World Bee Day: Save The World's Bees with International Art

Monday, May 20th 2019 is World Bee Day. Given the importance of this tiny creature to the health, wellbeing and, in fact, the continuation of the human race and many other of the planet’s species, it should probably be a public holiday!

 

You will probably more than once have seen her fluttering about the bushes, in a deserted corner of your garden, without realising that you were carelessly watching the venerable ancestor to whom we probably owe most of our flowers and fruits (for it is actually estimated that more than a hundred thousand varieties of plants would disappear if the bees did not visit them), and possibly even our civilisation, for in these mysteries all things intertwine, (Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee, 1905).

 

Maeterlinck was right, as we are now learning - and hopefully before it is too late.

 

Bees, of course, are pollinators and pollinators are essential for successful crops, from fruit and veg to grains and seeds and even coffee and tea. So bees along with other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are vital to our own existence. In fact, an incredible 84% of all crops grown for human consumption today rely on pollinators while a massive two thirds of the entire food production of the world depends solely on bees. In other words, we have bees to thank for two out of three mouthfuls of food we eat!

 

We are as dependent on bee survival as on clean air and water.

 

And yet human activities such as the use of pesticides in farming and the garden, land-use change and the introduction of invasive species has put them under constant threat. We are now facing the spectre of species loss, (plant species as well as bees), the end of honey, wax and propolis and, more alarming still for human society, overall food loss.

world bee day

There are 20,000 bee species of which the UK has several hundred types. But don’t let these impressive numbers fool you. All bee populations are at serous risk. In January of 2014 the Guardian newspaper warned:

 

The UK faces a food security catastrophe because of its very low numbers of honeybee colonies, which provide an essential service in pollinating many crops, scientists warned on Wednesday.

 

New research reveals that honeybees provide just a quarter of the pollination needed in the UK, the second lowest level among 41 European countries.

 

"We face a catastrophe in future years unless we act now," said Professor Simon Potts, at the University of Reading, who led the research. "Wild pollinators need greater protection. They are the unsung heroes of the countryside, providing a critical link in the food chain for humans and doing work for free that would otherwise cost British farmers £1.8bn to replace." (Guardian, 8th January 2014)

 

Fortunately, through raised awareness across the globe and World Bee Day sparking much-needed attention, many individuals and groups are taking it upon themselves to spread the word about all that bees do for us and how we can help save them. And, much to our delight, art is playing a significant role.

world bee day

It is hard to exaggerate how important global, public awareness of the plight of our bees really is. But raising that awareness, when there are so many competing issues, is quite a challenge. Of course, the facts speak for themselves but however compelling they might be, dry text, or even drier statistics, cannot make the impact of a piece of visual art. And that’s where art comes in.

 

A picture is worth a thousand words, goes the old adage.

 

A piece of art can not only convey a powerful message but it can also inspire the viewer to respond emotionally. That, in turn, can prompt people to take action, to find out what they can do as individuals to improve bee survival rates and to get involved in their communities to pass the message on.

 

The international Bee Art Movement, an arm of the campaign group Act for Bees , showcases some of the lovely and compelling work of activist artists in this field. Felt sculptures, installations, paintings and posters capture the world of the bee and our indelible connection to that world.

 

These are available all year round of course. But this week, especially, do look out for ‘bee art’ that is tied to World Bee Day.

world bee day

As just one example, the Guardian newspaper, (the paper which reported the looming catastrophe in the UK in 2014), has taken the role of art in persuasive campaigning very much to heart and is launching a World Bee Day gallery from Monday May 20th. One truly extraordinary photographic print by Gerrard Gethings, (available to buy from £50), is a central part of the collection. Why? Because, as the Guardian writer comments:

 

Ahead of World Bee Day on 20 May, photographs like this can remind us to appreciate these wonderful creatures afresh, and how important they are to the health of our planet.

 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!