As Busy As a Bee


The expression busy bee means that a person has a lot of work to do; someone who is busy.

Example: Walt was invited to go swimming on Friday, but he politely declined the offer because he has work to do that day. Yes, he will be a busy bee come Friday. In other words, he will have a lot to do.

Synonyms: having a lot on your plate, spreading yourself too thin, busy bee

A busy bee flying.
This bee is buzz-y. Don’t bug him!

The Origin of ‘Busy Bee’

This phrase likely originates from something that bees are known for: being busy and hard workers. Indeed, but what are bee busy doing, exactly?

For one, they pollinate plants. In order to reproduce, many plants actually depend on bees for pollination. How so? For a flower to reproduce, the stamen (the male organ of a flower) has to produce pollen, and then that pollen needs to get to the stigma of the pistil (the female organ of a flower). How does the pollen get there?

With the help of busy bees! You see, when a bee lands on a flower, the pollen sticks to the hairs of its body. Then, when the bee lands on another flower of the same type, the pollen makes contact with the stigma of the flower, and thus pollination occurs. So while bees are buzzing around from plant to plant, they’re doing quite a bit of work—they are busy bees indeed.

In addition, bees collect nectar (a sugary liquid that flowers produce) and use it to make honey. And did I mention they also have to build hives to live in? Alright, you get it, they have a lot of work to do.

Anyway, how old is this saying? It goes back to at least the 14th century. A man named Geoffrey Chaucer was the author of a book called The Canterbudy Tales, which is believed to have been written between the years 1387 and 1400. There is a part from the book that reads:

“In wommen been! for ay as bisy as bees.”

Example Sentences

Here are two examples of this idiom in a sentence. The second example is a shortened form of this phrase:

  • I should get a good night’s sleep, because I am going to be as busy as a bee tomorrow.
  • I’m going to be a busy bee this morning.

Tip: For the meaning of more English sayings like this one, just browse the site using the letters at the very top.