By Michelle Graff

For some time, I’ve had a Swiss documentary called More than Honey in my Netflix queue, sitting right alongside Hotel Rwanda and They Call it Myanmar, movies I know I should watch but always forgo in favor of binge-watching Bridezillas.

Michelle-blogRecently, though, I heard about a campaign from Birks (and, later, another by Gumuchian) that made me turn off the bridesmaid-berating brides-to-be and finally watch More than Honey.

The documentary, produced in 2012, attempts to answer the question of what’s causing honey bees, which pollinate 80 percent of the world’s plant species, to die? What’s the root of colony collapse disorder, when the workers bees disappear and the hive, as a result, fails?

The one-hour, 35-minute documentary takes viewers from California, where it follows a migrant beekeeper dealing with large-scale colony collapse, to China, where the heavy use of chemicals in farming has killed off almost all the bees. Migrant workers there now pollinate plants by hand, an unbelievable task.

What the documentary, which rambles a bit but still is informative, concludes is this: The massive death of bees is not due to one factor but a combination of them: pesticides, mites, antibiotics, incest (too much in-breeding to produce desired traits, much like what we’ve done to farm animals and crops that’s greatly reduce the variety of both) and stress.

“They are dying as a result of our civilization’s success,” More Than Honey narrator John Hurt says. “As a result of man, who has turned feral bees into docile domestic animals; wolves into delicate poodles.”

In order to draw attention to this issue, Montreal-based Birks is partnering with the Honey Bee Research Centre at the University of Guelph in Ontario, which is the largest research and teaching apiary in North America. (An apiary is a place where hives of honey bees are kept, also known as a bee yard.)

The Birks "Bee Chic" pendant that will benefit the University of Guelph in Ontario

Birks will help to support the center’s researchers and graduate students, who are working to understand the various diseases, parasites and environmental factors contributing to colony collapse.

In addition, the retailer introduced three jewelry collections that celebrate bees, called Bee Chic, Bee Sweet and Busy Bee, drawing on the beautiful shape of honeycomb for inspiration. A sterling silver pendant with a small citrine accent from the Bee Chic collection will benefit the Honey Bee Research Centre directly, with 10 percent of its sales going to the University of Guelph.

A Maison Birks spokeswoman said Bee Chic currently is available only in Canada, but plans include an August launch in the retailer’s Mayors stores, which are located in Atlanta and Florida.

Shortly after learning about the Birks campaign, I discovered that New York-based jewelry brand Gumuchian is launching the “B” collection in Las Vegas, which also gives honeycomb the gold and diamond treatment and benefits a bee-based charity.

Gumuchian's "B" collection hoops are 18-karat yellow and white gold with 60 diamonds totaling 0.46 carats. The retail price is $4,000.

A portion of the proceeds of all B collection sales will go to Honey Love, which champions urban beekeeping and home gardens.

To learn more about supporting the Honey Bee Research Centre, visit its website, where you can actually buy honey and other bee-related products. More information about Honey Love is available on its website as well, and that organization also is selling products to support its cause (the “God Save the Queen” t-shirt is particularly cute.)

More than Honey can be viewed on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, downloaded on iTunes or watched directly on the film’s website.

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