Burt ‘The Bee Man’ Shavitz - (May 15, 1935- July 5, 2015)

Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, died one year ago on July 5th 2015. He was 80 years-old. I never met him, but I knew of him at least from my high school days onward. I grew up in New England, and Burt’s Bees was started in Maine. I wish it had occurred to me to go see his farm where he started the business. I would have loved to meet him. He is a man that has captivated people’s imaginations for decades, including mine. Burt was “The Bee Man.”


I wonder what Burt would have thought about our mural?


The mural is for The Good of the Hive’s mission of raising awareness about honeybees and other pollinators, but it is also in honor of the anniversary of Burt Shavitz’ passing, and since Burt’s Bees was founded by a beekeeper (Burt) and an artist (Roxanne Quimby), I like to think he would have had a special appreciation for what we are creating.


There are many factors that go into each design, and many different possible entry points to begin the design process… but as I started researching Burt’s life, a particular part of his story stood out to me… and it is also probably one of the most mystifying and wondrous behaviors of the honeybees… the swarm.


Burt Schavitz’ first bees were ones he collected from a swarm that landed in his yard in Maine. By simply appearing, the bees inspired a business. Burt is quoted as saying, “It wasn’t as if I’d summoned these bees down, or gone looking for them. It was an act of God. It was a no brainer. Now I had a way of making some money. I had all of the tools and the knowledge, the literature, the ability to do just as my guru had done.” An age-old relationship of man to bee was honored. He had done the work to learn how to keep bees, and then the bees appeared.


The swarm is an incredible, natural behavior of a healthy honeybee hive. It is often perceived as something aggressive and terrifying, but nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, it is one of the most elegant and sublime experiences in the natural world. The bees place themselves and their precious queen in an extremely vulnerable position for the possibility of growth. It is the natural expansion of a healthy, thriving, hive. It is an amazing example of the bees acting as one mind or super-organism. 


The swarm is a symbol of profound change and a symbol of a new beginning.


I am honored that The Good of the Hive was asked to help commemorate the life and work of this truly original man. 






Matthew WilleyComment