The Humble Bee

Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky

The humble bee is a symbol of industry and orderliness.  The bee society is highly organized and stratified, with each member of the hive charged with a task that it does each day, all day long.  The bees leave the hive and fly from flower to flower returning to the hive with their payload.  Though they largely do their work unheard with only a faint buzzing, they do the work of polinating plants critical to the survival of plantlife.  So important is the work that they do, Albert Einstein predicted that if bees were to disappear, all of mankind would die, as well, within just a few short years.

Many societies have held up the bee as a virtuous little creature.  

  • In Egyptian mythology, the bee was portrayed as a symbol of the soul. 
  • In ancient Greece,  Eleuis, one of the attendants to the goddess Demeter, was referred to as a bee, because it is known that the worker bees are virgins. 
  • The bee was chosen as one of the symbols of the Second Empire of France, and Napoleon adopted the bee as his symbol. 
  • The Freemasons chose the behive as a  symbol for their third degree because of the bees industry and the ability of the society to accomplish together what individuals could not do on their own.

Of course, Christians also adopted the bee to represent many different things:

The bee produces the sweet honey but also posesses a stinger which can sting.  Because of the dichotomy, the bee is an emblem of Christ who delivered a sweet message that stung sinners.

The bee was also a symbol of the Virgin Mary because the bees were thought to be hatched from unfertilized eggs–virgin birth, as it were.  They were seen as pure, moral, and virginal.  Their product, therefore, was pure also which is why candles made from beeswax was pure enough to be burned in the church.

The bee has a bite–its stinger which made it a symbol of the Last Judgment.

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