an exposure of a popular buzz-topic (please excuse the pun) and its objective problems and challenges, as well as its positives and benefits to humanity.

My research over the past nine months led me to first focus on the common discourse regarding the detriments of bee populations, which assisted in my understanding of the ways in which the species relate and interact with human agendas (pesticides, parasites, changing habitats and climates). Identifying The Problem addressed these detriments and attempted to understand how contingent our awareness of the insidious damage that chemicals and manmade infrastructures is on the health of both the commercial honeybee industry and the populations of bees in general.

I then focused on finding a consumable product of American agriculture that would serve as an example of human interrelatedness and dependency on the species-this led me to write about the California almond orchards and their growers' unique relationship with migratory beekeepers. I found through this relationship that the almond, a vital American commodity, relies heavily on the health of bee populations. Additionally, the relationship between different agricultural systems and the finished portioned and priced product often neglects origins and sources. My article on the West Coast almond industry intended to apply my knowledge of the industry's detriments to a product we all know and often enjoy. By exposing links and associations between the honey bee industry and the grocery store, I learned more about the insect's impact on my life at the same invisible level that neonicotinoids and miticides affect colonies and wild bee populations.

I think this ongoing research project has functioned well and benefited most from my ability to present my findings as a process of learning and growth. The ultimate goal was to share the experience with anyone who read along. Ultimately, that experience was supported by its subjectivity-if anyone else did this research, or began the project with their own knowledge, the results would have been equally interesting yet different. Creating an inclusive research experience allowed me to understand just how interrelated my life is with the environment outside of the virtual, technological world that so often subsumes me.

Thus, this final segment is perhaps the most intimate and inclusive yet. I wanted to present a microcosmic example of the American beekeeping industry and the species itself, liberated from words and citations. Fortunately, my family's knowledge and relationship with the industry is complex and incredibly unique. My father Adam Finkelstein and Step-Mother Kelly Rausch run VP Queen Bees, a queen breeding business located in Frederick County, Maryland. They produce and distribute hundreds of artificially inseminated, mite-resistant, honey producing and hardy breeder queen bees annually, and are constantly working with other beekeepers' stocks as well as their own colonies to create strong and healthy crosses. Using techniques of artificial insemination, Rausch and Finkelstein are able to sell fertile breeder queen bees that are of the highest functional quality; each queen passes their positive traits on to daughter queens that customers produce for sale or for their own operation nationally and internationally.

While many of us have seen the anatomy of a honey bee colony through a glass observation hive, few have seen the anatomy of a commercial queen bee yard and its many functions and moving parts. I was luckily able to accompany my parents on two separate days this April to document typical VP Queen Bee procedures in the field through video. The short documentary captures portions of the early Spring season's procedures,and some of the queen breeder's daily duties, which are oriented differently than the honey producing beekeeper's tasks. Instead of building up colonies and stimulating expansion and honey production, the queen breeding business is all about managed expansion and subsequent division of colonies to support mated and virgin queens. In the video, you can see this diversity in hive and frame structure, which truly illustrates the complexities of both the business and the species.

The documentary, a tour of the VP Queen Bees yard, is more than a tour of Finkelstein and Rausch's successful business-it's just one of many examples of the versatility and power of the honey bee as an animal and a component in the industry of mankind. And especially in juxtaposition with something stereotypical like a honey production business, VP Queen Bees not only provides for American apiculture but contributes to local pollination with every flying bee. I hope the short film is a pleasure to watch, and that you might learn more about the world around you through my camera's eye. It was a pleasure and a privilege to shoot this topic. My mission to expand and explore the world away from screens and electronics was fully achieved by this experience and the other articles I've written, and I hope you enjoyed learning with me.

-Jonathan Finkelstein

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