In Ireland, there’s a very old custom that was shared by rural folk, many of whom kept bee hives. Whenever there was a death in the family, someone had to go out and tell the bees about their loss. Some think that this tradition stems from a Celtic belief that bees were the link between people and the spirit world, and that the bees would carry your message to the dead. But if you failed to tell the bees, they could leave the hive, not produce much honey, or even die themselves. Similarly, if there was a birth or some other happy occasion, you would go out and “tell the bees”. I saw a woman do this when I was out exploring the countryside near Wicklow. She knocked gently on the hive, sat down, and told the bees her news.
I think this custom underscores the deep connection and dependency we humans have with insects, especially bees. 70 of the top 100 crop species that feed 90% of us rely on bees for pollination. Losing our bees, which we are doing with pesticides and habitat destruction, isn’t just the loss of something sweet to spread on a muffin, it’s life threatening. So tell the bees, make them welcome in your patch with pollen-rich flowers, grown with good soil, water, and sunshine, nothing else.