During a tutorial feedback session, I was advised to stray away from the obvious as I often fall into the trap of leaving my work with insufficient intrigue for the viewer. It was suggested that my idea of placing a small plant in my sculpture’s cupped hands carried an important message, but nothing that would challenge the viewer to think more deeply about its significance. Whilst considering what to place in the hands of my earth grub I suddenly thought of bees. Bees hold a lot of Eco significance and are symbolic as they are currently under serious threat, (as are many other species), due in a large part to our lifestyle choices. But more than that, we are heavily reliant on bees and need to maintain our symbiotic relationship with them in order to survive. I widened my research into the importance of bees, to fully understand the true impact they have on all of nature and on us as humans. This is a synopsis of my key findings.
There are 25,000 different species of bee across the world. Only 4 of these species are honeybees.
Bees play a major role in pollinating all kinds of vegetables, fruit and flowers such as meadow plants like clover, eaten by the livestock used for meat. It is estimated by The British Beekeepers Association that a third of the food we consume is only available because of bees. As such they are a vital part of our food chain. In addition, the harvest from honey bees of wax, honey, pollen and propolis ( a bee glue seen as a powerful health balm possibly offering protection against certain cancers), has benefited us all in terms of medical applications, manufacturing opportunities, craft industries and nutritional value in our diets.
Bees are threatened as a species because farming methods continue to disturb their habitats, destroying the wildflower meadows particularly vital to solitary bees and bumblebees. Honey bees are in danger from the varroa mite, which has decimated many wild honey bee colonies. Known as colony collapse disorder, since 2007 40% of colonies are dying every year. Colonies are not only being struck by parasites but also by viruses, poor nutrition and pesticides.
Poet Kahlil Gibran “To the bee, a flower is the fountain of life, and to the flower, the bee is a messenger of love”. From his poem, ‘On Pleasure’ found in Kahlil Gibran Ultimate Collection, 1923
The significance of bees has been known since ancient times. Egyptian hieroglyphs have been discovered which show hives being transported down the Nile to pollinate crops.
Albert Einstein is purported to have prophesised that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man”. (Although there is no proof that this quote can be attributed to him).
John Muir, an important conservationist has said “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe”. (‘My First Summer in the Sierra, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911 p110 1988 ed.)