The Bee People: Chapter 19

Chapter 19: Fancies and Facts about Bees

People used to think the queen-bee was a king and ruled over all the bees in the hive. They thought a hive of bees was a little kingdom, with an army and officers and all sorts of workers […] We know the truth about bees now, and yet we like to read these old stories.

It used to be thought that bees carried little stones in their feet on windy days, so as not to be blown away. Probably the people saw their pollen balls and mistook them for ballast […]

A good many people, even yet, will not sell bees, because they think it is unlucky; and when bees swarm, they sometimes use charms to keep them from going away.

An old German bee-keeper who lived in the United States has such a charm. He told it to a little girl, but said it would bring bad luck if she were to repeat it to another girl […] I will give you the charm in German, for those of you who understand German. When you see the bees swarming, you must say to them, –

Liebe Bienen, und liebe Bienen Mutter, Setzt euch auf Rasen und grunes Gras, Im Namen des Vaters, des Sohnes und des Heiligan Geisters. Amen.

You see, it is really a little prayer to the bees, and this is the English translation. Dear bees and dear mother of the bees, Place yourselves upon the meadow and the green grass. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen

A good many still think the bees must be told when there is a death in the family, or else they will go away. A member of the family goes at night and knocks on the hives and says, “So-and-so is dead,” and sometimes adds a little prayer to the bees not to leave. Sometimes a piece of black ribbon or crape is tied to the hives […]

The ancients used to believe that the bee was given its marvelous habits by Jupiter, the king of the gods, because the bees fed him with honey when he was a baby and lay concealed in a cave, while his angry father searched for him […]

A great many people think that when bees are about to swarm, a loud noise will prevent them from leaving, and they clash on tin pans or ring bells or blow whistles or do anything they can think of to make a hullabaloo […]

A great deal of poetry has been written about bees, and there is one little verse that everybody knows. It was written by Dr. Watts.

“How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower.”

The most interesting thing we have learned in modern times about bees is their relation to the flowers. Some plants cannot set seeds at all without the help of the bees […] If you want your trees loaded with apples and pears, be sure to put a beehive near the orchard […]

Key Points:

  • Here is evidence of “telling the bees” and beekeeper funerals. Be sure to check this out!
  • John Whittier wrote a lovely and well known poem, Telling of the Bees. “Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!”
  • Belling is the term referencing using loud noises to deter a swarm. Questionable if it would work and generally, it is best to avoid loud noises near hives.
  • Keeping current, here is an article on Nelson Mandela and Bees
  • Now, many bees are bought as packages, which ironically is probably bad luck as it may deplete genetic quality. However, it is what is most accessible for me. Maybe this next year I will give a try at splitting a hive or catching a swarm.
  • There are places in China now that use people (yes, human capital) to hand pollinate because the bees are gone. Frightening.

I share with you words and illustrations from the public domain M. Morely book – The Bee People. Published 1899; designed for third to fifth grade readers with goal to learn “how to observe” but plenty for adults to learn as well. Life lesson, bee truths and a gauge to see if we have made progress over the last century. If you find something interesting take 5 minutes and do some extra research. Bees are amazing creatures!

Excerpts –

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