Local filmmaker, beekeepers explore global bee crisis in documentary




The United States lost about a third of its managed honeybee colonies from October 2009 to April 2010, due in part to a little-understood phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Several Clark County residents are trying to shed light on the global bee crisis in the documentary “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?”

The film premiered Friday at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland and continues there through at least Oct. 4.

Vancouver resident Jon Betz, who works for the Portland nonprofit film production and distribution company Collective Eye Inc., produced “Queen of the Sun.” The filmmakers travelled the world to spotlight the plight of bees, as well as the relationships between bees and their keepers.

Among the beekeepers featured were Venersborg’s Jacqueline Freeman and Washougal’s Sara Mapelli.

Freeman, who owns Friendly Haven Rise Farm with her husband, Joseph, is an organic, biodynamic beekeeper. She doesn’t use any chemicals on her farm, and she encourages the natural processes of bees.

Unlike most commercial beekeepers, Freeman doesn’t buy bees from breeders. Instead, she has wild swarms. And instead of giving bees plastic combs, she lets them make their own combs from wax.

Filmmakers visited Freeman several times and highlighted the monthly classes she gives at her farm on bees and beekeeping.

Honeybees are often misunderstood, according to Freeman, who tries to disabuse people of the notion that the insects are aggressive.

“So many people get freaked out by bees because they don’t realize how docile they are,” she said.

Freeman hopes the film will not only raise awareness about the bee crisis but also show people ways they can help. She encourages people to stop using chemicals in their yards and to plant flowering herbs.

“Those are medicine for the bees,” she said.

Mapelli, who is an artist and energy healer in addition to a beekeeper, is featured early in the documentary dancing while covered in 12,000 bees. That’s also the image on the movie poster.

She used queen-bee pheromone to attract the honeybees. This was actually the second time she’s done this honeybee dance. The first was for an art project several years ago.

Mapelli got stung six times while covered in bees to film “Queen of the Sun,” though she wasn’t stung at all in her previous honeybee dance.

Mapelli describes dancing with bees as “magical.”

“It’s a duet,” she said. “We’re working together. It’s a really amazing, meditative experience.”

To learn more about “Queen of the Sun,” go to http://www.queenofthesun.com.