Bee Tattoos: Design Ideas and Meaning

Updated on March 18, 2020
Thundermama profile image

I've been thinking about getting a swirling swarm of bees tattooed around my left elbow to commemorate my 40th birthday.

Get some ideas for a bee-themed tattoo with this design gallery.
Get some ideas for a bee-themed tattoo with this design gallery.

"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 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.)

8 Bee-autiful Design Ideas

  1. Realistic Bee Tattoos
  2. Tiny, Cute Bee Designs
  3. Cartoon Bees
  4. Angry Bees or Wasps
  5. Bee and Flower Designs
  6. Bees With Other Insects
  7. Honeycomb or Hive Tattoos
  8. Ornate Bee Design

A realistic tattoo of a single bee.
A realistic tattoo of a single bee.
A bee with "ME" printed on it.
A bee with "ME" printed on it. | Source

Bee Symbolism

There are numerous meanings attached to the humble bumblebee, 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.

A vibrant bee.
A vibrant bee.

1. Realistic Bee Tattoos

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.)

Size Concerns: Bees Are Small

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?

A flying bee on the hip.
A flying bee on the hip.

2. Tiny, Cute Bee 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 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?

A cartoonish bee.
A cartoonish bee.

3. Cartoon Bees

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 bees or wasps are another option.
Angry bees or wasps are another option.

4. Angry Bees or Wasps

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.

Pairing bees with flowers makes for a lovely design.
Pairing bees with flowers makes for a lovely design.

5. Bee and Flower 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.

In this tattoo, bees are paired with butterflies and dragonflies.
In this tattoo, bees are paired with butterflies and dragonflies.

6. Bees 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?

A pretty blue bee and hive.
A pretty blue bee and hive.

7. Honeycomb or Hive Tattoos

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?

An ornate, abstract bee design.
An ornate, abstract bee design. | Source

8. 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.

Another realistic bee.
Another realistic bee. | Source

Bee Happy!

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!


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    • profile image

      Jill Antalek 

      15 months ago

      What does a little tiny ladybug mean?

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 

      4 years ago from Miami Florida

      I like your hub. It is beautiful. I learned so much about the meaning of the bees. I did not know tattoos required time and planning. You did an excellent job miss thunder mama.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Wish I could take the credit, but they are not my work, just showcasing them here. Thanks for reading though.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You're an amazing artist!!

    • Sienna Finder profile image

      Sienna Finder 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      I really enjoyed this article! I really want a bee tattoo as well and have for quite some time! I was happy to find this!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Appreciate the kind comments and the love of art even in tattoo form. Thanks for reading.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Thundermama, these are cute, I am not into tattoos, but as art goes they are beautiful, especially the one with the Dogwood blossoms, which I love. Enjoyed the hub.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks Sharkey11! I agree, I love the ornate bee as well and have actually toyed with the idea of getting something like it. In the end though I have decided with some little bees. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Lovely! That ornate bee tattoo is just awesome! I wouldn't mind having a bee tattoo. To me bees are very mysterious and wise. Plus, they are industrious. I would probably choose something like the stylized hip tattoo for my bee.

      Great hub! Really enjoyed admiring the photos!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for dropping by Eddy, you're right you will wake up one day and know that it's time. That's pretty much how it happened for me. Best not to rusher force these things.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      I have been promising myself a tattoo for as long as I can remember ;but as always I just cannot get round to it.

      One day i will say "Right today it is!!!".

      I loved your ideas here.

      I shall let you know when I have mine done and you may just inspire me.

      Have a great day.


    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      You're right, it does look like a wasp and I am so not a fan of them either. Thanks for the well wishes on my swarm!

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 

      7 years ago from uk

      I love bees too, though the angry bee tattoo reminds me more of a wasp....totally different feelings towards wasps! One of my friends has a dinky bee on her wrist, which can be hidden by her watch at work. Interesting hub, and I hope your swarm works out well.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Kidscraft, thank you for reading and enjoying the artistry of tattoos even though it is not something for you. I can't guarantee this, as I have never gone through childbirth, my three girls are adopted, but I suspect childbirth would be more painful then getting a tattoo. However, you do get a wonderful baby out of the deal. LOL, thanks again for stopping by.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I can appreciate the art of tattooing; they can do beautiful artwork but I know it's not for me! I think I prefer to give birth than just the idea of being tattooed :-)

      Good luck with your project....and happy birthday!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      bb, thanks so much for always being one of the first to read and comment on my hubs. A more supportive fellow hubber I could not ask for. And I suspect all my tattoo hubs might eventually wear you down. How about a tiny ladybug?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Those are cute, and on the right person would look cool....but I ain't that right person. LOL Good job of explaining and the pictures are great. I hope you are doing well my friend!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much for reading h.o. I agree, it is amazing how talented these artists are. Thanks for the birthday wishes.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      7 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      This was quite interesting, Thundermama, and I'm in awe of the talented tattoo artists whose works grace your hub. Best wishes for both your 40th birthday and the tattoo project in honor of it.




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