Social media has been flooded with images from people showing solidarity with the victims of Monday’s terror attack in Manchester. The powerful artworks range from song lyrics by Manchester bands, to quotes from famous Mancunians, to a ribbon edited to include Ariana Grande's bunny ears.
But one symbol shared time and again was a bee, much to the confusion of many, including Mancunians themselves. So, how did a bee come to symbolise Manchester, and what does it mean?
Bees have long been used to symbolise the crucial part Manchester played in the industrial revolution. They represent the industriousness of the city's “worker bees”, who worked in the cotton mills, dubbed “beehives”. The city officially adopted the bee symbol in 1842, when bees swarming across a globe were added to its coat of arms.
But the symbol then became less prominent for more than a century, although it could still be found if you looked hard enough: on bollards around the city, on the Victorian Palace hotel's clock face, the Boddingtons Brewery logo, and alluded to in the black and gold on one of Manchester City’s recent away kits, as the Guardian pointed out.
But the bee symbol was resurrected in 2014 – with the help of new litter bins installed around the city. As part of a big clean-up operation, Manchester city council bought 600 new bins which boasted a honeycomb design and bee logo.
More recently, Mancunian companies and celebrities have adopted the bee to emphasise their ties to the city. Elbow's Guy Garvey, who grew up near Manchester, had a bee tattoo done and named the band's 2015 EP Lost Worker Bee; Cottonopolis, a bar in the city's Northern Quarter, features a bee in its logo; there's a beehive on the roof of the Printworks entertainment complex near Manchester Arena.
Since 2012 there's even been a website, Manchester Bees, documenting the iconic symbol's presence around the city. We bet the bee-spotters will have their work cut out in the coming weeks.