It is unlucky that a stray swarm of bees should settle on your premises, unclaimed by their owner.
Going to my father’s house one afternoon, I found the household in a state of excitement, as a stray swarm of bees had settled on the pump. A hive had been procured, and the coachman and I hived them securely. After this had been done, I was saying that they might think themselves fortunate in getting a hive of bees so cheap; but I found that this was not agreed to by all, for one man employed about the premises looked very grave, and shook his head. On my asking him what was the matter, he told me in a solemn undertone that he did not mean to say that there was anything in it, but people did say that if a stray swarm of bees came to a house, and were not claimed by their owner, there would be a death in the family within the year; and it was evident that he believed in the omen. As it turned out, there was a death in my house, though not in my father’s, about seven months afterwards, and I have no doubt but that this was taken as a fulfilment of the portent.
Bees will not thrive if you quarrel about them.
I was congratulating a parishioner on her bees looking so well, and at the same time expressing my surprise that her next-door neighbour’s hives, which had formerly been so prosperous, now seemed quite deserted. ‘Ali!’ she answered ‘them bees couldn’t du.’ ‘How was that?’ I asked. ‘Why,’ she said, there was words about them, and bees ‘ll niver du if there’s words about them.’ This was a superstition so favourable to peace and goodwill in families, that I could not find it in my heart to say a word against it.
It has been shewn in a contemporary publication, that it is customary in many parts of England, when a death takes place, to go and formally impart the fact to the bees, to ask them to the funeral, and to fix a piece of crape upon their hives; thus treating these insects as beings possessed of something like human intelligence, and therefore entitled to all the respect which one member of a family pays to the rest. Not long before penning these notes, I met with an instance of this feeling about bees. A neighbour of mine had bought a hive of bees at an auction of the goods of a farmer who had recently died. The bees seemed very sickly, and not likely to thrive, when my neighbour’s servant bethought him that they had never been put in mourning for their late master; on this he got a piece of crape and tied it to a stick, which he fastened to the hive. After this the bees recovered, and when I saw them they were in a very flourishing state—a result which was unhesitatingly attributed to their having been put into mourning.