These lifelike murals have communities buzzing about honeybees.

Matthew Willey paints honeybees. Lots and lots of honeybees.

Big ones. Small ones. Queens. Workers. Flying and at rest. He paints all of them with skill, love, and care. He's been painting murals for nearly 25 years, but this is his biggest job yet. It's the one he was born to do. And he's got a few million tiny, buzzing fans rooting him on.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission.


Willey didn't find bees. The bees found him. Literally.

Close to a decade ago, a slow-moving honeybee flew in through the window of Willey's apartment and landed softly in the middle of the room. Weak and tired, the pollinator posed no threat.

"I got down on the floor and hung out with this bee," he said. He studied her and got up close, the first time he'd ever done so. When the honeybee expired a few hours later, he placed it outside and set about learning why this happened.

A quick search lead him to information on colony collapse disorder, when workers bees from a colony suddenly disappear and die off for no clear reason. Some bee experts believe honeybees have a behavior known as altruistic suicide. A bee that's sick will fly off to die on its own rather than jeopardize the health of the nest. That may be why beekeepers weren't finding dead bees and why Willey had one in his apartment.

‌An Oregon State University bee researcher collects "nurse bees" to determine why large number of bees have been dying recently. Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images. ‌

But the experts don't know why this is happening. And while they get to the bottom of it, Willey did what any passionate person would do — he dropped everything to take on the project of his life.

Willey committed to painting 50,000 bees on murals around the world. He dubbed his initiative The Good of the Hive.

Why 50,000? That's the number of bees in just one thriving hive. Just over a year into the project, Willey is well past bee #892.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

Each mural is unique to its location. The bees are highly detailed and meticulously painted.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

Willey spends months painting each mural. And even more time working with communities, schools, and businesses to come up with the space, funding, and proper permissions.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission.

He also stops frequently to talk and spread awareness about pollinators along the way.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

Willey's work is found on businesses, a school, a fire station and even a tractor trailer.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

Every surface has potential.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

His medium packs the message: We've got to come together to save these creatures.

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

And while raising awareness about the plight of pollinators is Willey's chief aim, he has a secondary goal as well.

As he travels from town to town, he's meeting people of all stripes. Together they talk bees, occasionally break bread, and get to know one another. Already, the murals are bringing people together.

"The other thing I'm learning ... through this work is the incredible possibility of connection that [bees] facilitate," he said. "There's the design, there's the art, there's all that. But the basic, basic nature of it is 'Stand and paint bees. And talk to people about bees.'"

Between his detailed murals, great conversations, and lots of fundraising, Willey believes his project will take 10 to 11 years. But there's plenty you can do right now.

To support and encourage honeybees in your yard or community, talk to your local nursery about native bee-friendly plants. A few simple additions can make your yard a welcome place for pollinators of all stripes.

"I am trying to make a point that these bees are like treasure," Willey said. "They should be invited into your yard, honored in your yard with a section of it that has specific flowers [for] the local bee population."

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

Planting flowers at your home, school, or neighborhood is also a great project for kids and communities.

"It's so great for teaching kids! They love playing in the dirt," Willey said. "And even planning it with your neighbors and saying, 'Our block is going to become bee-friendly.'"

Photo by Patrick Seeger/AFP/Getty Images.

On the surface, it's an art project about honeybees. But it's always been much more than that.

"We have to start seeing the world like a hive," Willey said in a video for the project. "Bees and people, we're all in it together."

‌Photo by The Good of the Hive, used with permission. ‌

Most Shared

Abigail Disney is the granddaughter of the late Roy Disney, the co-founder of the Walt Disney Co. Abigail herself does not have a job within the company, but she has made some public complaints about the way things are being run and how it is effecting the employees of the company.

Disney recently spoke on the Yahoo News show "Through Her Eyes," and shared a story of how a Magic Kingdom employee reached out to her about the poor working conditions at the theme park. So, Disney went to see for herself, and she did not like what she found.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wellington District Police

Some animals have no respect for authority. Rogue penguins are disobeying the police in New Zealand, and they can't stop, won't stop.

Two little blue penguins were spotted at Sushi Bi near the Wellington railway station, allegedly trying to nest. The penguins had to cross through busy lanes of traffic running between the harbor and the sushi bar.

The dangerous duo was detained by the police, then released back into Wellington Harbour.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature

Netflix

How much of what we do is influenced by what we see on TV? When it comes to risky behavior, Netflix isn't taking any chances.

After receiving a lot of heat, the streaming platform is finally removing a controversial scenedepicting teen suicide in season one of "13 Reasons Why. The decision comes two years after the show's release after statistics reveal an uptick in teen suicide.

"As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we've decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one," Netflix said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
Magnific Eye / Unsplash

Los Angeles is experiencing a homeless epidemic that was years in the making.

Over the past six years, the unhoused population in the city has risen 75 percent. The city's lack of homeless shelters and affordable housing has forced many who can't afford L.A.'s sky-high rents to live on the streets.

According to LAist, since 2000, renter incomes have decreased by 3 percent while rents have gone up 32 percent.

While the city has launched a $100 million-per-year program to help the problem, rapper, entrepreneur, and actor Jaden Smith has found his own way of responding to the crisis: love.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities