Royal beekeepers knocked on ‘each hive’ to inform the bees that their owner has changed and put them "into mourning" following the death of the Queen.
In keeping with a centuries-old tradition, the bees at the royal palace have been informed of Queen Elizabeth II's death. The bees were also informed that King Charles III is their new master, instructing them to treat him well, according to an interview royal beekeeper John Chapple, 79, gave to Daily Mail.
Chapple first traveled to Clarence House before heading to Buckingham Palace to carry out the ritual on September 9, 2022. He also tied a black bow around each hive. "It is traditional when someone dies that you go to the hives and say a little prayer and put a black ribbon on the hive," Chapple said from the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
"You knock on each hive and say, ‘The mistress is dead, but don't you go. Your master will be a good master to you.'" He said at the time, "I’ve done the hives at Clarence House and I’m now in Buckingham Palace doing their hives."
Royal beekeeper informs the Queen's bees that Her Majesty has died— Nick Donnelly (@ProtecttheFaith) September 10, 2022
The royal beekeeper - in an arcane tradition thought to date back centuries - has informed the hives kept in royal palaces of the Queen’s death
One of the reasons why I love my country
"The person who has died is the master or mistress of the hives, someone important in the family who dies and you don't get any more important than the Queen, do you?"
There are five hives at Buckingham Palace and two at Clarence House, the royal beekeeper said.
The ritual came into place because of a belief that not informing them about a change in owner would lead to the bees not producing honey, leaving the hive, or even dying. According to IFL Science, telling the bees about their owner's death isn't just limited to the British Royal Family. In fact, it is a long-held beekeeping tradition found throughout Europe.
Superstition dictated that the bees be told and put "into mourning" following the death of someone in the owner's family.
When my dad died and after I wrapped my head around his death, I walked out to our bees, knocked on their hives one by one, and let them know he had died.— Doug Thompson (@DrDougThompson) September 11, 2022
The Queen’s Bees Have Been Informed of Her Passing - Vanity Fair https://t.co/ritkNPGays
In Yorkshire, the 1899 book The honey-makers wrote of the topic, "the bees are invited to the funeral", where arguably their (unaware of the concept of funerals, let alone how to behave at them) presence would only cause needless havoc.
"An 'old lady' in this parish, whose husband died a short time ago, was 'about to put her bees in mourning' when I dissuaded her, showing her how foolish was the idea that the bee could understand anything about the death," one reverend who learned that bees can be affected by the loss of their owner at the turn of the 19th Century relayed to the author of A book about bees.
"During the following winter the bees died."
Though there aren't a lot of details about the origin of the practice, it's speculated it is derived from Celtic mythology in which a bee is seen following a death is a sign of the soul leaving the body.
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