Friday, October 2, 2009

So, What Happened to Us?

There I sit in my large kitchen, finely dressed, with my bosom plump and hanging over my corset.... well not exactly.

What I want to draw your attention to are the three bee hives just outside the kitchen door. I've been reading just about every historic book about beekeeping that I can get my hands on and one of my favourites is "Robbing the Bees" by Holley Bishop.

That's where these drawings came from, although the author gleaned them from other historic texts.

So back to the bee hives outside the kitchen door. What Holley tells us in her book is how honey played such an important and vital role in the lives of people all over the world. It was so important that most households had beehives and either the menfolk or womenfolk tended to the bees.

After all, honey was the only sweetener around in those days. So it was greatly prized. Bee trees were literally written into the family will to pass down generations and they were guarded and protected. Bees were even used as ancient weapons. Hives were launched via catapults at the enemy. (If you're a beekeeper, you'll enjoy reading this book).

Look closely at this drawing and you'll notice the arched shaped hive openings across the entire front of the castle. These hives would have provided honey for the population and built in weapons for times of war not to mention wax for candles to chase away the darkness of the middle ages.

Bees were so respected that they held a place of honour, which brings me to show you this third historic photo. Notice the built in openings for the bees at the FRONT of the house.

This photo kind of rocked my world. What is a startling revelation to me is to notice that back then no one was afraid of bees. They loved bees. They were proud to have hives and have them very close to home. Everyone worked with bees. So this begs the question: What the heck happened to us?

How did we get to be so afraid of bees that we've relegated them to the swamp, the bush, the back of the field? I ask this because in my search for a new bee yard I've become more desperate to find a location as the days go by and I've been reading up about city and provincial bi-laws. I've driven around the city and I've seen so many great patches of land--city owned land just sitting vacant. I've talked to city officials about these numerous meadows and conservation areas that could be great bee sites--but everyone is so afraid of liability that they don't want to touch the topic with a ten foot pole. I don't know what we're more afraid of these days, the bees or getting sued.

The current provincial bi-laws state that any hives on a property must be a minimum of 50' from a neighbour and 100' from a public meeting area. The bee has lost its place of honour near the front door. Our fear has driven it away.

Honey was a commodity that never went out of fashion and never lost its flavour.... until cane sugar came along. Cane sugar quickly superseded honey as the sweetener of choice in most family homes. It was cheaper and I guess some felt it was easier to obtain. It pushed honey to the back burner and left it to the appreciation of a food connoisseur.

But honey never lost popularity completely and gradually people have begun to appreciate this healthy food and sweetener. And the bees have got our attention again. As they suffer more and more with disease, pests and environmental stress, our respect and thoughts turn back to this amazing little insect that we almost forgot.

It's nearing time to take those hives from that back bush and put them up front where they belong. In a place of honour.

We think our search for a bee yard is near an end. I have a good prospect which I'll be checking into tomorrow. Please say a prayer on our behalf that we find a good yard for our bees. Thanks!


Kat said...

What a good story. I love learning about the bees. I will say a prayer for your bees to find a good home.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! But I think it might just be the US? My family is from Portugal and the bees are vital to the production of wine there. When I was growing up my parents taught us to respect bees and not be afraid, even as children were were just told to stay still and let the bees "smell" us and then they would go away. We were never allowed to kill them.

PhilipH said...

Jolly informative post Barbara and some delightful graphics too.

I mentioned on another beek site that the Antiques Roadshow on tv a week or two back had a tiny mini-hive similar in shape to those in your post. Only an inch or two high perhaps and it had a postage label attached from way back when.

It was a queen-bee carrier for posting a new queen to a beek far away. Very unusual to find one of these things on the Antiques Roadshow!

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Kat - thanks for the prayers!

Christy - I think you're right that it's is more of a problem in the USA (particularly getting sued over the littlest thing). Europe seems to be much more forward and relaxed about nature. I'm so glad to hear about your parents set a good example and I'm sure you'll pass it on too.

Philip - Yes, I read about the queen cage on your blog. How very interesting. I love that Antiques RoadShow (I think the British one is more interesting that USA). When my new queen arrived she came via courier in a special wood screened cage, complete with her royal court.