This Artist Is on a Quest to Paint 50,000 Honeybees Around the World

©. Matt Willey

For more than a decade, we've been charting how the world's imperiled bees are in decline. We know how important bees are as pollinators, and how widely used, human-made chemicals like neonicotinoids are causing bee populations to collapse.

But it can't be completely about doom and gloom, because hope and a light at the end of the tunnel is what pulls us through when things look their darkest. Things look bad, but in the last few years we've witnessed a booming interest in small-scale urban beekeeping and the leveraging of new technologies to boost honeybee populations. Artists are doing their part too, like American mural artist Matt Willey, who has committed himself to paint 50,000 bees worldwide to an effort to not only raise awareness about the plight of the bees but to also celebrate how incredible bees are.

Willey is the founder of the The Good of the Hive initiative, and he tells the Daily Tarheel that he became inspired to go on this quest for the honeybees when he observed a bee dying on the floor of his studio some years ago. Fascinated, he began researching bees further, discovering that there's a lot to these insects:

I came across a behavior of the honeybee that fascinated me. It is called altruistic suicide. When a honeybee feels sick, it will exit the hive and fly off into the abyss in order to keep the hive from getting sick. In essence, they do this for ‘the good of the hive.’ That is where the name [for the initiative] eventually came from.

Willey's commitment to painting 50,000 bees isn't an arbitrary one either; it's the number that's believed to be the minimum needed for a healthy, thriving hive.

So far, Willey has painted just a hundred shy of 1,000 honeybees in various places like Florida, Seattle and over at the Burt's Bees headquarters in Durham, North Carolina.

Whatever the bees may mean to you, they may be part of a metaphor about finding our own purpose in the greater universe, says Willey in an interview with the Center for Humans and Nature:

The call to action part, if you can call it that, is to just notice them. We have to make a big change in this world. I reached out to a friend who is a huge political activist, and she asked if I’d ever heard of tikkun olam. [..] This is an ancient Jewish concept that says: in the beginning of the world, there was a huge explosion that blew up into a zillion pieces. It’s not our job to put all the pieces back together. It’s each of our individual jobs to put one piece of the puzzle back together. It’s not about being comfortable. It’s about being called to do something. What’s your purpose? Just do that. Lately, I find such solace in painting bees, even when it’s ninety-five degrees out. It feels so good to paint bees, to be in the solution rather than in the problem. It’s taking the action of connecting yourself that allows people to connect with you.

For more info, check out The Good of the Hive.

[Via: This Is Colossal]