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Parf of speech: Noun, OED Year: 1769, OED Evaluation: orig U.S.

In allusion to the social character of the insect (originally in U.S.): A meeting of neighbours to unite their labours for the benefit of one of their number; e.g. as is done still in some parts, when the farmers unite to get in each other's harvests in succession; usually preceded by a word defining the purpose of the meeting, as apple-bee, husking-bee, quilting-bee, raising-bee, etc. Hence, with extended sense: A gathering or meeting for some object; esp. spelling-bee, a party assembled to compete in the spelling of words.

We had an ice house here on the- the farm and it was part of the ritual that a certain time in the winter when the river ice got thick enough, you would have bees and ah go out and hand saw the ice and then in later days, one of the ah residents in the township had a motor driven ice saw that they could cut the blocks of ice and an elevator that then would put it up on the sleighs, and you filled your ice house every winter and then covered it with sawdust to slow down the meltdown of it.
Communal work activity.
Every farmer worked with- helped with the other. They had what they call thrashing bees, you-know, wood cutting bees. They had corn cutting bees. And that's when all the neighbours would bring their horses, wagons, tractors. Everybody pitched in and get- get this farm done. And when it was done, they moved on did the next one. So everybody got their work done.
Communal work activity.