The bee is a symbol of Our Lady. Because of its good working habits, the small honeybee is a well-known symbol for work, good order, and diligence. Less commonly known is that the bee is a representation of virginity. The worker bees have no part in the reproduction of its species, except for that of feeding the baby bees. The responsibilities of “bee parenting” are left to the queen bee and the drones. Since virginity is a virtue we find exemplified to its highest capacity in Our Lady, the bee quite naturally becomes one of Her symbols.
Dom Gueranger, O.S.B., in his reading for the feast of Candlemas in The Liturgical Year, quotes St. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canturbury, who “bids us consider three things in the blest Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, … which is the production of the virginal bee, is the flesh of Our Lord [supplied by the Virgin Mary]; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on the top, is His Divinity.”
The honey, which the bee works to make, is symbolic of sweetness and religious eloquence. For this reason, the beehive is emblematic of St. Ambrose (†397) and St. Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153), two Doctors of the Church known for their eloquence “as sweet as honey.”