Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Tell It To The Bees

I've just finished reading Tottering In My Garden by Midge Ellis Keeble. Midge is an Ontario gardener and I stumbled across her book earlier in the year at a flea market. It is an entertaining as well as informative read, whether you have your own garden to tend or are an armchair gardener.

One aspect of gardening that Midge discusses and which greatly intrigued me was the notion of telling the bees. I had never come across this before and I decided to investigate further.

Apparently, the tradition of telling the bees the news dates back to Medieval England. Bees were told the significant events in a community such as births, marriages and deaths. Telling the bees the news ensured that they did not take offence and stop producing honey.

The Bee Boy's Song

Bees! Bees! Hark to your Bees!
'Hide from your neighbours as much as you please,
But all that has happened, to us you must tell,
Or else we will give you no honey to sell!'

A maiden in her glory,
Upon her wedding day,
Must tell her Bees the story
Or else they'll fly away.
Fly away - die away -
Dwindle down and leave you!
But if you don't deceive your Bees
Your Bees will not deceive you.

Marriage, birth or buryin'
News across the seas,
All you're sad or merry in,
You must tell the Bees,
Tell 'em coming in an' out
Where the Fanners fan.
'Cause the Bees are just about
As curious as a man!

Don't you wait where trees are,
When the lightnings play,
Nor don't you hate where Bees are
Or else they'll pine away -
Pine away - dwine away -
Anything to leave you!
But if you never grieve your Bees,
Your Bees will never grieve you.

Rudyard Kipling