Brain Pickings

Bee City: 1951 Short Film about the Social Life of Bees


What goes on inside the microcosm of one of Earth’s most fascinating civilizations.

Bees are all kinds of amazing, yet they’re vanishing before our eyes. The granddaughter of a beekeeper, I find these creatures as magnificent as their modern fate is heartbreaking. In 1951, half a century before colony collapse disorder became of critical concern, Paul F. Moss and Thelma Schnee produced Bee City — a wonderful short film about the life of a bee, from how a larva becomes a full-grown worker to what it takes for these social creatures to navigate the complex systems they inhabit.

Thirty thousand inhabitants of a city are exposed before your eyes, as our camera peers and probes into a community of bees. We witness perhaps the most ingenious creatures of the insect world — their growth, their myriad activities, their whole society, all of which is an amazing chapter in nature’s wonderland.

The film is now in the public domain, courtesy of the Prelinger Archives, and is available for download from the Internet Archive.

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