Bees are Family

Detail of pottery held at the Museum of Cambridge

Did you know that bees held a special place in the family in historic Cambridgeshire?

Bees have held a special and venerated space in Cambridgeshire history and folklore as part of the beekeeper’s inner circle. Historic beekeepers of the region used to inform their bees whenever a major event occurred in their family. This could a birth through to a marriage or a death. In the case of a death, a family member would sit down with the bees and gently tell them what had happened. Religious verses might be read and then a piece of black material would be placed on the beehive.

The tradition was called ‘Telling the Bees’. And should no one tell the bees what had happened, it was believed that the bees would move on, fail to produce honey, or that they might even die.

Want to know more? Check out W. H. Barrett and R.B. Garrod’s East Anglian Folklore and Other Tales (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976) and, of course, come into the Museum and start exploring!

Folklore in Cambridgeshire: Telling the Bees