One of the saddest movies I ever saw as a girl (besides Schindler's List) was the 1991 Macaulay Culkin film My Girl. It was my first encounter with the idea that bad things can happen to cute little girls. Vada Sultenfuss – a bright 11-year-old girl in love with her English teacher – is dealing with her mother's death (blaming herself, as she died giving birth to Vada), her father's new romance and getting her first period in the coming-of-age story. With a tendency towards morbidity, she finds a friend in the quirky, allergic-to-everything, unpopular boy Thomas J. Then he dies of bee stings. And she learns that death is a natural part of life.
The G magazine cover line "Bees In Crisis" reminded me of the film. According to the beautifully laid out and educational six-page feature dedicated to the bees, titled 'No Plan B', "these tireless, tiny workers are under siege and disappearing fast, with a sting in the tail for all of us".
I learnt that bees play a big part in maintaining our world's biodiversity but are currently besieged by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). "According to a 2010 United Nations Environment Programme report on CCD, Europe is experiencing 'unusual weakening and mortality in colonies' while the US battles 'drastic losses'," reports Sarah Kellett. "So what's causing these hard-working honey hoarders to suddenly drop like flies? Habitat loss, diseases, invasive species and agricultural insecticides are thought to be among the barrage of contributing factors."
The story helpfully gives us pointers on backyard bee-keeping and "Creating a Bee-Friendly Garden" ("provide refreshments, such as a "shallow tray with a bit of timber or leaves floating in it, or a pond with some aquatic plants"), as well as descriptions of the different kinds of bees: "Most species don't have hives or queens. Instead, a female builds a solitary nest for her eggs. Sometimes sisters nest together, taking it in turns to guard and forage."
Those girl-bees, it seems, are rather like lady-humans. While Valda's dad's love interest, Shelley, the makeup artist played by Jamie Lee Curtis, conflicts with the 11-year-old she also teaches her about some of the facts of life as a woman. Lady-bees can sting, as shown by the profile of Erin Brockovich, patron of the new Australia-based Environmental Justice Society (pages 26/27), but survive better when we nest together.
"I'm a single mother and I've raised three children on my own," says Brockovich. "I've had issues with my kids. I've been through divorce. I know what it's like to be a woman in a still male-dominated world and get knocked around and get back up and say, you know, I like how I dress and who I am. And when that trash talking crusader comes out for a fight, and someone gets their panties in a notch because I drop an F-bomb...sorry, but they're just going to have to deal with that."
Vada? VADA?? What happened??
(extremely frightened and timid)
My ball, I lost my ball
(picking Vada up onto her feet)
Come on sweetie.
Girl With a Satchel