What’s the Buzz on the Street? 50,000 Hand-Painted Honeybees.

Artist Matthew Willey is leaving his mark all around the world—making sure everyone knows about this pollinator’s plight.

Willey painted a wave of bees at Estes Hills Elementary School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Credit: Matthew Wille

For honeybees, community is everything (the term “hive mind” exists for a reason). But it took only one little bee to inspire artist Matthew Willey to act on the species’ behalf. After watching a sickly insect fly into his apartment and die, the artist did some research and learned that when honeybees feel unwell, they isolate themselves—dying alone to protect their kin.

He also learned that this altruistic behavior is happening with increasing frequency. Habitat loss, pesticides, and disease are all taking serious tolls on these important pollinators; preliminary results of a survey showed that U.S. beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies between April 2015 and March 2016, one of the highest loss rates in recent years.

Credit: Matthew Willey

Moved, Willey committed to raise awareness for the tiny honeybee’s big problems by hand painting a cool 50,000 of them in 100 murals around the world. His project, “The Good of the Hive,” aims at 50,000 because that’s the typical number of bees in a thriving hive.

Healthy hives mean healthy people, too. According to the U.S. Forest Service, bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of our fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Needless to say, our plates would look a lot different without bees in the picture.

But to Willey, the murals represent more than that. Both bees and humans need strong communities to function properly, and he hopes his paintings will foster conversations on the street and strengthen the bonds between the species for the good of all. And, to be sure, honeybees could use the buzz marketing.

A mural on the side of the Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. in LaBelle, Florida
Credit: Matthew Willey
Burt's Bees invited Willey to add some bees to its headquarters in Durham, North Carolina.
Credit: Matthew Willey

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.

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