By Kimberley Mok

Artist Matthew Willey poses by a mural of bees at Pipers Corner School in the south-east English county of Buckinghamshire, part of his Good of the Hive project to hand-paint 50,000 bees on buildings around the world, October 1, 2020. Photo taken Oct. 1, 2020.   ANNA WALKER/Handout

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.

Bees hand-painted by muralist Matthew Willey at BurtÕs Bees headquarters in the U.S. city of Durham, North Carolina, part of his Good of the Hive project to paint 50,000 bees on buildings around the world, April 15, 2016. Picture taken April 15, 2016.  The Good of the Hive/Handout via REUTERS

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.

U.S. artist Matthew Willey poses by a mural of bees at Pipers Corner School in the south-east English county of Buckinghamshire, part of his Good of the Hive project to hand-paint 50,000 bees on buildings around the world, October 1, 2020. Photo taken Oct. 1, 2020.  Anna Walker/Handout via REUTERS

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.

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