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Ultimate Swarms

Mon Aug 26, 9-10pm, BBC1

Swarms are considered to be among the greatest phenomena on the planet. Here, zoologist and adventurer George McGavin immerses himself in some of nature’s most spectacular swarms and hunts for both their purpose and the relationship between the swarm and modern civilization.

Swarms, it turns out, are rather revealing, as we encounter bees smothering both their queen (in this case, the documentary’s understandably twitchy host) and cannibalistic locusts. However, unlike most nature docs, where we’re encouraged to gawp at adorable baby polar bears, McGavin explores the advantages and disadvantages of swarms and what they can tell us about how we all live. His comparison of panicked carp to the London rioters is particularly memorable and pertinent.

However, while the film is beautifully shot and the concept intriguing, something is missing. Compared to David Attenborough, McGavin lacks authority and fills the gap with repetitive catchphrases. Eventually, ‘Ultimate Swarms’ feels like a minor missed opportunity.