What does the Manchester bee symbol mean?

22 May 2020, 13:09 | Updated: 22 May 2020, 13:46

Three years on from the tragic Manchester Arena attack, we look at the story behind the city's iconic worker bee symbol.

The Manchester bee has long been affiliated with the city, but since the horrific Manchester terror attack - which saw 22 people killed at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017 - the symbol has taken on a life of its own.

Three years on, people from all walks of life continue to commemorate those who lost their lives in the track, sharing the bee symbol and offering their words of condolence and remembrance, but what does the Manchester bee symbol mean and what has it come to stand for?

What does the Manchester Bee mean?

Often referred to as the "worker bee," the icon is one of a few images linked to the Lancashire city, alongside the likes of cottongrass and the Red Rose of Lancaster.

A mural of the worker in Manchester's northern quarter
A mural of the worker in Manchester's northern quarter. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

First adopted as a motif for Manchester in the 18th Century, the bee reflected a time when the city became a leader in the Industrial Revolution, symbolising it being a hive of activity and enterprise for its hard-working citizens.

Since then, bees have continued to be featured across Manchester's most famous buildings, landmarks and brands.

The HMS Manchester - which began its construction on 19 May 1978 - was nicknamed the "Busy Bee" for this reason, and even had the insects depicted on its chest.

HMS Manchester On Her Final Tour Before Decommissioning in 2014
HMS Manchester On Her Final Tour Before Decommissioning in 2014. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

And it doesn't stop there.

The University of Manchester's features bees on its crest, a mosaic of a worker bee sits at the steps of the city's town hall, and even Boddingtons' famous logo depicts two bees in front of a barrel.

Boddingtons beer logo
Boddingtons beer logo. Picture: Boddingtons

When young music fans were targeted at an Ariana Grande concert two years ago Manchester sprang into action and proved itself to be a city of hope, unity and defiance.

The worker bee took on a new life and a new meaning, with artists and muralists depicting the insect across the city's buildings.

Manchester Bee Murals Tribute To Arena Terror Attack Victims
Manchester Bee Murals Tribute To Arena Terror Attack Victims. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Adults of all ages and from all walks of life showed their solidarity by getting bee tattoos, with a huge amount of money donated to charity as a result.

Staff members at Northern Rail receive a bee tattoo in memory of the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017
Staff members at Northern Rail receive a bee tattoo in memory of the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

And of course, two years later the bee continues to be used across social media in images and tributes.

We Stand With Manchester three years on.

Watch Liam Fray talk about his hometown of Manchester after the horrific event: