For those new to the city or simply not taking in their surroundings (where have you beeeeen?) you can’t go far through Manchester without spotting some bees. Specifically, worker bees. Found on bins, walls, mosaic flooring, signs and more, you can’t miss the bees emblazoned on them.
Why is the bee the symbol of Manchester?
The bee is the symbol of Manchester and being a city of industry, there’s no other creature better than this hard-working insect to represent it. The symbol of the bee dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when Manchester was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and technology and industry were thriving in the city, even known to some as ‘Cottonopolis’ because of the amount of cotton fabric it produced.
The Mancunian factories were also sometimes referred to as ‘bee hives’ because the workers within them were so occupied and productive like ‘busy bees’. In 1842, the bee was first officially incorporated into the Manchester coat of arms, which included a globe with seven bees to show how the people of Manchester worked and traded across the seven seas. However, following the May 2017 terror attack at Manchester Arena, the bee also took on a new resonance and was reinforced as a symbol of civic pride in the city.
Why a worker bee and not a queen bee?
The difference between a worker bee and a queen bee in insect terms is that a queen bee is bigger (roughly twice the size) and has the sole responsibility of laying eggs and ensuring the survival of the colony. However, worker bees carry out every other task needed in the colony- essentially they do all the work!
Manchester’s bee is a worker bee in order to reflect a city made by workers; made by the people, not a city that has grown from royal patronage or easy natural resources. Like worker bees, Mancunians are industrious little grafters who together create an impressive force (or powerhouse) to make the city (or hive) thrive.
Where can I spot bees in Manchester?
There are a number of spots in Manchester where you can see Manchester’s bee symbol on display. Although currently undergoing a large refurbishment, Manchester Town Hall proudly showcases a coat of arms on its exterior, and you can see lots of references to cotton, Manchester’s prime industry back in the day and the city’s equivalent of honey.
More bees can be found at Spring Gardens and Hotel Gotham on King Street as well as some hidden from view at Deansgate tram stop, Principal Hotel, Cathedral Gardens, Manchester Cathedral and randomly an ice box at Piccadilly Place. Not forgetting there is Beehive Mill in Ancoats, and St Ann’s Square which has oversized 1980s bees opposite the Royal Exchange.
Take a stroll down to the Kimpton Clocktower on Oxford Road and be sure to look up, as on the clock face there are bees telling the quarter hours. Plus, the University of Manchester also has three large bee symbols on its coat of arms.
More recently, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) introduced the Bee Network, a simplified, integrated and cheaper fare structure and the region’s plan for a ‘London-style’, high volume, low fare, transport system. The scheme, which launched on September 24, links buses and trams together and the city-region is the first area to begin bringing buses under local control for the first time in almost 40 years, rolling out bright yellow buses donning the bee symbol.
What are the bee statues in Manchester?
Part of the Bee in the City trail back in 2018, they paid homage to famous elements of Manchester’s history with more than 100 sculptures of the iconic worker bee, which symbolised the city’s energy and sense of community since the Industrial Revolution. The super-sized sculptures, which were sponsored by local businesses, feature designs by Manchester-based artists that reflect the city, from music legends to the cobbles of Coronation Street.
Displayed across streets, parks and public spaces throughout Manchester, including a Stone Roses inspired ‘I Wanna ‘Bee’ Adored’ bee and one paying tribute to 90s Madchester ‘Hac ‘Bee’ Enda’, with some still located in the city now.
But are there any real bees in Manchester?
With the Industrial Revolution comes air pollution so the city aims to bring more bees back. Dotted around the city are a number of beehives including on on top of Manchester Cathedral, the Printworks, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Central conference centre and even on some commercial buildings around the city.