- Animal mythology centers around the idea that animals represent the power and mystery of the natural world.
- Throughout history, bee symbolism has embodied focus, dedication, hard work, teamwork, generosity, prosperity, and fertility.
- Bees generally serve as a symbol of rejuvenation and divinity in many cultures, but the folklore detailing the bees’ abilities varies from region to region.
The Spiritual Meaning of Bees Explored
Since the beginning of our existence, animals have significantly impacted the way we live. In particular, myths and folklore surrounding animals and the roles they play have become a significant part of many cultures.
Bees often represent hard work and royalty, and rightfully so. While bees embody similar ideas in most cultures, each folklore is unique to the culture's region and religious history. For instance, bees have also symbolized love, wisdom, resurrection, or even fertility across different cultures and civilizations.
If you’re wondering more about what bees symbolize, keep reading. In this article, we’ll talk about bees and their behaviors and how that’s impacted what they’ve symbolized over time and in various cultures.
The Essence of Animal Mythology and Bee Symbolism
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.
Bee Spiritual Meaning: What Do Bees Symbolize?
In animal mythology, the bee is a symbol of several qualities, including focus, dedication, hard work, sophistication, and more. Below, we explore each of these symbolic representations of the bees.
Collecting precious nectar from flowers takes a certain level of 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. In fact, the bees that produce Manukora’s honey solely collect Manuka nectar, which results in our rich, creamy, delicious 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.
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 (sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it?).
Even native bees like carpenter bees and bumblebees who don’t make honey still work to pollinate plants all year round.
When we think about it, we have a lot to thank the bees for due to their hard work and dedication. All bees (along with other pollinators) are responsible for worldwide pollination, contributing to ecological balance and even our food supply.
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 that 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 and hard work 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 move them around like many commercial honey producers do.
Bees are highly intelligent creatures. Within each hive, they have various social constructs and norms. They also find fulfillment in carrying out their queen's orders.
All in all, bees symbolize more than just hard work. Bees' sophistication even extends beyond their social constructs and norms. The language of the bees includes spatial and vibrational cues, setting it far apart from any human language we know. It even involves certain movements of their wings and bodies, indicating complexity in terms of their ability to communicate and collaborate.
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 honeybee’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 little reminder that even the most competent, working, and dedicated individuals can thrive in a team environment!
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 each day. 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 also 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. These 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.
Bees are a wonderful reminder that hard work pays off. With ample honey for themselves (and us!), bees are some of the most prosperous creatures in our ecosystem. Their wealth is reflected in the amount of golden honey they produce, and its undeniably decadent flavor indicates their success!
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 — where there are bees, there is a healthy ecosystem.
New Zealand has one of the most prosperous ecosystems in the world, and we can thank the bees and other pollinators for this incredible feat.
In many areas worldwide, the bee population sits at alarmingly low numbers. This is why we are working hard to develop ethical beekeeping practices in New Zealand even further, and partnering with organizations like Pollinator Partnership to have an impact on pollinator health in the USA.
With New Zealand having some of the healthiest bee populations in the world, we are on a mission to keep it that way.
Understanding Bee Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore
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.
Bees and Spirituality in Various Folklores
From Native Americans and the Mayans to the Greeks, bees make appearances in numerous folklore tales and legends. So, let’s explore this in a bit more detail.
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 without 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 inflicted 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.
While the history of the Mayans remains clouded in mystery and intrigue, 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 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 even 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.
The ancient Greeks had the same views as the Celtics. They saw bumblebees as messengers who could communicate with the supernatural world. In this way, bees played a major role in Greek (as well as Roman) religion. Even one of the stories that made reference to the bees and their precious honey refers to Zeus as “bee-man.” In fact, the story goes on to illustrate that Zeus gave bees their bright gold color as a reward for their help in saving him as a young infant.
Bee Symbolism in Biblical Contexts
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. In fact, honey is mentioned in the bible over 50 times and is always related to purity or abundance, which aligns perfectly with how the world views honeybees today.
Monastic Bees and What They Symbolize in Monastic Cultures
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 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.
Bees have long been associated with goodness, purity, and abundance. Yet, since the folklore hails from Lincolnshire, England, 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, she was communicating with witches instead of gods.
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: Unraveling Bee Symbolism
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 nutrients 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, as this offers another source of nectar and pollination for the bees and their mission.
Wrapping Up: Understanding What Bees Symbolize
Honeybees are valued in cultures worldwide and throughout history, and we think they more than 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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Bee Symbolism and Spiritual Meaning
What do bees symbolize in general?
Bees typically symbolize focus, hard work, teamwork, generosity, and prosperity due to their natural behaviors and contributions. They also represent fertility given their vital role in pollination.
What is the spiritual meaning of bees?
Spiritually, bees are linked with rejuvenation, divinity, and the mysteries of the natural world. They're viewed as divine messengers in folklore, navigating between the physical and spiritual realms, and are associated with life's sweetness and virtue in religious contexts.
What do bees represent in various cultures?
Bees have distinctive representations across cultures. They signify reward and the danger of greed in Native American folklore, sacredness in Mayan culture, communication with ancient gods in Celtic and Greek myths, sweetness and virtue in biblical contexts, a role in creation in African folklore, and guidance in Witchcraft folklore.