Bees · Folklore · Myth

68 pieces of Fiction, Folklore, Fables and Theories about BEES

I’m looking for folklore, myths, stories, anything that isn’t necessarily true about bees as I find it quite interesting what people used to think and believe. They can also produce quite nice stories.

  1. The Queen Bee was once considered to be a King
  2. Honeybees were once called Honey Flies and Native American Indians called them White Man’s Flies
  3. Folklore of 19th century England and America in parts of the South , relates that mourners at funerals would rap on hives to inform the bees of the death of a family member. Some even dressed their hives in funeral garb to pacify the bees. People noticed that bees would take the loss at heart and would alight on coffins in respect, but little did they realize that the bees were merely securing varnish , or resin, from the coffins, not mourning the deceased.
  4. Xenophon , a Greek general and historian in 400 B.C. wrote, “While she stays in the hive, she does not allow the bees to get lazy, but sends out those who have to work outside, observes what they bring in; takes it and stores it until it can be used . . . Further she supervises the building of combs in the hive and sees to it that they are constructed well and pretty and that the brood is reared in an orderly way”
  5. The bees, when they find the queen has not followed them, will return to the hive and scold her, hustle and ill-treat her, accusing her of laziness or suspecting her of feeble mind.
  6. When a virgin queen is performing the nuptial flight, her subjects are so fearful of losing her that they will accompany her on this tragic and distant quest of love
  7. It was believed (in the 18th century) that hives swarmed so much they produced no less than 30 colonies in a single season when in fact it is usually only twice.
  8. It was believed that the Queen was impregnated by an odor that is produced by many drones when they are confined in a small space, carried by the wind.
  9. Used to think that Queens breed in the hive.
  10. Used to believe that Queens lay eggs in the cells that are then fertilised by the drones later on.
  11. Bees will attack people depending on their odor. This is untrue; they’ll only attack if they believe their queen or hive is in danger.
  12. People used to think bees could fly up to 100mph
  13. There is a honey in Turkey called Mad Honey that produces hallucinations when eaten because the bees gather nectar from Rhododendron species which contains a neurotoxin called grayonotoxin. It is known by the locals as “deli bal” which they consume for its medical benefits (hypertension, diabetes and some stomach diseases) and for its psychedelically optical illusions.
  14. Edible honey was discovered in the sepulcher of Egyptian King Tutankhamen (his tomb) after having been buried there for 3,300 years.
  15. Burying the deceased nobility with the embalming properties of honey was common in Egyptian times.
  16. Bees and honey were placed in Egyptian tombs as an offering to the spirits and the dead
  17. Saying: busy as a bee
  18. Saying: make a bee-line for something
  19. Saying: bee in the bonnet
  20. Saying: bee’s knees; used to refer to something small and insignificant, now means something brilliant
  21. The presence of bees on a farm or near a dairy or factory improves productivity
  22. Bees were used to test marriage in Central Europe. Brids to be would walk their partner past a beehive or nest to test the future faithfulness of their husband to be. If they were stung, the marriage wouldnt work out.
  23. To the Vikings, the Mead of Poetry (made mainly from honey) was a magical brew that could give gifts of wisdom, poetry and immortality to anyone who drank it.
  24. In many parts of the world, bees are considered to be able to grant gifts of poetry, eloquence and song to mankind.
  25. Greeks believed that bees were the “birds of muses”
  26.  In the British Isles it was believed that Bees buzz or hum a special hymn at midnight on Christmas Eve
  27. In the Irish poem “The King and the Hermit”, (17th Century) bees are the “little musicians of the world”
  28. Bees are said to understand many languages
  29. In Egypt, honeybees were one of several royal symbols. They represented the Pharaoh’s sovereignty over Lower Egypt. The Pharaoh was often referred to as He/She of the Sedge and Bee.
  30. In Egypt, there was an association between Bees and Deities as old as religion itself.
  31. Bees were born from the Sun God Ra
  32. The Temple of Neith (Goddess of the night) was known as “The House of the Bee” and the Sanctuary of Osiris (God of the Underworld and Death) was “The Mansion of the Bee”.
  33. If a swarm of bees settled on a person it was believed that they would attain leadership or even Kingship. In Poland, Michel Wiscionsky was chosen as King because bees landed on him during the election.
  34. Ancient Greek priestesses who attended the Goddess Demeter  (Goddess of the harvest) were known as Melissae, meaning Bees. This name is also used by several modern Goddess groups to honour bees and their Goddess as their Queen Bee.
  35. The original Mellisae was a Greek Nymph who cared for the infant Zeus, shielding him from his father Cronos, who intended to eat every one of his offspring. As punishment for protecting Zeus, Cronos turned Mellisae into an earthworm, and Zeus later changed her into a Bee out of pity.
  36. Bees were thought to have the ability to tell or see into the future.
  37. British/Irish folklore: If a Bumblebee buzzes around your house or at your window, it brings news that a visitor will arrive soon. It can even tell you the visitors gender: if the bee has a red tail the visitor will be male, white tail means female. If the visiting bumblebee is killed, there will be bad news
  38. Wales: it was very lucky if a bee set up a home near your house. This would bless your home with prosperity.
  39. Finding a bumblebee on a ship is good luck
  40. Should a bee land on your hand then it means that money is coming your way.
  41. Having a bee enter your home is good luck, usually in the form of money
  42. Having a bee die in your home is bad luck and poverty
  43. In modern folk magic the bumblebee serves as a charm for health and wealth.
  44. Honey has been used in folk magic to treat just about any and very ailment mankind has been known to suffer with
  45. Bees have long been associated with witches and witchcraft: bumblebees were used as familiars, a witch from Scotland poisoned a child in the form of a bee, a male witch was accused of killing a cow by sending a white bumblebee to land on it.
  46. When bees swarm it is considered a bad omen
  47. If bees swarmed onto a dead or rotten tree, it foretold death in the family that owned or lived near that tree
  48. When bees become lethargic it brings misfortune
  49. If bees are busy and buzzing away it brings good fortune
  50. Ancient writers (Aristotle, Pliny for example) believed bees could predict the weather
  51. If a bee buzzes over a sleeping child in its cot, it means the child will live a long and happy, healthy and prosperous life (Greek folklore)
  52. If a bee touches a child lips, it would become a great poet (according to Greek folklore)
  53. If a bee lands on your head, you will be successful in all your endeavours
  54. Virgins can pass through a swarm of bees without being stung
  55. If bees nested in the eaves of a house, the daughters there would never marry
  56. If you see swarming bees in your dreams, you will be overwhelmed or experience bad luck
  57. To dream of being stung is to be betrayed by someone you know
  58. If you dream of bees happily buzzing, then it means good fortune for the day ahead
  59. Egyptian, Greek and Celtic mythology – bees are symbols of the soul and its ability to pass or fly between worlds
  60. Ancient Egyptian rituals: the voice of the soul is compared to the humming buzz of bees. The soul is referred to as going about as a bee, thought see-est all the goings about
  61. The souls of the sleeping leave their bodies in the form of a bee that flies from the mouth. Should the bee get trapped or waylaid, the soul will be unable to return to the body.
  62. Bees offer protection for the soul
  63. Bees are linked to fairies partly due to their winged nature. They’re considred guardians of the natural world because of their vital role in pollination of plants
  64. Speaking to a bee harshly or swearing at it was thought to drive it away
  65. Old English folk custom; bees are treated like members of the family and kept up to date with all the goings on. “Telling the bees”
  66. Not telling the bees of important news would result in them flying away, dying or stopping honey production
  67. In many parts of Britain, bees are known as the little servants of God or the small messengers of God, dating back to Greek mythology
  68. Welsh folklore, bees were considered the only creatures to have come from Paradise and were seen as especially beloved by God

Sources used in this blog post:
-Weast, R. (2016). FACTS, FICTION AND FABLES. Bee Culture, 144(9), 73-76.
-Bumblebee conservation trust (2014) Available at: https://bumblebeeconservation.org/news/anthonys-blog/bees-in-folklore (Accessed: 12 January 2017).

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