Beekeeper Review: Swarm

Today’s fictional beekeeper is the Marvel Comics supervillain known as Swarm. If you’ve heard of him at all, you probably know the deal: he’s a Nazi made of bees.

Swarm was once a human scientist and beekeeper named Fritz von Meyer. Fritz’s time during the Second World War has not been explored much, though he’s been described as one of Hitler’s top scientists and we know he was an expert in toxins and poisons. Given that, I’d expect he did some real real bad things. When the Nazis lost, he fled to South America and lived in hiding there for years.

It was in South America that Fritz came to devote more time to melittology, opting to study the breeding patterns of killer bees (perhaps already he saw bees as a way to get his revenge). During this period he discovered a colony of bees that had been strangely mutated by cosmic radiation, making them stronger, more intelligent, more curious, and utterly peaceful and without fear. Fritz saw this and immediately thought “Hey maybe I can make them evil!” so he made a sci-fi ray gun that was supposed to help him control these killer bees and reactivate their violent nature. As soon as he fired on them, the bees devoured Fritz down to the bone, but his consciousness remained alive, now part of the hivemind of the bees. He could even create a physical form for his mind by having the bees swarm around his skeleton. Taking on the role of “Lord of the Killer Bees” Swarm is began his career as a supervillain and began trying to conquer the world.

Indeed this fusion of beekeeper and bees has resulted in one heckuva powerful supervillain. Being a man-made-of-bees, Swarm can fly and break into disparate parts, and looks great in a cloak. They can see simultaneously from the eyes of any and all of the bees in the hivemind, which has at times numbered millions of bees, enough to cover Los Angeles. They can eat their way through various materials, including synthetic webbing and some armours. They have complete access to Fritz’s mad science intellect as well, creating such things as giant invulnerable mutant queens, massive mechanical drones, and duplicates of enemy heroes made from bees. In one instance, after a defeat that left Fritz’s skeleton separated from the bees, a dormant queen was hidden inside his skull that, when bathed in radiation, awakened and gave birth to a new swarm’s worth of bees at incredible speeds.

Of course, as impressive as that list is, Swarm is not without weaknesses. Threats to the individual bees are just what they would be to any bees. Fire, water, electricity, all of these and more have felled the bees. Regular insect repellent has proven useful on several occasions. But Swarm itself is not just individual bees, it is the hivemind in full. That’s harder to defeat, but heroes have managed it on numerous occasions. There are vibrations that disrupt the mental cohesion among the bees, but I’m going to come out and say it: Swarm’s biggest weakness is that Swarm is a bad beekeeper.

Swarm’s bees are explicitly “killer bees” and we’ve never once seen the guy making honey. Fritz, and therefore the hivemind, doesn’t care a whit for the wellness of the bees beyond their use as a tool for world conquest. Not once have I seen Swarm, you know, making honey or anything. This whole colony is too caught up in that supervillain life to be good at being bees. It doesn’t have to be this way. Beekeepers are supposed to improve the existence of the hive, but Fritz has not done so.

It’s interesting to look at the arc that Swarm has undergone through their publication history, which I’m sure is unintentional since the character has been thoroughly stickerbooked. When fresh on the scene, Swarm was a powerful world-level threat that took a lot to beat. After several defeats, they started identifying as a pluralized being, no longer explicitly as Fritz von Meyer. This version of Swarm decided to opt out of the supervillain game, content to just wait until humanity offed itself through its various follies. This era of Swarm didn’t seek out fights, but would retaliate if someone accidentally hurt them. But that era didn’t last and Swarm has fallen to more petty supervillainy, and with it the singly-identifying again. He’s now more likely to join a team of supervillains (though at least he’s been the leader of such groups) and pull off crimes like robbing banks. Swarm has identity issues and vacillates between a single being who is a jerk of a supervillain, and a grand hive who hates humanity and responds mercilessly to any threat. Neither is great, and a solid beekeeper would have been able to keep the bees on a more constructive track.

Four Honeycombs out of Five.

As you ponder this rating, keep in mind that I’ve always given evil Beekeepers a lower rating than good Beekeepers. Swarm rates this highly even though he’s quite bad because he’s powerful and supernatural and does good for bee-theming and all that, but he loses that one point that most beekeepers can get just for beekeeping. It’s a shame.

Beekeeper Review: SCP-1256-1

The code “SCP-1256-1” is used by the SCP Foundation to refer to anybody who comes under the influence of a certain strange pamphlet with mind-altering effects, but I am specifically reviewing the family on whose property the mysterious pamphlet was first discovered. We don’t know much about them, but of course that will not stop me. I’ve reviewed more obscure beekeepers than this.

This family of five ran a bee-farm in New South Wales, though I can’t say for sure how successful it was. What we do know is that at some point they came into the possession of a pamphlet titled “Bees – Smarter Than You Think” and at least one member of the family (the eldest daughter) read it pamphlet and fell under its influence.

For whatever reason, this pamphlet makes the reader obsessed with helping bees. Unfortunately this does not make for better beekeepers, because it does it wrong. The afflicted person loses any sense of what actually helps the hive and can actually hurt the hive, to the point that the bees will be fighting against the person who is obsessively trying to help them. In the case of this family, it ended with the daughter murdering the rest of her family. In the long run, this did not help the farm.

This family is (or I should say, was) a beekeeping group in proximity to the supernatural. Often that can be good for these reviews. It did not work out so well in this case, though. They don’t rate so highly.

2 Honeycombs out of Five.

It’s worth noting that the SCP Foundation has devoted a team to containing the pamphlet when it turns up, called Mobile Task Force Zeta-4 but nicknamed the ‘Beekeepers’. But they aren’t actually beekeepers. They’re pamphlet killers whose target pamphlet happens to be about bees.

Beekeeper Review: Barry

We haven’t, to date, had the best of luck with Beekeepers who live in fantasy videogame realms. It’s a shame, because some of our highest-ranking Beekeepers come from fantasy novels. But in games, the Beekeepers are always there to just beg for the help of the players. Apiarists in Distress, as I have said before. So I didn’t expect much of Barry, a Beekeeper found in the world of World of Warcraft. But there are always surprises in reviewing Fictional Beekeeper.

To be sure, Barry is another NPC who will set the player off on quests and stuff, but it isn’t because he needs help. All indications are that Barry’s own beekeeping operations are doing just fine without any help from the player. Instead, Barry gets the player to help out with another colony of bees altogether. It turns out that there’s a new hive in the valley, giant bees have arrived from places unknown, and Barry tells the player about it. When the player finds the hive and the bees are ready to defend themselves, Barry steps in and brokers peace between the player and the bees of the Honeyback Hive. You see, Barry can speak the language of the bees fluently and he’s not about to let the new bees (or the player) waste their lives in combat. After that he seems to operate as a freelance translator between the bees and the players, in spite of the fact that the Honeyback Hive isn’t even his own hive. He’s doing extra beekeeping on the side of his own.

Barry seems like a nice guy. Very genial and none of the telltale signs of Beekeeper Rage. His bees are extremely large, if not the size of the newcomers. And he loves his bees and they love him back/ And he loves the Honeyback bees as well, enjoying petting their fuzzy thoraxes. As for supernatural or combat prowess, Barry seems about standard for a denizen of Azeroth, a place where magic and combat are ubiquitous. It’s a world where a Beekeeper needs to be extra careful because you never know when a honey-crazed mauler is going to turn up. We can only infer that if Barry is successful in this world, he’s got the skill to back it up.

4 Honeycombs out of Five. He’s standout in videogame NPC Beekeepers.

Beekeeper Review: Lee Sanchez

Louis “Lee” Sanchez is a supervillain who appears as an opponent in the roleplaying game Villains and Vigilantes. Before he was a beekeeping supervillain he was a boxer and a movie star and was quite successful. Unfortunately, during that period he got caught up in a world of illegal drugs and firearms. This ended poorly for Lee, causing his career to come to a halt, leaving him poor. Eventually he got a job as a security guard at a scientific company, only to steal their experimental “bio-electric suit” which had been designed to control killer bees. He had originally intended to ransom the suit back to the company, but after wearing it he took a liking to the powers it granted and opted to keep it and begin a career as a supervillain called The Beekeeper!

Apart from his own prowess as an athlete and a fighter, Lee’s suit allows him to control his bees, to fly, to shoot “stingers”, and it enhances his strength. It is also noted that he has an ability to detect the weaknesses of his opponents, but it’s not made clear if that’s a result of his experience as a pugilist or a function of the suit. He’s got a weakness to insecticide though. It is noted that he’s smart enough to use his bees to scout out locations before he gets into problems, which is smart, but otherwise he only uses his bees when they’re necessary, otherwise preferring to do his work on his own.

Lee definitely has some typical Beekeeper Rage on display. It’s said that he has never really recovered from his fall from grace and will be enraged by people who mock him or imply that he’s a loser. That said, it is also noted that he has become very protective of his bees, whom he feared at first but has since come to see as loyal friends, unlike those who abandoned him when his life went bad. The sourcebook specifically notes that “if many of them are harmed he becomes enraged enough to kill.” Though more justified, it’s still Beekeeper Rage, but it does also show that in spite of the fact that he began his career as a “controller” of bees, he has come to see them as partners in his life. That wins some points with me.

3 Honeycombs out of Five. But keep in mind that this is a character in a tabletop roleplaying game. If the players and game master did their things right, they could spin adventures in which Lee turns out to be a cosmic-level beekeeper and it’d be as valid a take on the character as any other. He could become a hero. The possibilities are endless.

Beekeeper Review: Beezwax

We’ve seen Beekeepers who use vehicles for their beekeeping before (Doc Beebles’s truck comes to mind.) But today’s Beekeeper is a character from the game series Vigilante 8, so he spends most of his time fighting in his truck. He is called Beezwax and he’s definitely given into his Beekeeper Rage.

He had been a farmer until his farm was polluted with radioactive waste from a nearby government testing facility. After that, “Beezwax packed up and hit the road in a rage of madness” and sought revenge on those who had wronged him. As is so typical when a Beekeeper goes bad, the justification is sound, but the response is too much and they go evil. In his mentally unstable state, Beezwax encounters the leader of Vigilante 8’s villains, a man called Sid Burn, and starts thinking he is a prophet. Beezwax sides with Burn and his villainous team and we lose another Beekeeper to the bad side.

It seems like Beezwax’s quest for revenge becomes a little unfocused when he joins the villains. He continues finding things that piss him off, such as when he sees ski resorts taking over his hometown, but I doubt Syd Burn is as concerned with nuclear waste dumping as Beezwax ought to be. Perhaps it is the justice of the bees then that, in one of the endings in which Beezwax wins the game, his acquisition of some nuclear warheads goes awry when one of his bees sets off the bomb, presumably killing Beezwax.

Beezwax has a pretty sweet thing going here. Just having a mobile apiary is impressive, but this truck is equipped with all manner of other gadgetry that can help in a fight. Guns and rocket launchers, for example. It’s considered one of the game’s more heavily armoured, but slower vehicles. A tank, I believe is the term for this sort of setup. But it isn’t just the truck! The bees themselves have been mutated into a “Gamma Swarm” by the radiation. They seem larger than average and can be sent out of attack Beeswax’s enemies.

If only it had all been in the hands of a more well-adjusted Beekeeper. If someone had the same origin, the same setup, the same powers, but hadn’t given into a destructive spiral of anger, that would have been one awesome Beekeeper.

3 Honeycombs out of Five.