Since bees are social insects that form colonies that contain caste systems, it is easy to compare them to humans living under a monarchical government. It would not be surprising to learn that bees have been compared to humans ever since the Greek ages. No matter what type of government happened to be ruling at a particular time in history, bee colonies have always been considered similar to human societies. What many people from the past did not realize is that most bee species are solitary and not eusocial at all. Most people today are not aware of this fact even today.


When people, past and present, imagine bees they also imagine colonies or hives hanging from trees. In any case, bees are not typically thought of as solitary insects. The most popular and well known bee species is definitely the honeybee. Throughout history honeybees have always been the go-to reference for cooperative communities.


The ancient Greeks considered honeybees to be a natural expression of cooperation and self-sacrifice in nature. For the Greeks, honeybees were virtuous and only concerned with the collective good. Honeybees were considered a sort of moral model that should have been followed by the Greek citizenry. A moral human, much like a bee, should set personal interests aside in favor of bettering the community with altruistic efforts.


During the medieval and early modern period, honeybees were extolled for their industriousness and obedience to the queen. British Citizens who were devoted to the monarch during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries believed that bees represented the natural state of a monarchy. These royalists would refer to honeybees as evidence of the monarchy’s natural existence, and therefore the monarchy should be respected.


Surprisingly, honeybees were still considered noble insects during the French Revolution when the monarchy was being challenged and democracy was gaining popular support. The beehive was chosen as the symbol of the French Republic and bees were personified as being cooperative and aware of the importance of civic virtue. I am sure you can imagine how bee colonies could be well represented by communist or socialist institutions, which also happened. If you have ever wondered which type of insect is the world’s most popular, then now you should know. However, you would think that the pain of a bee sting would have changed some minds.


Can you think of any ways in which society has portrayed bees in a negative light?


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