STATUS: Since 2006, honeybees are vanishing worldwide due to colony collapse disorder (CCD). The most likely combination of causes includes pesticide contamination, parasites, especially the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, poor nutrition, urbanization and habitat destruction, mono-cropping, the resulting lack of forage crops, and a lack of genetic diversity. Examination of dead bees revealed residues of over 100 chemicals, insecticides and pesticides. Agricultural food production and therefore human life are largely dependent on pollination by honeybees (about 80%). The solution to the bee crisis will require serious research, a broad approach, a full range of actions, and many participants.
The Greek word for honeybee is Melissa, which comes from the Greek work meli, or honey. In Greek mythology, Melissa was a nymph who discovered honeycombs and shared the nourishing delights of honey.
This is Rama’s one and only drip painting. Calley sensed it was perfect for the bees, as they see a broader range of color than we do. She envisioned a border mirroring Rama in an eight-fold symmetry, adding flowers, fruits and vegetables that are pollinated by bees. While it looked like a simple enough task at the get go, the symmetry proved very challenging indeed!
Cave paintings show that honey collecting and beekeeping dates way back to the Stone Age, and it is well known that honey has been found in edible condition in ancient Egyptian tombs.
MELISSAE - PROGENITOR OF LIFE
Native to Europe, honeybees are now found all around the world, except in the extreme north and south. Honeybees are yellow and brown banded herbivorous bugs, about ½” long, that live up to five years in the wild.
Bees live in a highly organized, industrious society. They are famously social and cooperative insects with female worker bees (the only ones we see) that forage for pollen and nectar from flowering trees and plants, build and guard the hive and circulate air inside by beating their wings. The worker bees collect about 66 pounds of pollen per hive per year. The solitary queen in each hive is the only female with fully developed ovaries. She lays the eggs that produce the next generation of bees. The third kind of bee is the male drone that is kept in the hive during the summer months only to fertilize the queen. The male, with a barbed sex organ, dies after mating with the queen. There are from 300 to 3,000 drones in a hive that are driven out in autumn by the worker bees.
The remaining honeybees survive on stored honey and pollen during the winter months, clustering in a ball to keep warm.
There is a plethora of artisan operations, and commercial beekeeping industries for honey, beeswax, pollen (one of the purest and richest natural foods in the world) and the pollination of crops, especially almonds in California and blueberries in the northeast US. Honeybees provide approximately $100 million worth of honey and beeswax each year in the United States alone, and their pollination service is valued at approximately $10 billion.
Help the Honeybees in Your Locale
Become a beekeeper. It’s fascinating, fabulous work allowed in more and more urban areas around the world.
Eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides and harmful chemicals in your home and yard.
Get active in your community! Ask your community to plant native wildflowers on the highways, boulevards and roundabouts, and ban roadside pesticide spraying.
Grow a bee garden. Include lots of single flowering plants, especially the onion family, the mints, most all beans and tall hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves, as well as bee friendly trees and shrubs.
Buy local honey and beeswax candles to support your beekeepers.
The painting reference photographs of bees are by Michael Durham, Oregon Zoo photographer, and native bee reference photographed by Celeste Ets-Hokin in her backyard in the NW US. Each of the exhibition paintings is available as a finely crafted giclee, printed by Paul McCormick of Waimea on Hawai’I Island, and has been inspected, signed and numbered by artist Calley O’Neill.