One artist's global mission to paint 50,000 bees

Painting 50,000 bees all over the world is no simple task.

But Matt Willey has made it his mission – a project he’s called ''The Good of the Hive’’.

''Even though it is a healthy hive of bees that visually will be painted - it's really painting us I’m painting, the human race into this collective hive.''

Courtesy: The Good of the Hive

The project name was inspired by the bee’s natural inclination to work as a collective rather than as individuals.

Through it, the artist wants to encourage us all to connect with each other in a similar way while educating us about planetary health issues.

''It’s about the fact that we’re feeling alone in the process of going through it. The bee is not separate from her hive and neither are we. The bees are a symbol. They’re a visual example of the truth that we are all connected.’’

The idea sparked from a single chance encounter with a bee back in 2008.

''It just flew in and landed on the floor in the middle of the rug and. I got curious about her. She was walking across the floor instead of flying around at me, so I had no fear and I had no background in nature or bugs or anything. But I just got curious and I got down on the floor and hung out with this little bee for like two hours as she walked the last two inches of her life. And I noticed that there was a cuteness like, I'm looking at a little tiny animal, not a bug as I understood it. And I just really connected with this bee. There was the fuzziness, the big eyes. There was just a personality there that I, I couldn't not see. And so after about two hours, she died. I put her out in the backyard and I came back in and I started.''

Since then, over 6,000 bees have appeared around the world – everywhere from a barn roof in Nebraska to a school in the UK.

The murals can take weeks at a time to create, but the process has already brought several communities together - at a time when the bees’ message is more pertinent than ever.

''All these amazing things happened, somebody put me up in their RV for free for 10 weeks. People started giving me free salad or free food at restaurants, the coffee shop wouldn't let me pay for a cup of coffee and the community was sort of coming together around this. But there I would turn around and there would be like an 18-year-old girl with, like tattoos and a nose ring talking to an 80-year-old farmer and just agreeing and sort of looking at the bees. So it's like there's something energetically happening here that's cool. And cars are even stopping and asking me about why I was painting bees.’’

The target of 50,000 bees is high, but it’s not random.

It represents the number of bees in a healthy, thriving hive.

While bees are the experts at working together, this artist is flying solo - and there’s still a fair way to go.

''My goal has always been to be in every type of neighborhood in the world. In my mind, I'm looking at 15 more years from now.’’