Sunday, March 30, 2008

A poem for you.....


by: John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

ERE 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!"


Beliefs that surround bees......

When I spoke to my Mom this week she mentioned that there is a belief that goes back a long LONG time...about speaking to bees. This is especially important when someone dies. Tradition says that when someone dies - especially a beekeeper, someone should go to the hives and tell the bees.

I hadn't heard about this, so I thought I would do some searching on the web and find out some more about this! Here is a little of what I found! I think the last piece is the most interesting!


In Molle's Living Libraries (1621) we read:--"Who would beleeve without superstition (if experience did not make it credible), that most commonly all the bees die in their hives, if the master or mistresse of the house chance to die, except the hives be presently removed into some other place? And yet I know this hath hapned to folke no way stained with superstition."

Here the bees are not to be told of a death in the house: they die themselves if the hives are not removed. In a later century they do not die, but the hives must be turned round.

I found the following in the "Argus," a London newspaper, Sept. 13, 1790; "A superstitious custom prevails at every funeral in Devonshire, of turning round the bee-hives that belonged to the deceased, if he had any, and that at the moment the corpse is carrying out of the house. At a funeral some time since, at Collumpton, of a rich old farmer, a laughable circumstance of this sort occurred: for, just as the corpse was placed in the hearse, and the horsemen, to a large number, were drawn up in order for the procession of the funeral, a person called out, 'Turn the bees,' when a servant who had no knowledge of such a custom, instead of turning the hives about, lifted them up, and then laid them down on their sides. The bees, thus hastily invaded, instantly attacked and fastened on the horses and their riders. It was in vain they galloped off, the bees as precipitately followed, and left their stings as marks of their indignation. A general confusion took place, attended with loss of hats, wigs, etc., and the corpse during the conflict was left unattended; nor was it till after a considerable time that the funeral attendants could be rallied, in order to proceed to the interment of their deceased friend."

If one must find a suitable source for all these varying ideas about bees and bee hives, it can only be in the mysteries surrounding the activities and habits of bees, now much better understood than they used to be; and in the manner in which signs of a religious nature were sought and found in daily phenomena. To the intelligence of the peasant a bee could not but provide marvels sufficient to win his respect, if not something more; for the bee worked industriously and cleverly on behalf of the peasant, and asked no wages. In other words, the peasant was a debtor to the bee, and his attitude was one of gratitude. Out of this feeling, no doubt, arose a sense of identity in interests--a fellow-feeling which prompted him to "tell the bees" of a death, and to turn the hive at a burial.

The religious element is seen in a letter, dated 1811, contributed to The Gentleman's Magazine. The writer says: "There is in this part of Yorkshire a custom which has been by the country-people more or less revived, ever since the alteration in the style and calendar: namely, the watching in the midnight of the new and old 'Xmas Eve by bee-hives, to determine upon the right 'Xmas from the humming noise which they suppose the bees will make when the birth of our Saviour took place. Disliking innovations, the utility of which they understand not, the oracle, they affirm, always prefers the most antient custom." This is a good instance of using bees as a means of divination, and when once a people start divining, a crowd of omens is sure to follow in their train.

The theory that when the bees in a farmer's hives die, he will soon be compelled to move from the farm, is easily accounted for by Mr Gibson. "A hive of bees rarely dies unless the season is so bad that it is disastrous to farming; consequently, where a farmer holds his farm on a yearly tenancy, it may follow that he will find it necessary to go elsewhere to build up his fortune."


Beliefs associated with bees go back to Hellenistic Greece and before where they were understood to be related to and a manifestation of the muse from which comes the bees alter identity of the muse's bird. And, the practice of telling of the bees of important events in the lives of the family has been for hundreds of years a widely observed practice and, although it varies somewhat among peoples, it is invariably a most elaborate ceremonial. The procedure is that as soon as a member of the family has breathed his or her last a younger member of the household, often a child, is told to visit the hives. and rattling a chain of small keys taps on the hive and whispers three times:

Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.

A piece of funeral crepe is then tied to the hive and after a period of time funeral sweets are brought to the hives for the bees to feed upon. The bees are then invariably invited to the funeral and have on a number of recorded occasions seen fit to attend.

There are a great many other practices that are observed concerning bees. Among those that know them well, bees are understood to be quiet and sober beings that disapprove of lying, cheating and menstruous women. Bees do not thrive in a quarrelsome family, dislike bad language and should never be bought or sold for money. Bees should be given without compensation but if such compensation is essential, barter or trade is greatly preferable so that no money changes hands.


Who Will Tell the Bees? Telling the bees is a tradition dating back to
Medieval times, where a designated "beespeaker" visited the apiaries to
tell the bees about significant events in the lives of the community. It is
still thought by some apiarists that when a beekeeper dies someone must
inform the hives of her death and introduce them to their new keeper. It
has been observed that failure to report the beekeeper's death will cause
the bees to swarm.

As Canada becomes increasingly urbanized, it becomes more important to grow
food right in our cities. Since honeybees help pollinate food crops and
provide us with honey, the city of Vancouver made it legal for apiarists to
keep hives in their urban back yards. Currently, wild and domestic
populations of bees are in peril in North America and Europe.


There are many corollary practices associated with the telling of the bees, one of the most important being the "heaving up" of the hives. This practice requires that on the day of the funeral as the funeral party is preparing to leave the house the hive and coffin are both "heaved" or lifted at the same moment.
Coming a little nearer, Plato's doctrine of the transmigration of souls holds that the souls of sober quiet people, untinctured by philosophy come to life as bees. Later than Plato comes Mahomet, who admitted bees, as souls, to paradise; and Porphyry said of fountains; "They are adapted to the nymphs, or those souls which the Ancients call bees." There is a strange story told in My School and Schoolmasters which goes as follows:

A friend and I lay on a mossy bank on a hot day. Overcome by the heat my friend fell asleep. As I watching drowsily, I saw a bee issue from the mouth of my sleeping friend, jump down to the ground and crossed along withered grass stubs over a brook cascading over stones, and enter through an interstice into an old ruined building. Alarmed by what I saw, I hastily shook my comrade, who awakened a second or two after the bee, hurrying back had re-entered her mouth. My friend, the sleeper, protested at my waking her saying that she had dreamt that she had walked through a fine country and had come to the banks of a noble river, and just where the clear water went thundering down a precipice, there was a bridge all silver which she crossed and entered, a noble palace on the other side. she was about to help myself to gold and jewels when I woke her and robbed her of this fate."
There are similar histories from other places; in one the sleeping person was moved by a companion. A few moments later, a bee returned to the spot and scurried hither and thither in terror looking for the sleeping form, but failed to know it. When the sleeper was nudged in his new resting place, he was found to be dead.
This belief that the bee is a soul of one departed is undoubtedly the origin of the belief of "Telling the bees," for souls of the departed, are they not in communion with God?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Current happenings.......

I have ordered my first hive. I have also ordered my first package of bees - from New Zealand. But I'm 247th on the list!!!!! Wah!!! The place I'm ordering from seems confident that I will get my bees though! Because I only want one package they think I will get mine with no problems! I should find out next week!

I think I will get them late April/ early May!

Lloyd (my Husband) is already talking about getting a second hive next year!!! I think he's as excited as me - maybe not as obsessed (lol) but as excited for sure!!! He wants the second hive at the front of the house for some reason.

I am obsessively watching bees videos on youtube any chance I get!

Roll on Summer :)

The Honeybees - my thoughts.....

Charlynn asked me what I thought about the bees disappearing. It's somthing I've been reading a lot about this week. I'm not quite sure what to think. On the one hand a lot of bee keepers seem to say that these things happen every few decades and bees always seem to come through and survive. their numbers dwindle and then they come back fighting and all is well again and they wouldn't have survived sor so many millions of years otherwise.

But I also think that they are up against a lot more these days. I don't think they are up against 'nature' this time. They are up against chemical warfare really instead.

The entomologists all seem to have various ideas of why bees are disappearing - apart from the diseases that is (I'm talking about colony collapse disorder rather than the diseases and parasites). Some say it is caused by the stress bees are under these days from being transported from State to State to pollinate crops. Some say its caused by pesticides like Neonicotinoids (same as nioctine - it breaks down the bees immune system, causes memory loss and damages their sense of navigatin. This has been banned in France after campaigning by French Beekeepers).

Many believe the bees lives follow our lives - that when our lives get stressed the bees lives get stressed :)

Many try to raise their bees in an organic way but when you think about it, you can only keep your hive in an organic manner - your bees don't stay on your own land - they fly off and take nectar from other peoples plants - so you can't say your bees are organic......they are taking their nectar and honey from the environemnt around can't keep them safe from the environment around us......sadly you ahve to hope the farmers and land owners around you don't use too many pesticides....

My bees won't be moved around much......They can feast on my dandelions and clover and my garden as much as they like. I plan to grow a bee garden and vegetables and MANY sunflowers for a late Summer feast. My neighbours all grow not much there for my bees to feast on but the odd dandelion and clover.....

As for Colony Collapse Disorder.....I don't know.....I hope they find an answer. The amount of bees really is astounding - this is MILLIONs of bees disappearing each year.......the price of ICE CREAM is going up already because of bees disappearing!!!! That really puts things into perspective!!! It's really amazing! And so watch videos on youtube of beekeepers crying because of loss of livestock :( Very sad.

Oh YES!!!!!!!!

SEE!!!!! I am NOT the only person who feels this way about Bee Movie!!!! Oh THANK YOU!!!!!! Yay!!!!!! :)

And not just in the UK....

Colony Collapse Disorder is destroying bee colonies across the North America - various reasons are given - from stress because of of beekeepers moving their colonies from State to State to pollinate crops, to various things within our environment. Who knows....

No more honey bees in the UK...

No more bees in the UK within 10 years? Could it happen? And could Colony Collapse Disorder happen there too? What would this mean to the environment in the UK?

If the UK lost its honey bees the countryside would face devastation, and that is exactly what beekeepers fear could happen.

Imagine a country lane. Hawthorn hedgerow on either side, clouds scudding overhead, apple blossom drifting gently by, the only noise the gentle hum of honey bees and the chirping of birds. What could be a more idyllic vision of British country life?

Then fast-forward 10 years.

The hedgerow is deteriorating, the birds are silent, the orchard is disappearing and the countryside is changed. Why? The hives are empty. Their once-buzzing occupants mysteriously vanished.

What to do?

This is kind of neat to watch as it shows what happens when your package of bees to get them into the hive and how to settle your Queen...

Anyway...I thought some of you might be interested to see what happens and what is involved....

Lloyd is still keen for me to get my hive this year but I'm not sure.....I think he may call them on Tuesday to see if we still have time to order them this year......I guess I really should get my act together and go chat up my neighbours - I have to notify all neighbours whose land touches mine and let them know Im going to be keeping a hive......I'm sure they won't mind unless they have a bee allergy in the family.....I know Mary is an avid gardener so perhaps she will be thrilled to have bees to help her plants....everyone else though I'm not so sure. I plan to print out some facts on bees to let them now what bees are really like - so many people get them confused with wasps.....I need to get a permit from the county too and need to register with Alberta but that can be done with the people we're ordering from so thats easy.....apart from that we just order......

Hhhmmmmm what to do...what to do??????

Work together!

Learn from the bees :)

Life cycles....

Covered in bees.....

Bee thoughts......

Danica asked me if I liked Bee movie.

I do like Bee Movie. Sam LOVES the movie! He's watched it a few times in the last week :)

It's a VERY inaccurate movie though - where bees are concerned! It's actually a movie about a transsexual bee with a disability! For a start male bees don't have stingers or pollen pockets ;) So Barry has actually had a sex change operation ;) He is also missing two legs - and that never gets mentioned does it?

Also male bees don't work in the hive - they don't make the honey and they don't collect the pollen and nectar - thats all down to the women (how typical is that?) Basically the bee colony is all about a Queen bee who acts like a single Mom to thousands of female worker bees - they do everything - they all take turns to pamper the Queen, feed her the royal jelly, make the honey to feed everyone, keep the hive clean, go out and collect the pollen and nectar , cap the cells, building the combs, feed the larvae etc etc (a womans work is never done sigh - although they do take regular rests)

Male bees are the drones and their job is to go out and have sex with virgin queens. They are mainly born in Spring and summer.

So as cute a movie as Bee Movie is, and as important as it is that we all know about bees and how vital they are to the environment and to life itself....I think it's a shame that they changed quite so many important facts about bees (and insects in general - I mean isn't one basic fact about insects that ALL kids need to know - that they have 6 legs????????

I don't know......I guess to me its just that part of the story is about Adams stinger falling off and being replaced by a sandwich plastic sword....but really he shouldn't have even had a stinger!!!

Ok my 15 year old is now telling me I take things too literally......and he wants to work in the movies so I guess he knows best ;)

Bear convicted of theft of honey!

The taste of honey was just too tempting for a bear in Macedonia, which repeatedly raided a beekeeper's hives.

Now it has a criminal record after a court found it guilty of theft and criminal damage.

But there was an empty dock in the court in the city of Bitola and no handcuffed bear, which was convicted in its absence.

The case was brought by the exasperated beekeeper after a year of trying vainly to protect his beehives.

For a while, he kept the animal away by buying a generator, lighting up the area, and playing thumping Serbian turbo-folk music.

But when the generator ran out of power and the music fell silent, the bear was back and the honey was gone once more.

"It attacked the beehives again," said beekeeper Zoran Kiseloski.

Because the animal had no owner and belonged to a protected species, the court ordered the state to pay for the damage to the hives - around $3,500 (£1,750; 2,238 euros).

The bear, meanwhile, remains at large - somewhere in Macedonia.

A little light bedtime reading.....

Beekeeping 101.....last night I was focusing on over-wintering bees. Many beekeepers in AB don't both to over winter their bees - they just kill them off with cyanide. I really don't want to keep cyanide on my property - there are enough dangers on an acreage without having cyanide around - it is VERY dangerous to humans too.....

I'm not sure I actually agree with killing off bee colonies anyway - bees are having a hard enough time surviving as it is - so many diseases killing them off. Before you could order them online each year people just over-wintered their bees because they had to. I'm certainly going to try.

I don't think its any cheaper to over winter....but I think it will be far more satisfying as a beekeeper.

A new home for my latest obsession!

I thought I should start a new blog about my adventures in beekeeping so as not to fill my Escaping The City blog!