It’s not every day you set out to write about a bee having sex with a human. But that’s the magic of TikTok. A user posts a video, wondering out loud if a worker bee (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld in the 2007 classic film Bee Movie) could actually inseminate a female florist (played by Renée Zellweger). Suddenly, before you can even be(e)lieve it, you’re on the phone with acclaimed entomologists, asking a completely earnest question about animated bee honeymaking.
The user is @literally_kathy_bates, who I don’t believe is literally the actress from American Horror Story. The question: “So if she” — that is, Zellweger’s character Vanessa Bloome — “got pregnant, do you think that she would have like a million babies and lay them all over the apartment, or would she have like one half-human/half-bee baby that’s just in constant pain and suffering?” (Now why isn’t this question on an AP Biology test? The College Board certainly doesn’t seem to know the Zoomer hive mind.)
You might say investigating human and bee procreation is a pointless, and certainly unscientific, pursuit. “That part is a biological implausibility,” says Dr. Gene Robinson, entomologist and director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Moreover, why the hell do we care about the implausible sex life of characters from a 13-year-old animated movie? “I was wondering why you’re talking about a movie that’s quite a number of years old,” Robinson says. Fair question. See, doc, the TikTok hive is buzzing about Barry B. Benson’s stinger. It’s only responsible I extract the truth.
Sadly, the answer is that Bee Movie’s love story ends in tragedy. In the impossible circumstance that Barry and Vanessa do procreate, Barry’s buzz would come to an abrupt halt. “Barry would die immediately after mating and we’d never hear from him again,” says Neil Tsutsui, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Berkeley. Male bees, known as drones, die a gruesome death after sex. After ejaculation, the drone falls back and his endophallus (bee dick) is ripped out of his abdomen.
In short, Barry came as he went. Talk about a fatally good fuck.
But let’s indulge the movie logic some more. How many kids would the Bensons have? The number of half-human/half-bees would still be constrained by the reproductive capacity of the mother, so Tsutsui posits they’d produce only a couple larvae. They’d also have all-female babies: Like ants and wasps, fertilized eggs become female and unfertilized eggs become male.
Again, though, this is biologically untenable. There is no way a bee would inseminate a human and produce a viable embryo.
Still, since we’re facing a bee crisis, it’s worth thinking about how those little stingers could improve our lives. “I’d like to think that the offspring of a bee and a human would have an interesting combination: a strong interest in working for the greater good, along with a colorful streak of individuality — not unlike Jerry Seinfeld in the film,” Robinson says. Now that’s an answer sweeter than honey.