How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!*
It's not a top twenty hit but it does go a long way to describing bees. They are busy all the time! Busy as bees, as the metaphor states. Bees, in face, are the object of many metaphors.
Take the Worker Bee. She is both a capitalist and a communist metaphor for the perfect worker. They are up first thing in the morning. No burning daylight for a bee. When the dawn is slow, or a bit chilly they will crowd up on the hive board, just inside, waiting for the second the temperature shifts to flying weather.
|The collective minding the queen|
And then there is the drone, or male bee. While there are no current metaphors for the bee who's only purpose is to have sex with the queen and die, there are a number of related meanings. In the 16th century drone was given the figurative sense of 'idler' or 'lazy worker', as male bees make no honey. In our time drone is most commonly used as the name of an unmanned aerial vehicle. It's a connection that is unclear. Not sure how one gets from the idea of a male bee flying around looking for sex to a brainless piece of equipment. .. oh I think I get it now.
|Don't want to be a Royal|
The most unflattering metaphor that relies upon the functioning of whole hive is that of the Borg. A collection of species that have been turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones of the Collective, or the hive. Resistance to joining the Borg is futile, and while there is a Borg queen, they do not do anything useful like pollinate flowers produce anything as wonderful as honey. Upon that premise, I think the metaphor should be disallowed.
The good news is the Hive is also the foundation of many good metaphors and has been co-opted by artist co-operatives, farming co-ops,states (Utah) and even bike shops to symbolize a collaborative group of individuals working for the common good.
But really, they're just bees, and all the metaphors are human projections on an insect with an elaborate social survival strategy...that is fun to watch.
*Against Idleness and Mischief