Bee Tattoos: Design Ideas and Meaning
"Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, honey bee, honey bee..." I love bees and I love tattoos, so when I heard my husband crooning this song to one of our girls the other day, it got me thinking that it was high time I got a bee tattoo. In fact, instead of just getting one, I've been thinking about getting a swirling swarm of bees tattooed around my left elbow to commemorate my 40th birthday. They would fit in perfectly with my forearm full of butterflies and maybe I'll even get brave and have the tip of my elbow tattooed with a lovely flower for them to buzz around. (That's right, despite my other article about the grueling pain of having your elbow tattooed, I'm considering having the other one done. What can I say? I guess I am glutton for punishment.)
So I thought I might share my findings here to help others in their quest for the perfect bee tattoo. Get ready because I think some of these ideas are the bees' knees. (I was dying to find a place to write that.)
There are numerous meanings attached to the humble bumble bee, any of which you could choose to assign to your tattoo. For example, some early civilizations believed that honey bees were heaven-sent because they could always find their way home. As a result, the bee came to represent the soul and it was therefore considered bad luck to kill a bee. Others see the bee as symbol of fertility and sexuality. Many Christians have adopted the bee as a symbol of hope, focusing on the social order, cleanliness, and work ethic of the little bee. Bees have also been associated with family, royalty, and warfare: Hives were actually used as a weapon by the ancient Mayans. Who knew there was so much meaning packed in such a tiny, buzzy creature?
Of course you can assign your own meaning to your lovely bee tattoo and maybe even incorporate a word into the design.
Realistic Bee Tattoo Designs
A lot of my tattoos were inspired by nature— like butterflies, trees, leaves, and roots— so a swarm of bees would fit in perfectly. To me, a bee represents hard work and good things to come. I love the idea of a group of creatures working together to create something delicious and life-sustaining. The honey bee plays an important part in the ecology of earth. If they didn't pollinate many of our plants and flowers, we would have a food shortage on our hands. (And I'm proud to say that I learned this by watching Bee Movie with my girls.)
The dilemma with going with a realistic design is size. If you go true to size, they are not very big, leaving little room for detail. And as any artist worth their salt will tell you, forcing a lot of design detail into a small space will make for a bad tattoo that will bleed and not age well.
So if your heart's set on realism and you want to show every tiny fuzzy-wuzzy bee leg hair, you'd better bump up the size.
Bees are so cool.
Did you know that each flower's nectar has its own distinct flavor, thus producing different flavored honeys?
Tiny Cute Bee Tattoo Designs
I just love a tiny tattoo and a cute little bee makes the perfect tiny tattoo design. Obviously, the simpler the design the better. You could opt for one simple bee in a discreet spot or go with a number of the sweet bee tattoos and have your own little swarm, like I plan to do.
The addition of wisps and dashes can add the illusion of motion and greatly enhance the design. Why not pick a curved part of your body and go for a swirl or a heart?
Cartoon Bee Design
Feeling a little bit cheeky? Then why not pick a design to reflect that attitude. How about a queen bee for your inner diva or an extra-large stinger to send a message that you're not to be messed with? What about a super smiley honey bee that says you are all things sweet and lovely? Let your imagination run wild, exaggerate the features you like best, amp up the color, and have fun.
Angry Bee or Wasp Tattoos
Want something edgier, with more attitude? Then why not go for a swarm of killer bees or an angry wasp? In my quest, I came a cross a lot of angry bee tattoos, which surprised me as I don't think of them as angry or aggressive in any way. (Mind you, if you asked me right after I'd been stung, I might feel differently.)
I can see how a tattoo like this might seem slightly more manly then a chubby little honey bee. So if attitude is what your aiming for, slap on an extra big stinger and show people you mean business.
Bee and Flower Tattoo Designs
Adding a flower or a whole bouquet can add beauty and color to your piece. Flowers and bees are the perfect match. Consider opting for a a flower with contrasting colors to compliment the vibrant yellow of your bee. Do a little research to add realism to your art by picking a flower that bees are actually attracted to, like a sunflower or a poppy. You should also ask yourself whether you want the elements of your tattoo to be to scale and what is the focal point (the bee or the flower)? To get the detail you may be looking for, you may have to play with proportions a bit.
Bee with Other Insects
Insects are amazing and beautiful. Mother nature has created miniature works of art in every one of them, and they make a wonderful subject for tattoos. So why not recreate a field of flowers and add some friends for your bumble bee, like butterflies, ladybugs, and dragonflies?
Honeycomb or Hive
Some of the coolest bee tattoos I've seen have incorporated honeycomb into the design, as if the inside of the person is in fact a hive, pulsing with activity. Although this might seem creepy to some, there is no denying that the effect is quite dramatic.
If the element of home and family are the aspects you are trying to emphasize, then adding a hive to you design sends that message loud and clear. Make sure you have chosen a spot on your body that allows for enough space to showcase the work. Why not take it a step further and include a branch for your hive to swing from?
Ornate Bee Design
Seriously, is that not one of the most amazing tattoos you have ever seen? Gorgeous, brilliant, unique. Never in a million years would I have thought to incorporate an intricate design with a bee and yet the results are stunning. Obviously you would need to commit to a rather large tattoo to pull this off, but wouldn't having something as beautiful as this on your arm be worth it? A number of other elements could be mixed in with this design, including Celtic, tribal, or even biomedical.
Tattoos are a wonderful way of expressing yourself through art, so choose a design that really speaks to who you are and what you care about. And with its diverse symbolism and many design options, a bee tattoo may just be the perfect choice for you. It certainly is for me.
Stayed tuned, as my 40th birthday rapidly approaches I plan on posting a picture of my own lovely swarm of bees that will serve as a reminder to "bee happy." Thanks for reading and happy inking!