The basic myth is that during the time of Eden, bees were white in color. Their honey fed the heavenly court. After the fall, their color was changed and they were sent into the world to set an example of success through hard work. It is sometimes said that they were Adam and Eve's guides into the world.
The myths surrounding the bees of paradise are ancient and obscure. They go back at least to the ancient Greeks, who wrote that bees were spirits who came to our world from paradise. Bees used to be associated with the soul. According to E. Cobham Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, this is why the prophet Mohammed described bees as being in paradise.
Later, the metaphor of "bees in paradise" seemed to mean something (often outsiders) which does not belong in paradise. See, for example, the 1944 British film Bees in Paradise.
Some Literary References.
Published in 1789, Welsh poet Dafydd ab Gwylim's poem goes,
TO THE SNOW.
Not April's choicest flowers outvie
Those chilly blossoms of the sky:
They seem 'mid Gwyneth's stormy skies
Like the white bees of Paradise!
The Storie of Asneth contains the following reference:
And blessed be thei that come to God in holy penance,
For thei schul ete of this comb, that bees made of Paradise,
Of the dew of rosis there, that are of gret plesance.
The angelis of God schul ete also this comb of prise,
And who that eteth of the same schal never dye in no wise.
After he brak it and ete a part of that hony swete;
The remenant he putte in Asneth mouth and bad here to ete.
In the Joseph and Asneth (also known as Asenath) legend, an angel gives her to eat some heavenly honeycomb made made by the bees of paradise.
In England's Sussex area, a few rhymes at one time had some currency:
Bees of Paradise,
Do the work of Jesus Christ,
Do the work that no man can,
or, an alternate version,
Bees, Oh Bees of paradise,
Does the work of Jesus Christ,
Does the work which no man can.
I first became interested in this weird theme when I read Hart Crane's poem, -And Bees of Paradise.
-AND BEES OF PARADISE
I had come all the way here from the sea,
Yet met the wave again between your arms
Where cliff and citadel- all verily
Dissolved within a sky of beacon forms-
Sea-Gardens lifted rainbow-wise through eyes
Yes, tall, inseparably our days
Pass sunward. We have walked the kindled skies
Inexorable and girded with your praise,
By the dove filled, and bees of Paradise.