Paul Growald came into The Naturalist's Notebook the other day. He's a lot of things, including an expert on bees, a regular summer visitor to Seal Harbor and a really good guy who works to protect the planet through a number of initiatives. He is also the co-executive producer of Hidden Beauty, a big-screen Disneynature film about pollinators and flowers whose release date has not yet been set. If you saw Disneynature Earth or Disneynature Oceans, you can expect similarly amazing images and insights from Paul's film.
With our Sweet 16 honey-tasting tournament now in the finals—Maine Wild Raspberry vs. Pennsylvania Alfalfa in an unexpected championship matchup that will last all week—now seemed a logical time to post a shortened version of an interview I did with Paul a few months ago about the movie and about bees. Here are some snippets:
Q: How and when did the project start?
A: About three years ago, when I met Louie Schwartzberg, a renowned cinematographer who has a huge library of images on flowers and nature, including some of the most impressive time-lapse footage. He is passionate about the beauty of flowers. My focus for years has been pollinators. We cross-pollinated our passions and came up with the idea for this film.
Q: What do hope it will achieve?
A: I hope it will dramatically increase awareness of the importance of pollinators to humanity and the natural world and help improve policies that affect them. Q: What pollinators does the film focus on? A: Several kinds of bees plus hummingbirds, fruit-eating bats and monarch butterflies.
Q: What has your role been?
A: I’m co-executive producer with responsibilities for finance, science and unusual promotion. Watching the film take shape and evolve, offering comments (mine and others’) on the script and planning an engaging promotional strategy have been the most fun.
Q: Have you learned new things?
A: I learned that even hummingbirds in flight take pauses.
Q: What update can you give us on colony collapse disorder (CCD) among honey bees?
A: CCD remains a mystery. [Annual] losses continue of up to one-third of the hives used for crop pollination (that’s two-thirds of all U.S. hives) and the percentage of losses is steadily climbing. No single cause has been identified.
Q: Is the overall outlook either better or worse than it was a year or two ago?
A: It's worse.
Q: What are the best things an average person can do to improve the outlook for bees and other pollinators?
A: Substitute honey for other forms of sugar in your diet, plant perennial flowering plants native to your area in your flower garden and encourage others to do the same. Favor those that bloom late in the season. Avoid using pesticides. And look for pollinators any time you see flowers. Sit and watch for them on flowers.
Q: What would you tell someone who was thinking about taking up beekeeping as a hobby?
A: I'd encourage anyone thinking of keeping bees to find someone local who can mentor you, read up on doing it and get started. I find it deeply rewarding and fun.
Q: What's your favorite type of honey, and what do you most like to eat honey in or on?
A: Tupelo, very rare. And Vermont spring wildflower honey. I love it straight out of the jar and on toast.