Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

Bees’ farewell

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There are well-documented stories of strong links between humans and bees. Some go back far into the distant past. In the old English tradition of ‘Telling the bees’, for example, it was regarded as essential for a member of the family to inform the bees when their keeper had died.

Usually this was undertaken by one of the younger members of the family, either by them speaking the words out loud, or by attaching black funeral crêpe to the hives. On some occasions, however, events have gone further: sometimes the bees have held their own form of mourning for their dead keeper.

One such occasion concerned John Zepka, a beekeeper from Adams, Massachusetts, who died in 1956. As the mourners reached the grave for his burial, they noticed a swarm of bees. The swarm stayed motionless during the service, and then flew off.

In February 1959, Ruby Parker watched a swarm of bees attend the funeral of her beekeeping father, Charles D. Hitt, from Scott County, Missouri. This was despite the fact it was a cold winter’s day. The older bees never returned to the hive.

bees mourn hive keeper death
Bees have been known to ‘mourn’ the death of their keeper.

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