Behavior, Biology and Syndicate Plans
Bees often make a buzzing noise. (TXF: "Herrenvolk", et al.) They are social insects and live in colonies. (TXF: "War of the Coprophages", "Zero Sum") Many bees live in an apiary, where they swarm. (TXF: "Herrenvolk")
Bees are known to create honeycomb in enclosed environments. (TXF: "Herrenvolk", "Zero Sum") Honey bees secrete royal jelly, a highly nutritious secretion, from their pharyngeal gland. (TXF: "Zero Sum") Bee pollen is also edible. (TXF: "Dreamland")
Bees have venom sacs and stingers that the insects use to sting their victims with venom but these components can be made to carry a disease, delivered when the bee stings. (TXF: "Zero Sum") Bees can also be made to carry a virus in their sting. (The X-Files Movie, TXF: "The Beginning") Any kind of bee can be lethal to a human, provided the person is stung by enough of them. Even Africanized honey bees, the so-called "killer bees", basically have the same venom as the European honey bee - it's just that they tend to attack in swarms. (TXF: "Zero Sum") Some humans have an allergy to bee stings that can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock if they are stung. (The X-Files Movie) Aliens are immune to bee stings, although the stings are not only painful to humans but also to alien bounty hunters. A means of protecting a human from bees involves dousing the person in oil. (TXF: "Herrenvolk")
As part of the joint Syndicate/alien colonization plans, a series of events leading up to colonization would be initiated when bees delivered an alien virus, causing a massive outbreak of the virus and a state of emergency to be declared. (TXF: "One Son") The Syndicate initially conducted a trial run of bees that carried smallpox but the group also kept bees carrying the alien virus. (TXF: "Zero Sum", The X-Files Movie) Presumably, the Syndicate's plans for the bees were destroyed with the group's destruction, in 1999. (TXF: "One Son")
Excuse for Protection Error
At the Roswell Municipal Ballfield in Roswell, New Mexico on June 30, 1947, Arthur Dales, an officer from the Roswell Police Department who had been assigned to protect baseball player and target of racists Josh Exley, saw two men in the to use the dishonest excuse that a bee had been on him. Exley replied that the bee must have been a big one and, walking back to the dugout, Dales nodded, claiming to Exley that the insect could have ripped his head off. (TXF: "The Unnatural")
Klemper's Greenhouse and Possibilities in Miller's Grove
In Miller's Grove, Massachusetts, in late 1995, Sheriff Frass suggested that killer bees had been a genetic experiment gone awry, let loose on an unsuspecting populace, and, when Doctor Bambi Berenbaum first met Dr. Alexander Ivanov, she wondered if he had ever considered programming robots he created to mimic the behavior of social insects like ants or bees, to which he admitted that he had. (TXF: "War of the Coprophages")
In Canada in 1996, a bee from a nearby agricultural project stung a repairman on his neck, while he was working near the top of a telephone pole, despite the worker attempting to swat the insect away. The man almost immediately swatted at his neck, causing the bee to fall to the ground, where it landed on its back but continued to buzz and struggle. The man later died, as the bee was a carrier of smallpox, and his corpse was found by FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder and the alien Jeremiah Smith, as they passed the scene of the incident together.
Jeremiah Smith then took Mulder to the Canadian farmland where the bee had come from. More bees were in the vicinity of flowering ginseng shrubs that were tended to by members of an agrarian workforce that included blond boy clones, who had witnessed the repairman contract smallpox, as well as clones of Samantha Mulder.
A nearby apiary contained many more thousands of bees, giant pillars of honeycomb and a narrow skylight that provided ingress/egress for the insects. Mulder, Jeremiah and a Samantha clone hid here, with After a month spent unsuccessfully inquiring about the Canadian farmland with each of the Special Representatives of the United Nations, Mulder met Marita Covarrubias, who told him when they first met that the farm had been abandoned, with the ginseng crops having been left to die, and that no evidence of bees or bee husbandry had been found. (TXF: "Herrenvolk") No evidence of beehives had been discovered, either. (TXF: "Zero Sum") Before their first meeting was concluded, Covarrubias handed Mulder a UN folder that included a photograph of Samantha clones working in the ginseng field and, by about six months later, also included a photograph of a bee atop one of the flowering shrubs. (TXF: "Herrenvolk", "Zero Sum") Around the same time, Mulder called forensic entomologist Doctor Peter Valedespino to ask the expert all about killer bees and a fatality caused by bees. (TXF: "Zero Sum")
Humorous References to Fertility
In 1997, shortly after discovering that five babies in the small town of Martinsburg, West Virginia had recently been born with tails and each had five separate mothers but the same father (who had likely also had a tail), Scully stated, in response to Mulder asking her - when the agents were alone together - how the incident had occurred, "Birds and the bees and the monkey babies, Mulder." At this time, Mulder suspected that Doctor Alton Pugh might be responsible and responded to Scully, "Birds do it, bees do it, even educated M.D.s do it." (TXF: "Small Potatoes")
By about six months after Mulder had consulted Dr. Valedespino, seven packages that contained the bees were sent from Canada to a P.O. Box in Payson, South Carolina. One of these packages was damaged during transportation, however, and was consequently taken to a storage room in the Transcontinental Express Routing Center in Desmond, Virginia, where postal worker Jane Brody was killed by swarming bees in a restroom of the building. Her body, which showed signs of smallpox, was found by her friend and coworker, Misty Nagatta, by which time the bees were all gone. Misty was later visited by men who did not identify themselves but wanted the damaged package from the storage room and, before leaving, told Misty that, if she spoke to anyone, she would lose her job.
Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who was reluctantly working under orders from the Cigarette Smoking Man, initially attempted to cover up evidence of Jane Brody's death shortly after it happened but Skinner later found honeycomb inside the walls of the restroom where Brody had died and about six months earlier, Mulder had visited him with questions regarding killer bees. Realizing that the two cases involving bees were directly related, Skinner called Marita Covarrubias with news that he might, very soon, have access to the same bees that had been part of the Canadian agricultural project. That night, Dr. Valedespino found that the bee larva was no longer contained and he was killed in his home/laboratory by more swarming bees.
In a building on New York City's 46th Street (where the Syndicate would often meet), the CSM presented a specimen of the virulent bees to the group, referring to it as the last remaining specimen. He reported that the bees from Dr. Valedespino's house had been contained and destroyed and that the scientist's body, which exhibited signs of smallpox, had also been sanitized. The other Syndicate members were unaware of how the latest death had happened and, although the CSM refused to divulge any details to the group, he assured the other members that the matter had been taken care of and that any other breaches had also been handled. Before he left the Syndicate meeting, the CSM pocketed the bee specimen and revealed that the planned trial run of the bees had already begun.
Shortly thereafter, a swarm of bees stung many children in the playground outside the J.F.K. Elementary School in Payson, South Carolina, and were responsible for the agonizing death of the children's teacher, Ms. Kemper. Children from the school were taken to Payson Community Hospital, where their treatment was overseen by a Dr. Linzer. A few hours after the children were stung, Skinner arrived and notified Dr. Linzer that they needed to be treated for smallpox, having learned from Mulder that the bees carried the disease, but his medical advice was disputed by the doctor, at least initially. Marita Covarrubias arrived soon after Skinner, with questions for him regarding the bees. (TXF: "Zero Sum")
Inside a White Dome Tent and Stinging Scully
After following an alien virus being transported through Texas in 1998, Mulder and his FBI partner, Special Agent Dana Scully, came to two white domed tents that were surrounded by a field of corn, whose pollen had been genetically engineered to include the virus. Unaware that at least one of the tents housed many thousands of the bees that were carriers of the alien virus, the agents entered the tent. The insects were stored behind louver vents in the floor and created a low humming that Scully incorrectly suspected was the sound of high voltage electricity. When additional louver vents at the top of the dome opened, Mulder realized that he and his partner were in danger, and told Scully to run.
Almost immediately after Mulder's warning, the vents in the floor opened, releasing the bees. Thick streams of bees clouded the atmosphere of the domed space, flying for the open louvers at the top of the dome, as Mulder and Scully, pulling their jackets over their heads, ran for the only way out of the tent. The swarm of bees was so thick that Scully struggled to see the exit, a set of double doors, but Mulder took her hand and led her to the doorway, where overhead fans blew down on them as they quickly stamped their feet to remove the insects from their clothing. Once the agents had rushed outside, Mulder asked Scully whether she had been stung in the domed tent; she replied negatively but uncertainly. Mulder later recounted having seen the bees and corn crops when he covertly met with Alvin Kurtzweil, a former member of the Syndicate acting as an informer to Mulder.
Meanwhile, Scully had a hearing with the FBI's Office of Professional Review during which, as she spoke, a bee crawled out from under the collar of her jacket and slowly wandered toward the back of her neck. This bee later stung her while she was visiting Mulder in his apartment. She picked the squirming bee out of her clothing and held it in her fingers as Mulder, who assumed that the insect had gotten in Scully's shirt, checked the back of her neck. Even though Scully had no preexisting allergy to bee stings, she was affected by the alien virus and Mulder called an ambulance for her but was unaware at the time that the paramedics were working for the Syndicate and the driver of their ambulance shot him, moments before the real ambulance arrived.
Before Mulder regained consciousness in a hospital where he was taken, the Lone Gunmen found the bee in his hall and identified it as an Africanized honeybee. After Mulder rescued Scully and cured her with a vaccine, she presented a vial containing this same bee to OPR as evidence of her recent experiences, but admitted that she did not believe the FBI currently had an investigative unit qualified to pursue her evidence. (The X-Files Movie) Mulder later recounted, at another OPR hearing, that Scully had been stung by one of the bees carrying the alien virus and that she had been exposed to the virus. (TXF: "The Beginning")
- Although the conclusion to The X-Files Movie does establish the existence of another cornfield surrounding two more white dome tents in Foum Tataouine, Tunisia and implies that the virus from the cornfield in Texas is transported there, following the destruction of the Texan cornfield, it is not entirely clear what happened to the bees stored in the two tents in Texas, whether the similar tents in Tunisia also contain bees and, if so, whether those bees have been transported from the tents in Texas or are entirely different.
Role in Thwarted Plans and Movie Reference
In 1999, while believing that the colonization of Earth was nigh because the faceless aliens had quickened its onset, the Cigarette Smoking Man revealed to Mulder, moments after being threatened by the FBI agent, that the sequence of events before the start of the alien takeover, including the massive outbreak of the alien virus delivered by bees, was about to begin. It was shortly after this that the Syndicate was destroyed, however, when - with the exception of the CSM - they were burned to death by the faceless aliens. (TXF: "One Son")
Moments before Mulder and Scully passionately kiss in one scene of the movie The Lazarus Bowl, whose premiere was in 2000, Mulder tells Scully that he loves her and adds, "No ifs, ands or...", leaving Scully to conclude his sentence with the word "bees". (TXF: "Hollywood A.D.")
Bee larvae looked completely different from adult bees. During the development of the larvae, they would pupate and hatch. Each bee larva could not be identified as the certain type of bee it was, until after it had pupated.
Main article: smallpox The bees that carried smallpox spread an especially virulent strain of the disease, caused by a mutated variola virus. Normally, smallpox no longer existed, in the settings where attacks by these bees occurred, and had an eight-day incubation period. (TXF: "Zero Sum")
Moments after a person was stung by one of these bees, the individual might start to wretch and suffer convulsions that became extreme, as if the person was having a seizure. (TXF: "Herrenvolk", "Zero Sum") This experience was encountered by the repairman in Canada and - after his volatile convulsions caused him to fall from a high telephone pole, to which he was attached by equipment that broke - his shaking stopped but he groaned in pain and was non-responsive when he was gently kicked, having seemingly entered a kind of hazy consciousness. (TXF: "Herrenvolk")
An encounter with bees carrying smallpox was known to leave the victim's exposed skin covered in sores and scabs, in merely a matter of minutes. (TXF: "Herrenvolk, "Zero Sum") In hot weather, outside, ants might be attracted to a body in this state. Exposed touching of a deceased body bearing the pocks and blisters was not advised, even if the physical contact occurred longer than twenty-four hours after the victim's death.
Although alien bounty hunters were immune to bee stings, the only one of these aliens who was known to have been attacked by bees carrying smallpox showed the physical signs of the disease, following his encounter with the insects, but he soon continued to slowly heal. (TXF: "Herrenvolk") Humans who died due to bees carrying smallpox and whose corpses were left with these physical symptoms included the Canadian repairman, postal worker Jane Brody, Dr. Valedespino and at least several of the children who were swarmed outside the J.F.K. Elementary School. (TXF: "Herrenvolk", "Zero Sum")
Alien "Black Oil" Virus
Main article: Purity Being stung by a bee carrying the alien virus could initially cause the victim to experience lancinating pain in their chest, affect their motor functions, cause their pulse to become thready and sense a strange taste in the back of their throat, losing consciousness shortly thereafter. The initial symptoms were similar to those related to anaphylactic shock and could easily be mistaken for this physical reaction, but the symptoms caused by the alien virus could affect individuals who had no preexisting allergy to bee stings. This was true of Agent Scully, when she was stung by a bee carrying the virus and experienced the consequent symptoms. Additionally, the paramedics working for the Syndicate diagnosed her as having constriction in the throat and larynx but deemed that her passages were open. (The X-Files Movie)
In the production of TXF: "Herrenvolk", the Season 4 premiere of The X-Files, scenes involving the bees in the Canadian agricultural project were actually filmed at a ginseng farm in the town of Kamloops, further from The X-Files' production base of Vancouver, Canada than ever before in the series' history. During production, the insects were tended by two elderly beekeepers who wore shorts, but the bees were nevertheless the subject of considerable anxiety.
According to Brian Thompson (who, in the episode, was returning to his role of playing the Alien Bounty Hunter), he used an acting exercise to keep the bees off him, by telling himself, "I am concrete. I am not honey. No stings." Mulder actor David Duchovny managed to completely avoid being stung, but the same was not true of Vanessa Morley, the child actor who played each Samantha clone in the episode as well as an eight-year-old Samantha in others. She was stung while the crew were filming a scene at the entrance to the apiary but bravely didn't flinch or yell out, until after director R.W. Goodwin said "cut." Subsequently, the props department created a purple heart plaque to award the child actress for "bravery beyond the call of duty" and it was presented to her by Scully actress Gillian Anderson in a small ceremony, two weeks later.
In order to create massive hanging honeycombs for the scene set in the apiary, the construction coordinator used a Fiberglas composite lattice, used in the aircraft industry, that is, coincidentally, commonly known as "honeycomb".
Because the bees had a habit of practically disappearing on exposed film, they were painstakingly and expensively enhanced and "doubled", electronically, by the visual effects department during post-production. (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
The script of "Herrenvolk" describes the bees near the flowering ginseng as "honeybees" and the condition that inflicts both the repairman and the bounty hunter as "a kind of extreme smallpox viral infection". However, neither of these concepts are in the final version of that episode and it would not be until the later Season 4 episode "Zero Sum" that the idea of bees carrying smallpox would be explored, on screen.
According to Frank Spotnitz, "Zero Sum" was also a good time to bring back the bees, as they had not been explained much, at the start of the season. By the time the cast received news of the bees' return, however, everyone even loosely connected with the television series was aware that the word "bee" in a script was synonymous with "trouble".
This remained true with the making of "Zero Sum", in which the bees again proved difficult to handle on set and showed up poorly on film. Once again, the problem had to be fixed in post-production by the visual effects team, including Laurie Kallsen-George, who had basically nine days to create extensive bee sequences - a task that, for a movie production, would take months. Even though she slept for only about a dozen hours of those nine days, she ultimately proved to be unflinching in completing the job. (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
The particular scene in The X-Files Movie where a bee walks across Scully's collar was filmed in June 1997. Dr. Norman Gary, an entomologist and film industry bee wrangler, was called into the production but he originally believed that this unusual shot - the most complicated bee performance he had ever been asked to realize - would be literally impossible to achieve. This was because the shot would be filmed inside, while a honey bee's behavior was much more difficult to control indoors than in its natural environment of being outdoors, and because most bees, under all the bright lights used on the set, would be inclined to fly rather than walk.
Gamely agreeing to try tackling the challenge despite his fears that it would not possible, Gary spent several sleepless nights thinking about possible means of making a bee repeatedly perform the certain required set of behaviors. He then started selecting bees that could be used for this purpose, choosing ones that showed a tendency to walk rather than fly and then whittling this selection down to bees that, under simulated set conditions, showed a tendency to follow an aerial pheromone trail. After Scully's coat was treated with a pheromone attractant Gary had developed and employed often in his line of work, he discovered that he could get a few bees to walk on the coat's fabric, toward the odor. Once on the set, Gary had a fan blowing the odor from the coat's left collar to the right collar - the opposite direction of the path set out for the bee - and, at the right collar, the preselected bee was released from a cage, on cue. To the astonishment of Gary and everyone else on the set, this female bee flawlessly performed the requested set of behaviors, about a dozen times that morning. Gary was extremely proud of the bee and saved her as a memento of the film, after she died. (The Making of The X-Files Movie)
Bee Dome Sequence
The prospect of filming the bee dome sequence was initially dreaded by the filmmakers, not only because the crew was anxious about working in an enclosed space with so many of the stinging insects but also due to the fact that the crew had a preconceived notion that the task of filming the sequence would ultimately be a disaster. Mat Beck fully expected to be assigned the job of having to generate digital bees for the sequence. Similarly, the crew imagined that they would have difficulty in making the bees swarm or that the insects would all fly up to the light.
On Friday, August 8, 1997, Dr. Gary arrived on the set that would be used as the interior of the bee dome, to test the conditions of the translucent, parachute-like set before filming there was due to begin on Monday, August 11 - two days earlier than had originally been planned. Over the weekend, the bees were kept in four beehives in a staging area just outside the dome but were brought to the set in little screened cages when it came time to shoot on Monday. Preparations made and precautions taken prior to filming this sequence were hurried, due to the fact that filming on the bee dome set had been moved ahead in the schedule, but they included the screening of cast and crew members for allergies to bee stings. Neither David Duchovny nor Gillian Anderson tested positively, but Anderson's usual stunt double on the film was found to be allergic and consequently had to be replaced for the single sequence's stunt work.
First unit filming with Duchovny and Anderson would be conducted on Monday and the following two days were reserved for second unit filming, focusing on wider shots of the actors' stunt doubles racing through the insect swarm. Over the course of these three days, three hundred, thousand bees were released inside the dome, where as many as twenty thousand bees at a time were wrangled by Gary. He, along with his team, would shake the bees through an opening in the cage, into a plastic tray, before Gary would run through the dome with the tray, scooping bees out of it with a small scooper, as the insects were required. When flying bees were needed, Gary would quickly scoop some up and toss them in the air, influencing them to automatically take flight. Gary would also occasionally create a layer of bees on the actors by using the scoop to gently sculpt the bees onto them.
To make the swarm seem even thicker, dead bees were collected at the end of the day and glued onto the actors' costumes but, after an entire day spent carrying out the latter task, the wardrobe crew returned to the wardrobe trailer the next day to find thousands of ants feasting on the dead bees.
The special effects team provided five-by-five foot, remote-controlled mechanical units used for insert shots of the bees entering through the louvers in the dome and the team also set up big fans that would blow the bees off the stunt doubles when they would reach the end of the interior set. Having warned the effects team that a bee could cling to something even with a fifty-mile-per-wind blowing on it, Gary was surprised at the effectiveness of the team's fan system.
Most members of the crew, the stunt doubles and the actors wore no protective clothing throughout the filming of this sequence. Remarkably, the bees stung only a handful of people, however, not including any of the stunt doubles or the actors, who were all swarmed. The worst casualty of the bees was Daniel Sackheim, who had refused all protective gear in a gesture of solidarity with the actors, and was stung not only once but on multiple times, making his ear noticeably swell.
As a finishing touch to the sequence, Blue Sky/VIFX created huge swarms of computer generated bees of all sizes, to supplement the real bees shot on the interior bee dome set. (The Making of The X-Files Movie)
In the audio commentary for the DVD of The X-Files Movie, Chris Carter reveals that he has a fear of being stung by something and states his opinion that everyone is really still scared, on a gut level, of the stinging animal(s) they were frightened of when they were a child, perhaps such as bees, scorpions and/or centipedes.
Shortly thereafter in the same DVD commentary, director Rob Bowman recalls that, during filming of the scene inside the white dome tent, there were three hundred, thousand bees flying around. He claims that, even though the crew were wearing nets and gloves to protect them from the insects while David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson wore no protective gear, the crew got stung but the two lead actors did not.
In "Small Potatoes", Mulder's humorous response to Scully, "Birds do it, bees do it, even educated M.D.s do it", is not included in the episode's script and was likely added during filming of the episode.
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