As a filmmaker, Martin Dohrn is aware that not everything goes as planned.
His latest project, “My Garden of a Thousand Bees,” was one that taught him patience.
“There were times that I had to wait for hours to capture the footage I needed,” he says. “It was a waiting game.”
“My Garden of a Thousand Bees” will be broadcast at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 29, on the World channel 5.4. It will rebroadcast at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 1, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1. It is also available to stream on the PBS Video app.
Dohrn has created films for more than two decades.
Yet, during the pandemic, the wildlife filmmaker set out to record all the bees he could find in his tiny urban garden in Bristol, England, filming them with one-of-a-kind lenses he forged on his kitchen table.
The documentary, which kicks off Nature’s 40th season on PBS, follows Dohrn during the COVID-19 lockdown of spring and summer 2020, as he becomes bee-obsessed and develops relationships with individual bees. Filming more than 60 species of bees, from Britain’s largest bumblebees to scissor bees, which are the size of a mosquito, Dohrn observes how differences in behavior set different species apart from each other. Eventually, he gets so close to the bees, he can identify individuals just by looking at them.
“I didn’t expect to spend my time like that,” he says. “But we couldn’t go anywhere. My wife had some other useful things that I could have done. It could be said that the film was a diversion and I’m very happy that I found things that excited other people.”
Dohrn says viewers will marvel at moments timely captured in the film.
He captured bees laying tiny eggs preparing for the next generation, green-fanged spiders feasting on male flower bees and a female yellow-faced bee attacking a gasteruption wasp to protect her nest.
Other fascinating behavior featured in the program includes two male bees fighting each other over a female, different species of bees competing over territory, and one busy bee building a nest with a shell and hundreds of sticks.
Intrigued by the intelligence of one particular wood-carving leafcutter bee, Dohrn dubs her “Nicky” and sees life at her level as she leaves a lasting legacy in the garden.
“The key thing was for most of the bees in the garden is that I did become part of the landscape,” he says. “They did treat me as harmless. They also learned not to use me as a navigational aide. I made sure I was not disruptive to their daily life.”
Dohrn says he hopes audiences will enjoy the film because bees are always an important issue.
“I hope people get an appreciation for the world around them and I hope they understand bees a little better,” he says. “There are probably like 1,000 species of bees in New Mexico. Honey bees are just one species. I look at bees in a different way due to this work.”
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