September 11, 2013
If you’re a drone bee, life is tough. You’re born, live for a month or two, and then die. During that time, you’re not a productive member of the hive—you can’t collect pollen or help incubate eggs, like worker bees—and you can’t even sting anyone.
Drone bees live with one purpose in mind: mating with a queen. When they’re lucky enough to achieve it, it only lasts a few seconds, and they die immediately afterward, because their penis and abdominal tissues are violently ripped from the body as part of the process.
Thus, for a drone bee, those few seconds of mating are the peak of existence. And here are those blissful seconds, captured in slow-motion.
The clip is from the new documentary More Than Honey, released last week, which explores the wondrous world of honeybees and Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious affliction that’s causing U.S. bee populations to plummet.
To get shots like this, the filmmakers used mini-helicopters equipped with ultra-high speed cameras (the clip above has 300 frames-per-second) and a so-called “bee-whisperer,” who carefully tracked the activity of 15 different hives so the crew could move them to a filming studio when a particular event was imminent. “The mating queen was the biggest challenge: we spent days on a scaffolding tower attracting drones with queen pheromones,” director Markus Imhoff said in an interview with the Honeybee Conservancy. “Her wedding flight, which was 36 seconds, took more than ten days—and we only actually saw it one and a half times.”
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