There are a number of superstitions concerning bees, including various beliefs to do with death. The tradition of ‘telling the bees’ that the owner of their hive has died is a long-established one; it is believed that this will avert the death or disappearance of the bees.
a bee in one's bonnet an obsessive preoccupation with something (the expression is recorded from the 19th century). The phrase bees in the head was used in the early 16th century for someone regarded as crazy or eccentric, and the alliterative version with bonnet is indicated by the 17th century poet Herrick's reference to a bee in his ‘bonnet brave’ in his poem ‘Mad Maud's Song’ (Hesperides, 1648).
where bees are, there is honey industrious work is necessary to create riches; the saying may also be taken to imply that the presence of bees may be a sign of wealth. The saying is recorded from the early 17th century.
See also beehive, beeline.
BEE (Heb. דְּבוֹרָה). Beekeeping was practiced early in the Mediterranean region. However, there is no reference to it in the Bible where the bee is mentioned only four times and only once in connection with honey (Judg. 14:9). References to bees stinging those who approach them (Deut. 1:44; Ps. 118:12) may refer to the gathering of wild honeycombs, and the finding of honey is mentioned (i Sam. 14:25; Prov. 16:4). Bees swarm when the land is desolate and untilled, so that a child will then eat "butter and honey" (Isa. 7:22). On the other hand, the honey of "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Deut. 8:8) is date honey according to the rabbis. There are frequent references to beekeeping in the talmudic era. The rabbis give detailed accounts of the beehives which were made of wicker and attached to the ground with clay (Oho. 8:1; Uk. 3:10) and discuss the number of honeycombs which it was permitted to take from the hives in the case of a man who acquires them for one year only (bb 5:3). Bee honey is permitted as food and the rule "that which derives from the unclean is itself unclean" does not apply to it. The reason adduced is that the bee does not produce the honey but sucks it from the flowers and discharges it through the mouth (Bek. 7b). The bee referred to is the Apis mellifica whose sting is especially acute. For this reason in recent times the Italian species Apis ligustica, which is easier to handle, has been introduced into Israel.
Lewysohn, Zool, 301; Dalman, Arbeit, 7 (1942), 291 ff.; F.S. Bodenheimer, Ha-Ḥai be-Arẓot ha-Mikra, 2 (1956), index; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 120. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 215.
bee / bē/ • n. 1. a honeybee. 2. an insect of a large group (superfamily Apoidea, order Hymenoptera) to which the honeybee belongs, including many solitary as well as social kinds. 3. a meeting for communal work or amusement: a quilting bee. PHRASES: have a bee in one's bonnet inf. be preoccupied or obsessed about something, esp. a scheme or plan of action: the bee's knees inf. an outstandingly good person or thing.