(Millie Bailey)

Millie Bailey

Emmie Berberick and Siena Elliott

Bee mural generates community reaction

Carpe Diem, the Dec and 3ten Convergence Exclusive: What happens when a multi-billion dollar German pharmaceutical company decides to paint a mural in the middle of Northern Georgia?

May 9, 2016

Nearly two months after a new mural appeared in the heart of Oakhurst, many Decatur residents are still voicing their disapproval.

Mural pict
Facing the center of Harmony Park, the new mural has a small lawn directly in front of it that is said to soon be filled with flowers and plants.

Designed to spread awareness of honeybee health, the mural was commissioned by Bayer Pharmaceuticals and continues to lead community members in discussions of declining bee population and supposed corporate “greenwashing.”

While the German chemical company is currently in the limelight after a number of reports have accused their insecticides (neonicotinoids) of killing honeybees, Bayer has stuck to their guns claiming that they understand that healthy bees are necessary and that they see it as a shared responsibility.

Amongst those accusations Bayer CropScience and Bayer Animal Health received funding to research the impact that varroa mites have on declining bee population.

“There might be some truth to the fact that it’s not just the insecticides [killing the bees], that it’s other things as well, however all the things that are killing the bees or any pollinator is a problem.” Holly Bayendor Mcconnell, president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association, said.

In the past few years Bayer has instituted a variety of campaigns to spread awareness of endangered pollinators, specifically the Feed a Bee program that planted over 65 million flowers in 2015.  Regardless of community reaction, the initiative has inspired more than 250,000 people worldwide to plant their wildflower seeds in the last year.

“I do think the community kind of galvanized itself beautifully when they figured out what that was about and I think there’s a lot of awareness that came out of that, more awareness of like, ‘Hey, what murals are coming our way?” Festival attendee Niklas Vollmer said regarding the community’s reaction.

“Bayer has a long history in bee health, nearly 30 years,” said a company spokesperson who requested he not be identified. “As a part of that, many years ago we were one of the first companies to create mitocides that beekeepers used to prevent mites from attacking their hives.”

While some community members appreciate Bayer’s collective sentiment, others haven’t been swayed easily.

“It was weird that [the mural] was kind of just popped onto the community like that, it was upsetting to learn that Bayer was behind it, knowing that their chemicals have been a part of the problem,” said Decatur resident Niklas Vollmer, “They’re trying to create this illusion that there are happy bees flying around, and really they need to look at themselves a little bit more instead of putting propoganda up there.”

Ezra Greenbride was definitely one of the more theatrically dressed festival attendees. “I was making this pair of horns, and I heard that the theme was wild!” Greenbride said, “I figured this would work.”

In late April, Decatur community members came together to spread awareness of all pollinator health in a four hour festival and parade that lead from Harmony Park to the Wylde Center. The appropriately titled festival, Bee Wylde featured beekeeping demonstrations, stations to plant your own seeds and a variety of local vendors.

Keeping with the wild theme, local bee lover Ezra Greenbride attended the festival clad in paper mache antlers and a flowing toga.  He was there not just to have a good time, but to express his support for honeybee health.

“There was a famous scientist who said, ‘When bees die we have like a decade left on the planet before all life starts getting wiped out,’” Greenbride said while adjusting his antlers. 

The majority of the attendees were more than aware of the mural, the company behind it and the community wide reaction it inspired.

The first of many festival attendees enter through the front archway. Families, friends and other community members of all ages showed their support of honey bee health.

The festival was incredibly well-received with most community members speaking out in favor of the festival.

“What’s nice about it is that it’s taken the earth day theme and made it specific.” Vollmer said,  “It’s given the community something to spin around – or, buzz around, right? It’s important that we get together like that.”






Read the spread “Buzzing for Bayer” from  May 2016 issue of Carpe Diem

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