The Manchester Bee: What Does It Mean?

23 May 2018, 10:48

A mural of the worker bee in Manchester's Northern Quarter
A mural of the worker bee in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Get the story behind Manchester's iconic worker bee symbol, which has gone on to represent so much since last year's terror attack.

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

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.

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

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

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