Marian Carcache: We are all one hive

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I love bees. According to Greenpeace, “honey bees perform around 80 percent of all pollination.” Of the top 100 human food crops that supply approximately 90 percent of the world’s food, bees pollinate 70 of them. (Greenpeace). But that isn’t the only reason I advocate for bees.

I love them because there is something mystical about them. For years I’ve collected bee lore in hopes of someday writing a novel embellished by bees.  The Greeks believed that a baby whose lips were touched by a bee would become a great orator. Honeybees symbolize immortality and resurrection, and are considered by some the connection between the world of the living and that of the dead. Napoleon and Sherlock Holmes were fascinated by them.

When The Good of the Hive exhibit came to Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art as part of a symposium called “Can Art Save the Planet,” I could hardly wait to see the work of artist Matthew Willey who founded The Good of the Hive initiative. In an effort to bring attention to both the importance of bees and the lessons humans can learn from of the hive, Willey set out to paint 50,000 honeybees, the number of bees necessary to maintain a healthy hive, and to install murals worldwide. Like political theorists before him, Willey points out that honeybees work as a collective, as if they realize that the health of each individual depends on the health of the hive. Aristotle, Plato, Virgil, Seneca, and others have made similar observations.




Willey’s emphasis on connecting in order to survive is clear: “Whether [a] community is an actual honeybee hive or a community of human artists, kids in a school, military veterans, gay people, women with cancer, marginalized people, skateboarders, or the American people as a whole, the health and success of the individual relies heavily on the connections within the group ― and between the groups within the greater society.” (Willey) 

We can work together in banning dangerous pesticides, protecting pollinators by preserving wild habitats, and supporting ecological/organic agriculture. The extra effort it would take for each individual not to spray poison and to boycott companies who market dangerous insecticides, destroy natural habitats, and produce unnaturally processed and modified foods would be well worth the inconvenience if we could mend our relationship with the natural world and restore balance in our own lives.




Spring is the perfect season to be mindful of the fact that having “dominion” over the creation comes with the very serious responsibility to protect it, and the human inhabitants of earth need not only to accept our duty to defend the creatures we share the planet with, but also to open our minds to learning from them.

Marian Carcache welcomes 

comments at carcamm@auburn.edu.