What Do Bees Symbolize? Understanding Bee Symbolism

What Do Bees Symbolize? Understanding Bee Symbolism

Executive Summary: 

  • Animal mythology centers around the idea that animals represent the power and mystery of the natural world.
  • Throughout history, bees have embodied focus, dedication, hard work, teamwork, generosity, prosperity, and fertility.

Animals have significantly impacted the way we live since the beginning of our existence; in particular, myths and folklore surrounding animals and the roles they play have become a significant part of many cultures. 

Today, bees are associated with hard work and royalty, and rightfully so. Bees embody similar ideas in most cultures, but each folklore is unique to the culture's region and religious history. 

If you’re wondering what bees symbolize, keep reading — we’ll talk about bees and their behaviors, and how that’s impacted what they’ve symbolized over time. 

 

First, What Is Animal Mythology? 

While most people are familiar with Greek mythology, animal mythology is slightly different. The term animal mythology pertains to the idea that animals represent the power and mystery of the natural world. Animals are commonly used as a narrative device in mythology, which is where we get “spirit animals” from. 

Animals are seen symbolically; an owl's presence symbolizes Athena's presence, dolphins can symbolize Poseidon, and peacocks symbolize the goddess Hera.  

It’s not uncommon for people to compare themselves or each other to certain animals based on their characteristics. The good news is that if anyone’s ever compared you to a bee, you can consider it a compliment. 

 

What Do Bees Symbolize?

In animal mythology, the bee is a symbol of several qualities. 

 

Focus

Flower pollination and nectar collection takes concentration, which is why the bee symbolizes focus. 

Through experience, bees can sense which flowers have copious amounts of sweet nectar and pollen. Bees can even focus on specific flowers the colony prefers. 

For example, the European honeybees that live in the remote regions of the New Zealand forest prefer Manuka nectar. The bees that produce Manukora’s honey solely collect Manuka nectar, which results in our rich, creamy, delectable Manuka honey

We even test each batch of honey to ensure that it is genuine Manuka and that other nectars haven’t compromised it. 

You can scan the unique QR code on any Manukora product to learn more about the hive it originated from, the beekeeper responsible, and the potency of MGO, Leptosperin, and its other beneficial compounds.

 

Dedication 

In addition to the hive's great dedication to their queen, bees are also dedicated to their work. Worker bees are dedicated to their jobs virtually year-round collecting nectar; meanwhile, the drone bees (males) are at the hive tending to their queen. When the queen bee isn’t laying her thousands of eggs, the drone bees groom her while feeding her sweet royal jelly.

Even native bees like carpenter bees and bumblebees who don’t make honey still work to pollinate plants all year round.

All bees alike (along with other pollinators) are responsible for worldwide pollination,, so we thank them for all they do!

 

Hard Work 

Hard work and determination usually go hand-in-hand. There’s no argument that bees are incredibly hard-working creatures — rain or shine, they’ll ensure the nectar is collected, and the honey is produced. Not to say honey-making is overly strenuous for the bees; it’s part of their genetic makeup. They were born for the task.

With that said, we do recognize the dedication of the bees, which is why we do our best to care for them as nature intended — we have strict stocking rates to ensure the bees are never overloaded, and always keep them in the most remote and pristine environments.

We give them the freedom to work with the nectar they’ve collected, at their own pace. We don’t rush our bees, we let them feed on their own honey through winter, and we don’t shift them like many commercial honey producers do. 

 

Sophistication 

Bees are highly intelligent and have social constructs and norms within each hive. They find fulfillment in carrying out their queen's orders. Bees symbolize more than just hard work — they exhibit hard work they’re proud of, know their roles, and create functional societies and hierarchies within their hives. 

 

Teamwork 

Honeybees are one of few bee species that live in colonies, and it’s no secret that if a bee colony doesn’t have each member doing its part, the hive won’t last for long. Not every member of a honeybee colony produces honey; there are generally three main jobs within the European honeybeey’s hive. 

The queen lays the eggs, the males (drones) breed with the queen, and the females collect the nectar and pollen, protect the hive, and feed the larvae. Think of the bees as a reminder that even the most competent, working, and dedicated individuals can thrive in a team environment! 

 

Generosity

There’s no question that bees are the ultimate givers; they produce all the world's delicious honey while pollinating thousands of flowers, trees, fruits, veggies, and more daily. Our world’s ecosystems would face many challenges if it weren’t for the bees!

Not only do bees process all that sweet nectar — they even let their keepers harvest some of the honey with no push-back. The western honey bee has been in New Zealand for almost 200 years and they are the bees that produce Manuka honey. The special thing about these bees is they produce far more honey each season than they need themselves, so we leave what they need for the winter on the frames and harvest the rest! 

While not every hive has the same temperament, most are a treat to experience. A solid relationship between the hive and beekeepers is essential, and ethical beekeeping practices will help foster that. 

 

Prosperity 

Bees are a wonderful reminder that hard work pays off. Bees are some of the most prosperous creatures in our ecosystem and share that prosperity with the rest of us.

 

Fertility and Life

Bees are responsible for all of the world's pollination; if there were no bees, most of our greenery would be gone as well — where there are bees, there is a healthy ecosystem. 

New Zealand has one of the most prosperous ecosystems in the world, and we can’t help but thank the bees and other pollinators. 

In many areas worldwide, the bee population sits at alarmingly low numbers. This is why we are working hard to further develop ethical beekeeping practices in New Zealand, and partnering with organizations like Pollinator Partnership to have an impact on pollinator health in the USA.

New Zealand has some of the healthiest bee populations in the world, and we are on a mission to keep it that way. 

 

The Meaning of Bees in Mythology and Folklores

While we have science to back our claims now, our ancestors couldn’t prove bees were key contributors to the ecosystem. However, our ancestors always had a mutual understanding and respect for bees and their powerful honey. 

 

Native American Folklore

The folklore around bees seemed to have begun in the 1600s when settlers came to North America. It's believed the colonists brought a different type of bee species with them, a species that differed from the native, extinct bee. 

American Indians coined honeybees as “the white man's fly,” and from there, the stories were born. Cherokee legend reads that the honeybee symbolizes a sweet reward but that greed comes at a price. 

The legend explained that the people on earth asked their creator to send them something sweet; instead, they were sent bees. The people remained patient with the bees, but when they could finally reap the rewards of the bee's labor, they became greedy; they would indulge in the honey with no regard for the bees and their well-being. 

The people neglected the bees and took their hard work for granted. The bees eventually grew tired of the workload and went to the creator for help. The creator saw the harm the people were inflicting on the bees, so for the bees' sake, the creator gave them stingers for protection in hopes they’d never be taken advantage of again. 

 

Mayan Folklore 

The Mayan people always held bees to the highest standard; the Mesoamericans are thought to be the first beekeepers, and the Mayan gods were given the bee's honey as a sacred gift. 

 

Celtic Folklore 

Celtic people have a great interest in these magnificent insects, and rightfully so. The Celts believed both bees and butterflies were magical and could navigate between the spirit and natural worlds. 

They viewed these creatures as messengers, and a way for humans to communicate with ancient gods. They also found many uses for the bee's sacred honey, which heightened their view of the bees even more. 

The Celts developed a ritual called “telling the bees” in hopes the bees would travel to the supernatural world and communicate their findings to the gods. The Celts began telling the bees about any major life event — births, engagements, marriages, and so on.

 

Greek Folklore 

The ancient Greeks had the same views as the Celtics; they saw bumblebees as messengers who could communicate with the supernatural world. 

 

Bees in the Bible

Just as bees are present in many other cultures and histories, they’re also present in the Bible. 

In the Bible, honey symbolizes Jesus Christ's sweetness and virtue. 

Honey is mentioned in the bible over 50 times and is always related to purity or abundance, which aligns perfectly with how the world symbolizes honeybees today. 

 

Monastic Bees

Monasteries today still hold bees to the same high standards as in the Bible. Bees play an integral part in some monasteries, in particular; some monks place hives on the land to help pollinate the flowers. They then enjoy the honey together with the rest of the community. 

 

African Folklore

African folklore believes bees played a defining role in the creation of man. The legend reads that Mantis (the trickster god) asked the Good Bee to carry him over a flooding river. 

Despite Mantis being nearly twice her size, Bee took him on her back and flew across the gusting water. Once they met the land, Bee was exhausted and died; from Bee's dead carcass, the first human was reincarnated. 

 

Witchcraft Folklore 

While bees have long been associated with goodness, purity, and abundance, since the folklore of Lincolnshire, England witch, they’ve also been associated with black magic (witchcraft). 

Legend explains the witch of Lincolnshire, England, had a honeybee as her pet and that she would use the bee to help guide and project other witches. Similar to Celtic belief, she would use the bees to communicate with others, but in her case, witches instead of gods. 

 

Egyptian Folklore 

Ancient Egyptians valued the bees so deeply that the honeybee was used as the symbol of the benefactor of life, birth, death, and resurrection. The Egyptians worshiped the bees and there’s evidence that they gave thanks for the bees’ honey.

 

Why Are Bees So Beloved? 

It’s safe to say bees in virtually all cultures are loved and appreciated, but why? While we’re lovers of all creatures and know that each one plays a vital role in our ecosystem, we have a soft spot for our own honeybees. 

We believe bees are renowned in history thanks to their highly beneficial (and equally delicious) honey. As years pass and humans stray away from natural beekeeping practices, honey may not maintain its original properties, such as the potent beneficial compounds that are found primarily in raw, unprocessed honey.

Even though most societies still hold bees to a royal standard, not many show them the courtesy they deserve. Even if you aren’t a beekeeper, there are still ways you can help protect the bees, just as your ancestors would have intended. Doing something as simple as planting native flowers can help.

 

Wrapping Up

Honeybees are valued in cultures worldwide and throughout history. We say they deserve it! They’re dedicated, hardworking, and selfless creatures, the least we can do is give them the praise they’ve earned.

Looking to learn more about honeybees and the delicious honey they make? Explore Manukora’s blog here

 

 

Sources:

To bee or not to bee is no longer a question | Wellington City Council

New Zealand | Main Details

Larva - Entomologists' glossary | amentsoc.org

Athena | World History Encyclopedia

Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research | PMC

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