When it comes to the current bee crisis, artist Matthew Willey sees the writing on the wall – and has chosen to paint over it. “I want to put bees in the front of everyone’s mind” the North Carolina-based artist says. He has committed to personally paint 50,000 honeybees – the number necessary for a healthy hive – on the walls of communities across America.
“As an artist I figured I could take these small, misunderstood creatures and paint them really big so people will notice them,” says Willey.
His initiative, called The Good of the Hive, uses art to highlight amazing honey bee behaviors and their connection with humans, all while raising awareness about the current honey bee struggle.”We need them, it’s not a maybe.” Willey says.
The artist was inspired by a honey bee that had flown into his NY apartment last fall. “It was moving really slowly, like it was sick,” says Willey. When the honey bee died a few hours later, he turned to google for answers.
Bees live in highly organized colonies, each with an important task. When feel they cannot perform said tasks, due to age or health, they exit the hive and do not return. “I think this behavior is amazing” Willey says, “When they feel sick, they’ll remove themselves for the good of the hive.”
This explains the phenomena of colony collapse, the mass disappearance of bees from their hives. Where typically a handful of bees would regularly leave a hive in this fashion, now thousands are, and the entire colony is left defunct. With no signs of slowing down, it’s raising red flags for the beekeeping industry and the global economy it supports.
Willey paints with the same dedication the honey bee brings to it’s hive. He understands the power an individual holds. His murals generate buzz, which ultimately lead to conversation and education about an issue that affects everyone. “We’re all connected” he says.
Willey has been shown overwhelming support for his efforts from coast to coast. His nationwide-hive “flies” along on the walls of an apartment building in Washington, elementary school in North Carolina, and on the brick facade of the Burt’s Bees headquarters. His most recent bees are painted on the blank canvas of a truck cargo trailer – you might even see it on the road. “Bees are in every community,” Willey says, “so that is where I am going to paint them.”
Stay up to date with Matthew Willey and The Good of the Hive community on Facebook and Instagram. Followers can expect to see day to day progress on his current projects, and be the first to know where he’ll swarm off to next.