There are more than 20,000 species of bees. Think of the bumblebees, honey bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, mining bees, leafcutting, and mason bees... just to name a few. Our handpicked selection of carefully curated bee quotes goes to show these creatures are popular for more than their sting and their honey.
Bees play an essential role in global biodiversity, and plant pollination is necessary for food for all land animals, and some marine ones too. Unfortunately, human activities, along with other yet unknown factors, are killing bees, fast. A combination of global warming, air pollution, and indiscriminate use of pesticides contributes to the depletion of bee colonies worldwide. Bee populations have been declining by about 30% per year in some areas in Europe since 2015.
The bee quotes below address the importance of bees, as well as the dangers we face should they go extinct.
Related: For more from the animal kingdom, you might like our run-down of cool bug facts and list of some of the ugliest animals in the world.
Sue Hubbell is an American author who studied biology. Her books, A Country Year and A book of bees (both on Amazon), were hand-picked by The New York Times book review as notable, prize-worthy books of the year.
I like pulling on a baggy bee suit, forgetting myself, and getting as close to the bees’ lives as they will let me—remembering in the process that there is more to life than the merely human.
~ Sue Hubbell
Honey bees fly 55,000 miles and visit two million flowers to produce just about 2.2kg of honey. This incredible bee fact shows how hardworking the average bee is. If you’re keen to help protect the bees, check out our guide to what to plant in the garden to attract and help bees thrive.
John Burroughs was an active member of the US conservation movement and a nature essayist. His works are most known for intertwining his observations about birds, insects, and flowers with his views on religion, literature, and philosophy.
While a queen bee may live up to five years, worker bees- which may number about 80,000 in a single colony- only live for about six weeks. Therefore, a single queen bee may live through nearly 2 million worker bees in her lifetime. In this bee quote, Burroughs compares this constant renewal of the colony to the continual nature of the military and life in general.
Gene Robinson is an American entomologist. Robinson is famous in his industry for pioneering the effort to sequence the honey bee genome. He studied insects, how they reproduced, interacted with each other, and how they work.
Bees, no doubt, are very smart insects. From the way they organize their colonies to their work culture, there’s so much we can learn from them. We also see their intelligence in the way bees describe the location of food and pollen grains through dance. As Robinson’s bee quote talks about, the dance shows the distance from their hive to the pollen grain and all the landmarks along the way, so they don't get lost. Bee’s dance in relation to the sun for orientation.
It is not how busy you are, but why you are busy — the bee is praised, the mosquito is swatted.
"Bees work for man, and yet they never bruise Their Master's flower, but leave it having done, As fair as ever and as fit to use; So both the flower doth stay and honey run."
~ George Herbert
Annalee Newitz is an American journalist, editor, and writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Voters nominated her novel Autonomous (amazon) for Best Novel at the 2018 Nebula Awards.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that bees pollinate over 71% of the crops responsible for 90% of all the food around the world. These include beans, fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and spices. As our bee quotes in this section highlight, the loss of bees would inevitably lead to biodiversity loss, as both the plants and the animals that depend on them would be in danger of extinction.
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman leader and a stoic philosopher. History describes him as the last of the 'Five Good Emperors.’ His legacy after his death was more about a philosopher King than an Emperor.
The bees work with/for each other so whatever is not suitable for the collective is not good for the individual bee. The worker bee, for example, would sting an intruder to protect the colony, even though they’ll die in the process. Aurelius’ bee quote thus implies a life of sacrifice, a life of putting the well-being collective first, just as the bees.
Brigette Bardot was a former French actress and singer. She was an animal rights activist who fought for the right of animals and against the illegal killing of animals. She became vegan in 1986 and also founded the Brigitte Bardot Foundation in the same year for the welfare of animals.
The use of pesticides is one of the biggest bee colony threats. The class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, in particular, is identified by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) as the primary cause of these mass bee-cide. While the European Union has recently banned the use of three neonicotinoids, we still need more efforts to protect the bees, and, thus, the environment.
Trudie Styler was an English actress, film producer, and also director. Styler co-founded the Rainforest Foundation Fund in 1989 to protect the rainforests. She is an animal lover and enjoys the benefit they bring.
Bees are popular for their delicious honey. But it is their pollination game that is most environmentally impactful. Over 4000 plant varieties exist, thanks to bees.
Karl Pilkington is an English television presenter, author, and voice actor. He, like other great philosophers, enjoyed nature and used it during some of his presentations.~
Honey bees help in the production of $16 billion worth of food per year by pollination in the US alone. If we lose bees, not only would the world economy be in peril, but we’ll also lose animals that feed on these flowers and veggies. This, in turn, would crash the food chain, affecting human survival directly. “The world would end” is thus more of a realistic statement than just propaganda.
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
~ Maurice Maeterlinck
“Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century, they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature's services in a world of close to 7 billion people”
~ Achim Steiner
Lawyer and Statesman Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. His impressive legacy as a president includes: leading the country through the American Civil War, abolishing slavery, reunifying the states, and modernizing the U.S. economy.
Bees are very powerful insects, and they move in swarms. A bee would rarely sting when unprovoked- because most bees die in the process. When they do sting, though, it can be fatal, or at the least very painful, especially when they do as a swarm, as Lincoln’s bee quote alludes to.
“He is not worthy of the honey comb. That shuns the hives because the bees have stings.”
~ William Shakespeare
James Lowell was an American romantic poet, diplomat, critic, and editor. He wrote essays and poems of and from nature. He also used his words to fight misconceptions about nature.
Related: We’ve 70 best nature quotes over here
We cannot overemphasize the importance of bees. As they move from flower to flower to eat, they transfer pollen grains for cross-pollination. In his bee quote, Lowell likens this pollen transfer mechanism to the way books carry knowledge from one mind (the writer) to another (the reader).
“The busy bee has no time for sorrow.”
~ William Blake
“The bee's life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water.”
“The lovely flowers embarrass me, They make me regret I am not a bee”
~ Emily Dickinson
“Man produces evil as a bee produces honey.”
~ William Golding
“Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers, know there is richest juice in poison flowers.”
~ John Keats
“To be successful, one has to be one of three bees - the queen bee, the hardest working bee, or the bee that does not fit in.”
~ Suzy Kassem
“The mistake a lot of actors make, particularly young ones, is allowing themselves to feel that they're the finished articles, the bee's knees, and it's not true.”
~ Daniel Radcliffe
“Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what's in a name?” Jackson
~ Helen Hunt
"Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it!"
~ John Muir
"Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind."
"Every saint has a bee in his halo."
~ Elbert Hubbard
Rollins Band founder, Henry Rollins (amazon), is an American singer, actor, comedian, presenter, and activist. His political activism portfolio includes the campaign for LGBT rights, World Hunger Relief, and the Peace Movement; an initiative that seeks to put an end to all wars.
The honey bee, being the busiest and most hardworking bee, produce honey and honeycomb. They work all day, taking nectar to create honey for the nutrition of their young ones. And bees create nature's superfood, honey, for the nourishment of humans. If you love honey, that’s one more reason to care about the safety of the honey bee population.
“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.”
~ Saint Francis De Sales
“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
~ Ray Bradbury
“When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.”
~ Srikumar Rao
“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”
~ Muriel Barbery
“A Bee is an exquisite Chemist"
~ Royal Beekeeper to Charles II
A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.
~ Kin Hubbard
The bee’s life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water
~ Karl Von Frisch
"Setting endeavor in continual motion; To which is fixed as an aim or butt Obedience; for so work the honeybees, Creatures that by a rule in nature teach The act of order to a peopled kingdom. They have a king, and officers of sorts, Where some like magistrates correct at home, Others like merchants venture trade abroad, Others like soldiers armed in their stings Make boot upon the summer’s velvet buds, Which pillage they with merry march bring home To the tent-royal of their emperor, Who, busied in his majesties, surveys The singing masons building roofs of gold, The civil citizens kneading up the honey, The poor mechanic porters crowding in Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate, The sad-eyed justice with his surly hum Delivering o’er to executors pale The lazy yawning drone. And in the taste confounds the appetite."
~ William Shakespeare
"How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower!"
~ Isaac Watts
"If you have no honey in your pot, have some in your mouth."
~ Benjamin Franklin
If bees only gathered nectar from perfect flowers, they wouldn’t be able to make even a single drop of honey.
~ Matshona Dhliwayo
“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.”
~ Mary Kay Ash
“It was the bumble bee and the butterfly who survived, not the dinosaur.”
~ Meridel Le Sueur
“Now, bumblebees, from the day they are born, wear a black-and-yellow jersey just to keep them warm.”
~ Craig Smith
“Surely, everyone knows the geat furry bumblebee, that gentle giant of the blossoms, that somehow awkward, slow, bumbling bear of a bee.”
~ Brian L. Griffin
Sue Monk Kidd is an American writer famous for her love for bees. She is the bestselling author of the award-winning novels, The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings (both on Amazon). In particular, the Secret Life of Bees received critical acclaim. It was adapted into a movie of the same name, winning Best Movie Drama and Best Independent Movie at the 35th People’s Choice Awards.
Sue Monk Kidd grew up in Sylvester, and it was this small town that influenced the writing of The Secret Life of Bees. Contrary to popular belief, Kidd’s bee quotes point out that humans and honey bees can co-exist for long periods without friction.
Place a beehive on my grave And let the honey soak through. When I'm dead and gone, That's what I want from you. The streets of heaven are gold and sunny, But I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey. Place a beehive on my grave And let the honey soak through.
~ Sue Monk Kidd
“If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
“The bee is domesticated but not tamed.”
~ William Longgood
“When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee's house some day.”
~ Congo Proverb
“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
"The hum of bees is the voice of the garden."
~ Elizabeth Lawrence
Honey doesn’t lose its sweetness because it is made by bees that sting.
~ Matshona Dhliwayo
The bee's role in global plant pollination is more than enough reason to be concerned about their declining numbers. And bees create honey, which we all love!
As our selection of some of the best bee quotes above shows, we must start by banning the most dangerous pesticides, preserving wildlife, and restoring ecological agriculture to protect the bee population. A busy little bee may appear insignificant, but each one is precious.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.