The Athenian Bee. Plato. (See Athenian Bee , page 72, col. 1.)
It is said that when Plato was in his cradle, a swarm of bees alighted on his mouth. The story is good enough for poets and orators. The same tale is told of St. Ambrose. (See Ambrose, page 41, col. 1.)
Xenophon (B.C. 444-359) is also called “the Bee of Athens,” or “the Athenian Bee.”
See also Animals, page 50, col. 2.
“Il a des rats dans la tête.” —French Proverb. (See Maggot.)
For pity, air, find out that bee That bore my love away- `I'll seek him in your bonnet brave. ...
Herrick: The Mad Maid's Song.
A social gathering for some useful work. The object generally precedes the word, as a spelling—bee (a gathering to compete in spelling). There are apple-bees, husking-bees, and half a dozen other sorts of bees or gatherings. It is an old Devonshire custom, which was carried across the Atlantic in Elizabethan times.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894