As one of the most industrious and loyal species, the bee has become a well-loved tattoo design.

Bee Tattoo Meanings

Since ancient times, bees have been central to many cultures. These distinctly colored insects are essential for maintaining a balanced ecosystem, and they play a large role in the success of crop growth. As one of the most industrious and loyal species, the bee has become a well-loved tattoo design.

So if you’re considering getting a bee tattoo of your own, we’re here to help you make a well-thought-out decision. Below, we’ve put together a complete guide on bee tattoos, including a bee tattoo dictionary spelling out the meanings behind these bee designs, as well as tips on bee tattoo placement, styles, and tattoo pairings. So read on and learn about your favorite bees!

History of Bee Symbolism

All it takes to understand the incredibly central role that bees play in our ecosystems and lives is to tune in to the ongoing discussion over these last few years about their slow, unexplained disappearance from their natural habitats. It’s a full-fledged crisis, with the impact of the bees’ absence having waves of consequences that affect every being on the planet.

Now, we’re not here to get into the ecological consequences of the bees’ disappearance, but this does point to just how important bees are to us. And for millennia, they have captured the human attention and imagination, figuring prominently in many different cultures both ancient and modern.

Looking into the distant past, the Mayans, Hindus, Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and other cultures all acknowledged the power of the all-mighty bee. In Mayan culture, bees were considered a symbol of fertility, given the deity Ah-Muzen-Kab, who can be found on the walls of the temples with unfurled wings, ready to fly toward his altar.

In Hinduism, many different gods are associated with bees. Specifically, the gods Vishnu, Krishnu, and Indra are called Madhava, which translates to “the nectar-born ones,” and their symbol is the bee. Interestingly, there is even a Hindu bee Goddess named Bhrami, a word which means “bees” in Hindi. It’s said that Bramari resides in the heart chakra and emits the buzzing sound of bees, which is often imitated in Vedic chants, representing the essential sound of the universe.

In Egypt, the bee was a symbol of royalty and power, thought to be born from the tears of Ra, a sun god. In fact, the ruler of Lower Egypt was often called “He who belongs to the Bee.”

In ancient Greece and ancient Rome, bees feature in many myths. In particular, they were often connected with the Muses, who were said to give mortals the gift of eloquence by placing honey on their lips. Bees were also associated with the underworld and the souls of the dead, and their honey was considered to be a food that granted immortality to the gods.

Since then, the bee was prominently featured in art at the Vatican, became the imperial symbol of Napolean Bonaparte, was associated with Cupid during the Renaissance as a symbol of love, and was employed as an emblem of modern society by several prominent political theorists.

We could go on but the point is probably more than clear at this stage: bees are a symbol incredibly rich with meaning, and they have been for a long, long time. So if you want to get a bee tattoo, there are many possible different meanings that you can choose to associate with them.

Bee Tattoo Meanings

So let’s get into the different meanings that you might be able to attribute to your bee tattoo. Generally speaking, bees are known to be associated with the following meanings.

General Bee Tattoo Meanings

Due to the nature of their work in hives, in which they work diligently all day to create honey for the good of the whole collective, bee tattoos can be associated with teamwork, loyalty, love, and family. Their hardworking nature is also responsible for them symbolizing qualities like tenacity, dedication, duty, and structure.

The fact that worker bees die after they sting and work their entire, short lives for the benefit of the queen bee and the hive has also caused them to be associated with sacrifice and devotion. Meanwhile, thanks to the incredibly sophisticated design of honeycombs, another bee tattoo meaning is intelligence – as well as nature, as bees are a part of the natural world.

Further, because beehives were sometimes used during ancient wars, a bee tattoo might also be associated with defense, destruction, and chaos.

And finally, for obvious reasons (honey), bee tattoos can also be a symbol of sweetness.

That being said, there are also certain bee tattoo designs that may carry specific meanings based on their attributes. Here are a few examples.

Beehive Tattoo Design

Neo Traditional Hive and Bees Tattoo Designs
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As one of the most perfectly designed nests in nature, the self-made habitat that is the beehive represents community and connectedness.

Honey Bee Tattoo Design

Due to the crucial role honey bees play in the environment and agriculture, they have come to represent environmental preservation. They also symbolize hard work and cooperation. Since the honey bee will protect its home at the risk of its own life, it can also represent loyalty and courage.

Honeycomb Tattoo Design

Colorful Bee and Honeycomb Tattoo Design
Source: https://tattoodo-mobile-app.imgix.net/images/news_uploads/legacy/0/59859.jpg

Made with a perfect hexagonal walls, the honeycomb tattoo design is a symbol of structured cooperation.

Honey Pot Tattoo Design

Considered the food of the gods in many cultures, the honey pot represents abundance and prosperity.

Hornet Tattoo Design

Cartoon Hornet Tattoo Design Idea
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In the Bible, it was said that hordes of hornets extinguished sources of evil. Hence, the hornet has come to symbolize a warrior spirit.

Killer Bee Tattoo Design

As a tattoo design, the killer bee represents endless persistence, as well as ferocity, strength, and lethal power.

Manchester Bee Tattoo Design

Wrist Manchester Bee Tattoo Design

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A long-time symbol for the city of Manchester in the United Kingdom, the Manchester bee tattoo has become a symbol of those lost in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

Queen Bee Tattoo Design

As the leader of the bee colony, the queen bee is a powerful symbol of strong feminine leadership and power.

Bumblebee Tattoo Design

Small Fuzzy Honeybee on Elbow
Source: https://www.savedtattoo.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Bumblebee-tattoo-1-820×1024.jpg

You can think of bumblebees as the heavyweights of the bee family. Their plump bodies and deep buzz are instantly recognizable. A bumblebee tattoo represents order, duty, and positivity.

Top Bee Tattoo Styles

Due to the nature of how they look and what they usually represent, there are certain tattooing styles that tend to work the best for bee tattoos. Here are some of the ones we think are worth considering.

Tribal Bee Tattoo Design

There are many indigenous cultures around the world that value the bee for its ability to provide food, materials for hunting, and defense. For that reason, there is no shortage of tribal symbols and icons that feature the bee. A tribal bee tattoo can be considered an extension of this practice, helping to connect the individual with the hardworking, loyal team player that the bee is.

Geometric Bee Tattoo Design

Minimalist Geometric Honey Bee Tattoo Design
Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/dd/c1/d3/ddc1d34f49294e87c551b8f695bf9908.jpg

A highly fitting tattoo style for a bee and honeycomb tattoo is the geometric style, which works perfectly with the geometric nature of the honeycomb, emphasizing its sophisticated design and beautiful symmetry.

Minimalistic Bee Tattoo Design

Because bees are small in nature, many people prefer to get bee tattoos that are also small. After all, it could look a little strange to have a bee tattoo that is 100 times larger than a real bee ever could be. And a small tattoo lends itself quite well to the minimalistic tattoo style. This style uses simple lines and shading to create a tattoo this is understated yet impactful. It’s most often done in black and grey.

Cartoon Bee Tattoo Design

Cartoon Simple Honey Bee Tattoo
Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/34/c4/1d/34c41d929c8494b174bf930349021d7a.jpg

A very common tattoo style choice for bee tattoos is the cartoon style, which makes the bee look like, well, a cartoon. This is because many people like the cute nature of the bee – especially the bumblebee – and want to play up the adorable, lovable quality of this creature. In contrast to the minimalist bee tattoo design, the cartoon bee tattoo is often done in color.

Realistic Bee Tattoo Design

We’d be remiss not to mention the realistic style as a common, effective choice for bee tattoos. This is because nearly all animal tattoos are popular in the realistic style, as people want to recreate the energy and the look of their animal of choice as closely as possible to the real thing.

Best Places for Bee Tattoos

Just like the bee tattoo’s nature makes it fit better with certain tattooing styles, the same goes for tattoo placements on the body. Here are some bee tattoo placements that work quite well.

Upper Forearm Bee Tattoo Design

Geometric Tattoo Design of a Honeybee
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Most of the time, the largest size you’ll see a bee tattoo in is a couple of inches wide, which is a size that lends itself really nicely to an upper forearm placement. A bee tattoo in this place won’t be so big that it has to wrap around, but also won’t be so small as to appear like it is awkwardly floating in space.

Above the Elbow Bee Tattoo Design

For similar reasons, the back of the arm above the elbow is another location that works really nicely with bee tattoos. The main difference here is how visible the tattoo is to its wearer. If you don’t mind (or even prefer) for your bee tattoo to be out of sight and potentially out of mind, more visible to the outside world than to you, then the above the elbow placement might be a good choice for you.

Back of the Neck Bee Tattoo Design

Bee Tattoo on a Woman's Neck
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A really feminine, dainty location for a bee tattoo – if that’s the kind of look you’re going for – is the back of the neck, which is another placement that lends itself really well to the typical sizing of a bee tattoo. This tattoo placement draws attention to the nape of the neck, which can be very sexy.

Wrist Bee Tattoo Design

If you want to get a very small, delicate bee tattoo, a good placement for it is the wrist, where even the smallest tattoos won’t look out of place. Whether you get in on your inner wrist or side of the wrist, it’ll definitely be a cute placement.

What Works Well with Bee Tattoos?

Before we finish this guide off, let’s talk about one more consideration you might want to think about when planning your bee tattoo. Maybe you want to get your bee tattoo with another design incorporated into it. This can be nice because it can allow for a more complex, detailed, and interesting tattoo – plus, it’s a good idea if you want to have a larger tattoo with a bee in it without tattooing a mega-bee onto yourself.

So if you’re thinking about other designs that will pair well with your bee tattoo, here are some options to consider.

Bumble Bee and Flower Tattoo Design

Honeybee and Flower Tattoo Design Idea
Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/59/22/c8/5922c8cec3955cbeae31eac661a1203d.jpg

A natural, even obvious (but not in a bad way) choice for what you can pair with your bee tattoo is a flower or flowers. What will this type of tattoo mean? Well, paired with a flower, the bumble bee is a symbol of renewal, growth, and the season of spring.

Bee and Moon Tattoo Design

Although it’s not the most common tattoo pairing in the world, a bee and moon tattoo actually works really well together, with the moon also thought to be a symbol of feminine power.

Bee with Path Tattoo Design

Bee with Heart Tattoo Design Ideas
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A common thing to add to a bee tattoo is a little dotted or dashed line that represents the bee’s flight path. Not only is this a sweet, cute look, but it can also represent the bee’s freedom, fancifulness, and one’s path in life.

Multiple Bees Tattoo Design

If your goal is to lean into the cooperative, family, and loyalty aspect of the bee tattoo meaning, it can be a great idea for you to get multiple bees in the same tattoo, as this can represent the bee swarm who work together for the good of the collective.

Bee and Insect Tattoo Design

Bee and Insect Forearm Tattoos
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If the reason that you’re getting a bee tattoo is to represent nature or because you have an interest in insects, in particular, it can be a cool look to get your bee with other insects in the same tattoo. This might represent finding beauty in the traditionally “ugly” or just the majestic nature of the animal kingdom.

Small, but not insignificant, the bumble bee has a special place in many people’s lives. Whether you have a personal connection to these black and yellow insects, or you appreciate their contributions to our environment, a bee tattoo can always make a great tattoo.

See More Tattoo Meanings

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