At least twice in our short history honeybees have attended their beekeepers funerals. In 1934, when Sam Roger’s died in Shropshire, England, his bees paid their farewell at his graveside funeral. They landed on a nearby tombstone and as soon as he was buried they departed.
When John Zepka of Berkshire Hills near Adams, Mass. died on April 27, 1956, thousands of his bees clustered inside the tent at the open grave site to pay their respect to the beekeeper who never wore any protective gear. As his coffin was lowered into the earth, the bees left the tent and returned to their hive on Zepka’s farm.
Trust, honour and respect evolves into inter-species collective consciousness. Accepted in most primitive cultures a hive mind is often ridiculed by skeptics in our modern rational existence.
There was once a European tradition ‘telling the bees”. When a member of the family dies, the bees must have their hive draped in black cloth, lest they leave for good. As one northern European song goes:
“Honey bees, honey bees, hear what I say!
Your Master, poor soul, has passed away.
His sorrowful wife begs of you to stay,
Gathering honey for many a day.
Bees in the garden, hear what I say!”
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