Professionally Serving
the Valley Since 1999

The Bee Friend, by Hans Thoma, 1863/1864 Wikimedia 

Everywhere we go we find that people are fascinated by honeybees and their folklore and traditions.

What do John Greenleaf Whittier and bees have in common?  This poem published in the Atlantic in 1858, which tells of the folk tradition common in New England of “Telling the Bees”.

This usually involved notifying the insects of a death in the family—so that the bees could share in the mourning. The message was delivered to the hives, either whispered or sung in song.  If the bees began to hum after they received the news, it was considered a good omen.

“Unhappy events were not the only occasions that the bees were invited to participate in. In the case of weddings, the little workers were to be informed of the event, and receive a bit of wedding cake. The hives were sometimes adorned with flowers to celebrate the proceedings.”

We agree that this concept of delivering important information to the bees implies that there is a special relationship that exists between honeybees and humans that is essential to maintain.

Read more in this informative article at:

Telling the Bees

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!”