Yesterday’s post about news bees brought up other bee folklore-specifically honey bee folklore like this:
*If a bee owner dies, the bees must be told of the death and moved or they will leave the hive.
Pap never had bees when I was growing up, but since I’ve been grown I’ve wished more than once that I did and I hope to fulfill my dream of being a bee keeper someday.
I was familiar with the tradition of telling bees their owner had died before Sheryl mentioned it yesterday.
I jumped over to The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore to see what it had to say about honey bee folklore. In addition to the one above the book also had these tidbits:
*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.
Going back to the first piece of folklore mentioned I found a wonderful old poem about telling the bees:
Telling The Bees written by John Greenleaf Whittier 1894
Here is the place; right over the hill Runs the path I took; You can see the gap in the old wall still, And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred, And the poplars tall; And the barn’s brown length, and the cattle-yard, And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the beehives ranged in the sun; And down by the brink Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o’errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes, Heavy and slow; And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows, And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There’s the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze; And the June sun warm Tangles his wings of fire in the trees, Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover’s care From my Sunday coat I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair, And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.
Since we parted, a month had passed,–To love, a year; Down through the beeches I looked at last On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now,–the slantwise rain Of light through the leaves,The sundown’s blaze on her window-pane, The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before,–The house and the trees, The barn’s brown gable, the vine by the door,–Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall, Forward and back, Went drearily singing the chore-girl small, Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun Had the chill of snow; For I knew she was telling the bees of one Gone on the journey we all must go!
Then I said to myself, “My Mary weeps For the dead to-day: Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps The fret and the pain of his age away.”
But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill, With his cane to his chin, The old man sat; and the chore-girl still Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since In my ear sounds on: –“Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence! Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”
You can go here: The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore to read an excerpt about the ritual of telling the bees being wide spread throughout the British Isles. The page also tells that honey bees will not do well in a quarrelsome family-nor do honey bees like to hear bad language-they prefer to be talked to politely and quietly.
Seems the bee folklore is like much of the other folklore from Appalachia, it came across the big pond with settlers long ago.