Appalachia Folklore

Bee Folklore

Bee Folklore from Appalachia


Bee Folklore

The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore 

*The success of swarming bees can be told in the following verse: Swarm in May worth a load of hay; Swarm in June worth a silver spoon; Swarm in July not worth a fly.

*Rob your bees during the new of the moon and they’ll produce more honey next time.

*Its bad luck to sell bees. (maybe this means someone will give me theirs!)

*If you sell your bees and receive payment into your hand you have sold your luck with your bees. To sell bees you must have the buyer lay the payment on a rock and refrain from picking up the money until the bees are gone with their new owner.

*When a member of the family dies the bee hives must be draped in black cloth to make sure they don’t leave.

*If you fail to move your bees when a family member dies-all the bees will die as well.

A few other pieces of bee folklore I’ve heard:

*If a bee flies in and out of the house-it brings good luck.

*Bees should be told of any major change in the owner’s family-weddings, births, etc. or they will leave.

*If a bee owner dies, the bees must be told of the death and moved or they will leave the hive.


I’ve been wanting my own stand of bees for at least the last 10 years. Maybe this will be the year I get them.




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  • Reply
    Brian Angell
    October 3, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Go for it Tipped. I waited over 30 years but did not regret taking the plunge. Nothing like honey fresh from the hive.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    May 10, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Long ago I heard that you must tell your bees about important family events. I have always wanted to keep bees too. My husband buys local honey most of the time, but likes to try different types from different places. I call him the bee connoisseur. Thanks for the bee lore.

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    May 10, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Tipper, one reason people used gum trees as “bee gums” was because many older gum trees naturally were hollow, so you could cut out sections of them and only had to cover the top with a board to make your hive. Sometimes you’d have to bore a hole for the bees to get in and out. My neighbor has started keeping bees, and my fruit trees and berries are now bearing more than ever before!

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    September 21, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Very interesting. I love hear folklore. My youngest daughter who lives in Florida has a friend who keeps bees. My daughter got to go to the friends home and help retrieve the honey. She gave me a jar when she and her husband visited last Fall. I can’t believe how different honey’s taste from one to another.

  • Reply
    September 20, 2015 at 5:54 am

    I have never heard hives called “stands” before…wonder if this is an Appalachian Vocabulary item?

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    September 19, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Our BIL & sister in Myrtle Beach keep bees, including secluded hives at Brookgreen Gardens to help with pollination there. I believe they’ve gotten most of theirs by rescuing hives and catching swarms. It’s been very interesting for them, and us.
    I’m not sure they’d hold with most of this folklore though. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Tipper, if you haven’t already, be sure you read “Telling the Bees” by Sharyn McCrumb. It’s one short story in the book titled “Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Other Stories.” Cheers!

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    September 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    You plucked a major B-chord here, Tipper (pun intended). Look at the fine reminiscences by the ever stalwart B Ruth, and by Pinnacle Creek and Ron Stephens. And, of course, the rhyming lore by Ken the poet.
    I recall the “Bee Gum” as a term for a bee stand based upon the old practice of carving out a log section of gum tree to be a bee hive. Why the gum tree? The bees accepted the gum as their home, and the gum log did not split like most wood when it dried and shrank.Ever try to split a section of gum? Can’t be easily done. You will bury 4 or 5 steel wedges in the twisted wood grain before you get the idea that it isn’t going to split, whereupon you will reach for the chainsaw to free the hostage wedges and gain you new appreciation for the tightly braided grain of the lowly gum tree.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    September 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    GREAT POSTS!!! Bees were a part of our farm for many years!
    Cheers, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    To bee or not to bee. That is the question: Whether tis nobler to suffer the stings and arrows of enraged apias or to buy that stuff from China that comes in a plastic bear and is not really honey at all.
    If you do decide to keep bees, buy local or catch a swarm. The little critters will be already be acclimated and will know where the sweetest nectar is.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I hope you get your stand of bees
    soon, cause you’d make a good bee-keeper.
    I grew up around lots of bee hives some wild and in a bee tree) and
    Lordy at the times I’ve watched
    Hub Holloway rob his bees. He had
    about 12 stands, made liquor in his basement, and showed me all
    those Sourwood trees blooming
    across from his house. Now he had
    REAL Sourwood honey and sold it
    in his store for $5.00 a quart.
    When he sobered up, he took me
    to Hiwassee fishing many times
    when I was in the 1st grade. I
    bet he weight 350 pounds but he
    was a gentle Giant…Ken

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 10:58 am

    My Daddy kept bees for years. You know, They have that big Beekeeper workshop every year at YHC. Hope you get some bees this coming spring!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Without bee hives being preserved, we would be without the precious taste of honey. However, I was stunned to see that bees have invaded my hummingbird feeder preventing the hummingbirds from feeding. I still have flowers in my garden and I have never had this situation in previous years. Also, since I ma allergic to the sting of a bee, I give them their respect and space. I enjoyed this folklore.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 19, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Growing up a favorite summer activity was bee hunting on Sunday afternoons after church. The best way was to find them watering because water is heavy and they usually get it at the closest place. I never found the first one then but my brother found several, including one hemlock with two separate hives. My Dad would get a permit from the US Forest Service to cut the tree but he wouldn’t cut a bee tree or rob a hive after June because they had to have time to make honey to feed them through the winter.
    On the hottest day of the summer (or so it always seemed) they would swarm. If he could, he would try to get them in a new hive. Most of the time they would stay but sometimes his best efforts weren’t enough.
    In later life he reacted badly to bee stings and had to give his bees away. The doctor told him the reaction changed over time with cumulative exposure and that he had simply used up his tolerance.
    Bees are a wonder. They are not native to America. Somewhere I read that some of the Indians called them ‘white man’s fly’. They are responsive to the agitation of people who are afraid of them but often do not sting those who move slowly and are unafraid. However, hives differ in their aggressiveness. Our tradition was that small, black bees were ‘mean’ while bigger, yellow or golden ones were not. One thing I learned by experience. Do not disturb them at night. They are more aggressive then.
    Hope you get your bees. Unless you particularly want the care of them, maybe a beekeeper will ‘loan’ you a hive.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 9:48 am

    My ex-husband always had several stands of bees. I never robbed them, but helped to prepare the many quarts of honey we gave away. Kelly Bee Company is located about an hour away in Clarkson, KY where we bought the bees or placed orders that arrived in the mail. Maybe you can visit their website and get started on a very enjoyable hobby.
    There’s a folklore about chewing the wax, but I can’t remember what it is. All I know is the guy who sells honey locally charges more for the quarts with the comb.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 19, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I remember when I was a child, nearly every farm had a few stands of bees. You could see them, out in a field near the cattle fence row or out beside a shed barn. Now-a-days you just don’t see the commonly kept farm bee stands. We used to be careful walking in white clover in the fifties too, because the honeybees were everywhere on those warm summer mornings. In our state the bee population is beginning to recover somewhat…it was a scary thing to think our honeybees were disappearing. Not long ago we passed a flat-bed truck on I-40 carrying hives of bees. Very interesting, using traveling hives for fruit tree or vegetable pollination. Now then, that would be a BIG BEE farm. In fact we then let him pass us, so we could pass again and get the name of the farm off the truck door. ha
    We have talked with a noted bee keeper here on the plateau and he informed us of the cost of start-up beekeeping. Not a cheap endeavor! We just haven’t jumped into the “swarm” so far. (Pun intended)Roy’s Father kept bees, as did a couple of his uncles. My Grandparents in Western North Carolina kept bees. I used to love watching my Grandfather work with the bees. He dressed with his mask, gloves, shirt, etc. He carried a smoker and a long brush, etc. (I have the brush, ha)
    He made me sit on a little hill away from where he was working and watch and (bee) very still, so I wouldn’t get stung, if the bees should get irritated. Most of the time they were real calm, they knew him well. Of course he picked the right days to work the hives.
    I miss those days…the honey he put up in jars was delicious. He used to give me a bite of the sweet comb to chew…I know some of your readers are thinking, ewwwww about right now. But for a child that didn’t have chewing gum until junior high school, bee gum was the bomb!
    I have heard, that if you or your children have allergies, you should only eat honey from your local farms. Say in a radius of 100 miles from where you live. Not necessarily a honey allergy but allergies to other plants, etc. I heard it helps build a resistance to some foreign allergens…Don’t take my word for fact, could be just a rumor from a well-intended apiarist!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I look forward most mornings to a journey back in time by way of The Blind Pig. Coffee in hand, even the recipes and music take me back to a special place. I have noticed it jogs only great memories, and any bad ones seem to just fall by the wayside as my mind travels back.
    And, the beekeeping brings back a memory of my Grampa suited up stealing the honey. There was always a jar of that delicious honey on the table to smear on our biscuits. We spent days walking barefoot for days, hiding in fodder shocks and playing at the creek. Evenings meant rounding up a couple of “milk cows.”
    Many old pictures show his beehives in the background along with his apple orchards and an old shed we loved to explore. The old farm was so isolated one had to actually walk in or drive through a creek.
    I sure hope you get your beehives, as they do more than supply honey–they give great memories. It is with amazement that I see all that you accomplish!

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    September 19, 2015 at 8:20 am

    My son ordered a Queen bee and some
    Workers last spring. He robbed then a
    Couple of weeks ago and had 23 pint
    Jars after removing the wax.
    The Deer Hunter could build the hivesFor you.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    September 19, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I love bees and kept two hives long enough to harvest four batches of honey. The first colony swarmed and left in the third year, the second remained and did well for another few years then died. I would like to try again. You and the girls would be excellent beekeepers! It’s so interesting and rewarding. I encourage you to study up this winter and get started next spring.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 19, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Tipper, when I’m out driving and see a stand of bees out in a field or by someone’s house I think of you and I say to myself “we’ve got to get Tipper that stand of bees she’s wanted for so long.” Yes, I think this year is the year.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Had an Uncle that was into Bees.. We need more Bee keepers, just not my thang.. I’m allergic to pain.. But love Honey..

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