The Practical Bee Guide

I’m enjoying reading this book which was left to me by my father. It is published in 1904 (price 7/6), by The Rev. J.G Digges, MA. I love the language, so much more interesting and poetic than modern practical manuals. For instance, the drones are “the oft-maligned, noisy, buzzing bees, ‘The lazy yawning drone’ of Shakespeare…a life which, if seemingly idle or useless, was, at least, inoffensive and full of possibilities whose vastness fills with awe and amazement every thinking mind” (! I’m rather fond of drones at the moment, I tend to pick them up when they come hurtling in and crash into things). The workers are “fearless, surpassingly diligent, beautifully unselfish, their marvellous intelligence fits them for that stupendous exercise to which their lives are devoted and for which they gladly die”.  What he says about the Queen is too long to write here, but it is extraordinary – “she is neither daughter, wife, nor widow of a king…a queen in her own right”.

When he writes about the bees robbing he becomes the moralising vicar: “Bees, notwithstanding their excellent qualities, sometimes become very capable and persistent robbers, and when once this sordid vice has taken hold of them, it is exceedingly difficult to induce them to shake it off. In spring and especially in autumn, when nectar is scarce out of doors, a careless beeman may turn all his virtuous pets into thieving rascals by dropping honey or syrup anywhere near the hives, or by unduly exposing it during manipulation”. He does give some good remedies for this though.

Abbe Warre sounds similar to him at times – he says “beekeeping is a moral activity, as far as it keeps one away from cafés and low places” (! again) Well, I’m a lost soul then, being a great frequenter of cafes. I suggest we all  have a glass of wine at our next meeting!

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