Honeybees have a stinger that can be quite painful to human beings. Nonetheless, honeybees are held in high regard, likely as a result of their usefulness as pollinators, as producers of honey, their social nature, and their reputation as hardworking ("busy as bees").
The harmony of their colonies is often used as an apt metaphor for ideal human societies. Each caste of bees performs a certain function for the colony as a whole, offering a sacrificial service that allows the colony to survive. Bee Wilson (2004) states that a community of honeybees have often been employed historically by political theorists as a model of human society:
"This image occurs from ancient to modern times, in Aristotle and Plato; in Virgil and Seneca; in Erasmus and Shakespeare; Tolstoy, as well as by social theorists Bernard Mandeville and Karl Marx."
Beyond the internal harmony of a colony, a bee also exhibits harmony with flowers. Honeybees are obligately dependent on flowering plants, and certain plants are obligately dependent on honeybees. The bees receive pollen and nectar from the flowers, and the plants are dependent on the honey bees for pollination. This is a classic example of dual purposes, where an organism seeks its own individual purpose (survival, reproduction, development, maintenance) and yet provides values to the ecosystem and to others. This also fits with the view of Lynn Margulis and Dorien Sagan (1986) that "Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking."