The latest buzz about bees: from Hollywood action movies to viral hive-saving TikToks

James Middleton credits his colony with helping with his depression, while Angelina Jolie has been supporting the next generation of female bee keepers

From TikTok to Hollywood, people's love affair with bumbling, bustling bees continues. Unsplash / Jenna Lee
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Bees, to put things into pop culture parlance, are having a “moment”. This would be news to bees of course, who have been happily buzzing between flowers and hives for the past 130 million years with little thought to what Angelina Jolie, Jason Statham or the Duchess of Cambridge think about them.

But as bees continue to appear on endangered lists across the globe, with colonies threatened by loss of habitat, disease, pesticides, and climate change, their plight and story is being brought further into the public eye and, thanks to TikTok, a new generation of conservationists.

Celebrities too have been keen to share their beekeeping hobbies, with Beyonce, whose fans are collectively known as “the beyhive” revealing to Harper’s Bazaar: “I’m building a honey farm. I’ve even got hives on my roof.” Adding: “I found healing properties in honey that benefit me and my children.”

As with all popular trends, Hollywood has been keen to get in on the act, and with the news that one of Tinseltown’s most celebrated action stars is bringing the “mythology of beekeeping” to the big screen, here’s the latest buzz on bees…

Jason Statham’s 'bee mythology' movie

Jason Statham is set to star in a film about beekeeping. Matt Sayles / Invision / AP

Could bees get a bigger boost than one of the biggest action stars in Hollywood taking their story to the big screen? Having saved the world onscreen far too many times to count, Statham has signed up to star in the new movie The Bee Keeper, which Deadline has described as “a lightning-paced thriller deeply steeped in the mythology of beekeeping.”

Written by Kurt Wimmer, who penned the Point Break remake, The Bee Keeper "explores universal themes with an unconventional story that will have fans sitting on the edge of their seats,” said Miramax chief executive Bill Block.

Angelina Jolie: ‘My bees are very, very happy’

Named the godmother of Unesco and Guerlain’s Women for Bees programme in March this year, the Oscar-winning actress has thrown herself into the role with gusto. Recently appearing in a new video for Vogue, the star, 46, met up with members of the programme's first graduating class at L’Observatoire Francais d’Apidologie (OFA) in Provence, France.

“I thought I knew something about bees and beekeeping and training, and I thought I understood the importance,” the Eternals star told Vogue. “But really, when you really dig into it and you really start to learn about what, for example, what we would lose, 30 per cent of the honeybees disappearing. Had we not had the beekeepers and the work of places like OFA, we would lose them.”

The humanitarian also posed covered in bees for a National Geographic portrait for World Bee Day earlier this year, revealing that she also keeps hives on the roof of her home.

“I have a lot of wildflowers and my bees are very, very happy,” she told the publication. “There are two types of bees. This is to all you women: wild and solitary or domestic and honeybee. Take a choice. The domestic honeybee is the one that makes the honey and then there's this other bee, that's the wild solitary bee that lives a very different life and does not make honey but pollinates. I feel like lately I’ve been a lot of domestic honeybee, but in my heart, I'm wild solitary.”

Royal bees and hives for meditation

While Buckingham Palace is home to four beehives, with their own royal beekeeper in attendance, Kate Middleton has also shared her passion for beekeeping, revealing that she has her own hive.

The Duchess of Cambridge shared spoonfuls of honey with British schoolchildren this summer during a visit to the wildlife garden at London’s Natural History Museum, telling them: “This came specially from my beehive. See if it tastes the same as at home. Does it taste like honey from the shops? Does it taste like flowers?”

Kate’s decision to start keeping bees was inspired by a gift she and her sister Pippa gave their brother, James, a few years ago. James, who has been candid about his ongoing struggle with depression, revealed his sisters bought him 1,000 bees, which have been instrumental in helping him with his mental health.

“One of my strategies for coping with depression is beekeeping,” he told the Daily Mail. “I’d always harboured a longing to keep bees, but it wasn’t until I turned 24 that the wish became reality. My family clubbed together to buy what for me was the most fantastic birthday gift imaginable.

"A delivery van arrived with a large buzzing box with the cautionary label: “Live Bees”. Inside was the nucleus – the start – of my colony: 1,000 Buckfast bees." He later posted on Instagram: “Beekeeping to me is a meditation. It’s a chance to escape my mind and be so consumed by something that hours can pass by without knowing it.”

The TikTok bee lady

Erika Thompson, aka the bee lady from Texas Bee Works, has garnered 9.6 million followers on TikTok after introducing Gen Z to the world of bees on the social media platform. With no protection gear or gloves, and wearing her normal clothes, Thompson is called in to save and move bee colonies from homes and public places, rather than have the hive face extermination.

Scooping up handfuls of bees, she has rescued the insects from cars, patio umbrellas, garden sheds, outdoor bins, under floorboards and even from a toilet. Thompson also posts educational shorts about hives and colonies, as well as explaining the role of the queen bee and worker bees in videos that have been viewed hundreds of millions of times.

“Most honeybees are very gentle and docile and they don’t want to sting you,” she told Today. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and over the years I’ve learned to read the bees' behaviour. I feel so privileged to be able to work with them.”

Updated: September 13, 2021, 3:10 AM