The Bees’ Knees: Idioms, Jokes, and Other Funny Things About Bees
What can I say about bees?
Bees are marvelous little creatures, very highly evolved with a complex social structure. Bees benefit humans in many ways.
- About one third of our diet is due to the pollination of fruits and vegetables provided by bees as they forage for nectar and pollen.
- They produce honey
- They make us laugh—it’s not exactly the bees that make us laugh, but the corny jokes we make about bees.
What does "the bees’ knees” mean?
The bees’ knees is an idiom that is used to describe something we like a lot. It is the very best of its kind; it is something excellent, something of very high quality.
Do bees have knees? It turns out they do---sort of. Like all insects, bees have six sections to their legs, each connected by a joint. These sections are called the coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, metatarsus, and tarsus. The one most like a knee is between the femur and tibia.
But what is so excellent about the knees of a bee? That particular joint is no more remarkable than any of the other joints on the bee’s legs.
Bees do have a specific structure on their rear leg called pollen baskets. The bees stuff pollen into these hairy protuberances to bring it back to the hive where it is mixed with honey to make bee bread to supplement their diet when blossoms are in short supply, like in the winter. This is a pretty nifty feature, even an excellent feature, so perhaps that is why we say that something really excellent is “the bees’ knees.”
That explanation seems contrived. Let’s look back to the origins of the phrase for a better explanation. The phrase became popular in the 1920’s along with some other silly sounding phrases meaning essentially the same thing—the cat’s pajamas, the snake’s hips, the kipper’s knickers, and the sardine’s whiskers. However, the bees' knees is the only one that refers to a real anatomical body part. It is also the only one that has not died out.
The best explanation is that the “bee' in question is actually a man named Bee Jackson. He was a world champion Charleston dancer who was very popular in New York in the 1920's. The Charleston dance requires a lot of knee movement--hence the bees’ knees.
The phrase has probably lingered in the lexicon not only because it is a clever pun, but because it rhymes, and it just plain sounds funny. You can’t hear “bee’s knees” without wanting to laugh.
Why are there so many funny puns about bees?
Jokes about bees that rely on puns are seemingly endless. The word “bee” can replace the letter “b” or the letters “be” in words since all three have the same sound.
The format for all the following jokes are the same. The set-up is a question. Then the spelling of the word that has the letter “b” of the syllable “bee” is changed to “be”. Voila, instant joke.
Bee-ware: These jokes are very corny. You’ve been warned so let’s begin.
- What did a bee named Hamlet say? To bee or not to bee!
- What do you call a bee who can’t keep a secret? A blab-bee!
- What did the sushi say to the bee? Wassabee!
- What do you call an overweight bee? Chub-bee!
- What kind of bee is a sore loser? A cry bay-bee!
- What do you call a bee born in May? A maybe!
- What do you call a bee that lives in America? A USB!
- What is a bee’s favorite sport? Rug-Bee!
- What kind of weapon does a bee use? A bee-bee gun!
- What TV stations do bees watch? A Bee Cee, Cee Bee Ess, and En Bee Cee!
- What's a bee’s favorite flower? Bee-gonias!
- What’s a bee’s favorite sandwich? A Bee-L-T!
- What do little bees get for lunch? A P-Bee-and-J sandwich!
- What happens when a bee has a spell put on him? He's bee-witched!
- What do you call a Bee who is having a bad hair day? A Frisbee!
- What bee is good for your health? A Vitamin Bee!
- What is a bee’s favorite dance music? Bee-bop!
- What is a bee's favorite song? Don’t Bee Cruel!
- What is a bee's favorite classical music composer? Bee-thoven!
- What bee writes books about rabbits? Bee-trix Potter!
- What's a bee’s favorite novel? The Great Gats-bee!
- Who is the bees’ favorite pop group? The Bee Gees!
What does “have a bee in your bonnet” mean?
The phrase “have a bee in your bonnet” is used to refer to someone who says the same thing over and over because it is very important. It has the connotation of a fixation on the subject to the point where you can’t stop talking about. It also connotes a state of great agitation.
The phrase alludes to an earlier phrase with the same meaning, “to have bees in one’s head.” It goes back to the 16th century. The first known instance is in Alexander Douglas's Aeneis, written in1513:
“Quhat bern be thou in bed with heid full of beis?”
The first citation of the phrase “bee in his bonnet” is in the 18th century. In 1790, the Reverend Philip Doddridge wrote in Letters:
"I suppose you have heard of Mr. Coward's pranks. He has, as the Scotch call it, a Bee in his Bonnet."
The reference to “Scotch” in the quote above indicates that the expression may have originated in Scotland because “bonnet” was the Scottish word for a cap worn by men and boys.
Some say it refers to the protective hood that beekeepers wear. Again, this sounds a little contrived.
When I hear the phrase ”bee in her bonnet, ” I think of having an idea in my head that is “buzzing” around—I can’t stop thinking about it until I write it down. Maybe that's just me.
Whatever the origin of this phrase, it is just funny to imagine someone who has a bee circling around their head or crawling up under their hat dashing about in an agitated way trying to escape.
What are some funny puns that use words associated with bees?
I had to honeycomb the internet to find these corny jokes.
- When a bee is in your hand, what is in your eye? Beauty--it's in the eye of the bee-holder!
- What kind of bee can't be understood? A mumble bee!
- What do you say to a naughty bee? Bee-hive yourself!
- What kind of bee drops things? A fumble bee!
- How does a queen bee get around her hive? She's throne!
- What did the bee say to the other bee in summer? Swarm here isn't it!
- What does a bee style his hair with? A honeycomb!
- Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use a honey comb!
- Where did Noah keep his bees? In his archives!
- What do bees chew? Bumble gum!
- Why did the lady bees not want to talk to the male bees? They were droning on and on!
- Why did the bee go to the dermatologist? It had hives!
- Where does a bee keep its cash and valuables? In a honey box!
- What do you call a bee that isn’t very smart? A bee-brain!
- Where do bees go on vacation? Stingapore!
- Who is the bees’ favorite singer? Sting!
What is the origin of the "birds and the bees"?
“The birds and the bees” is a euphemism for sex and reproduction. It usually refers to explaining the mechanics of human sexuality to children who probably have already learned all about it from their friends.
The term may have come from a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge published in his 1825 collection “Work Without Hope.”
“All nature seems at work . . . The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing…”
The bird part of this I understand. In the Spring, birds find a mate, do the deed, and set up housekeeping like a couple of little love-birds. They build a nest, lay some eggs, and raise the little hatchlings. Domestic bliss.
I don’t understand the part about the bees. There is not a lot of sex going on in the hive. Bees don’t pair-bond; they live communally. And only the Queen Bee--one bee out of the whole hive of 60,000 bees--gets to mate. And she only does it once in her life.
A hive will hatch several queen bees when the old queen dies. They will then fight until only one remains. The surviving queen will take her “maiden flight” pursued by male bees (the drones). She will mate with several drones in midair. (Maybe that looks a little like an orgy to some.) The successful drones die after mating.
The queen doesn’t have a life of ease either. She returns to the hive with the drones’ sperm stored in a special sac in her body, the spermatheca. From now on she will lay about 1,500 eggs a day for the remainder of her one to three year life. Talk about barefoot and pregnant! She will never leave the hive again, unless the bees swarm to find a new hive due to overcrowding. Like I said, nothing very sexy about bees.
Here’s my take on why bees are part of the birds-and-the-bees phrase. Flowers are often V-shaped like a vagina. Bees flit from flower to flower, nuzzle the flower like a lover, unfurl their tongue (which resembles a drinking straw) and extend it deep into the flower to suck up the last drop of nectar. Now that sounds sexy.
Are there some jokes about honeybee love and sex?
Don’t bee-rate me. This was the best I could do.
- What did the flirty bee say to the flower? Hello honey!
- Who loves the Queen Bee? Her Hub-bee!
- What kind of bees make milk? BooBees!
What is the meaning of "busy as a bee"?
Busy as a bee means to be very industrious and to be a hard worker. A beehive of activity means a group which is working at a furious pace. It is easy to see why these idioms came into use. Honeybees work exceeding hard and each bee has a specific job to do. Intereestingly, almost all the work of the hive is done by female bees. (A woman's work is never done.)
The “field bees” forage for nectar and pollen, visiting as many as 1000 flowers in a single day. A honey bee travels about 10 to 15 miles per day, making about 10 trips a day to and from the hive.
While the field bees are out collecting the nectar and pollen, the “house bees” are secreting wax from glands in their stomachs to form honeycombs to store the nectar. After some of the liquid evaporates, the bees seal the honeycomb cell with more wax.
The youngest "house bees" are “caretaker bees” or “nurse bees”--they clean the hive and tend to the needs of the queen bee and the brood (bees that are still in the larva or pupa stages and immature bees).
As you can see, bees are constantly busy and a lot of activity is taking place within the hive at all times. Beekeepers are kept pretty busy too.Maybe we need a new expression--busy as a beekeeper.
Why do bees buzz or hum?
If you are around a beehive, you will hear an incessant buzz or hum. Bees do not vocalize. The sound comes from the rapid flapping of their wings—about 230 beats per second.
Bees like to keep their hive at a constant 90-95 degrees (30 to 32 degrees centigrade). If it gets too cold they huddle together and generate heat by vibrating their wing muscles to generate heat. If it gets too cold, they will flap their wings to circulate air throughout the hive, like thousands of teeny tiny fans.
What are some jokes about buzzing and humming?
Let’s get things humming with a batch of more corny jokes.
- What is a baby bee? A little humbug!
- What does a bee get at McDonalds? A humburger!
- What do you get if you cross a bee with a door bell? A hum dinger!
- Why do bees hum? Because they've forgotten the words!
- What does Santa Claus say to a bee? Ho Ho Hum!
- How does a bee get to class? On the school-buzz!
- What is a bee’s favorite shape? A Rhom-buzz!
- What do you call a bee explorer? Christopher Colum-buzz!
- What's a bee-line? The shortest distance between two buzz-stops!
- What happened when the bee phoned home? She got a buzzy signal!
- Why do bees buzz? Because they can't whistle!
- What goes zzub, zzub? A bee flying backwards!
Finish this joke by choosing the best ending.
Old honeybees never die...
Do you want one more joke about a honeybee?
I bee-seech you to forgive me for this groaner.
Two bees, Buzzy and Izzy, met while foraging. Buzzy asked Izzy how things were going.
"Really bad," said Izzy. I haven’t been able to find any flowers, No nectar means no honey.”
"No worries," said Buzzy. "Just fly south a quarter of a mile and turn left and keep going until you see all the cars. There's a Bar Mitzvah going on. There are all kinds of fresh flowers there.
"Thanks for the tip," said Izzy. He made a beeline in the direction the first bee had told him to go.
A few hours later the two bees met up again and Buzzy asked, "How'd it go?"
"Great," said Izzy, "It was everything you said it would be."
"Uh, what's that thing on your head?" asked Buzzy.
"That's my yarmulke," said Izzy. "I didn't want them to think I was a WASP."
Take a trip down memory lane with the Romper Room video clip about Do-Bees and Don't Bees.
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Catherine Giordano