A male honey bee is essentially a winged penis doomed to die immediately after losing his virginity. On summer afternoons, male bees—known as drones—emerge from many different hives and gather in a small swarm. No one is sure exactly how drones pick their “congregation areas” or why they are often in exactly the same place year after year, but the answer likely has something to do with fragrant chemical messages known as pheromones. The drones wait for a virgin queen from a nearby colony to make an appearance and compete for the chance to mate with her mid-flight, crashing into one another as they race after her alluring perfume. If a drone is successful, the act of copulation rips his penis and entrails from his abdomen, so he falls to the ground and dies. The queen mates with as many as 20 drones in a single flight and stores millions of their sperm in an internal pouch called a spermatheca—sufficient supplies for a lifetime of egg-laying.
Imagining what a mating flight might look like is all well and good; watching it happen as though you were a drone flying alongside the queen is so much better. The fascinating and gorgeous new documentary “More Than Honey” offers just such a bee’s-eye view.
To capture the 36 breathtaking seconds of high-definition macro footage, director Markus Imhoof, cinematographers Jörg Jeshel and Attila Boa and their teammates visited a drone congregation site in Austria near hives