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Beekeeping Superstitions

Since today, Friday the 13th, is a day where people are more aware of superstition than other days, here is a list of beekeeping superstitions from a beekeeping page I follow. A common theme about beekeeping history is that the honeybee was considered so sacred by every culture that the exchange of money for bees or honey was taboo. Gold of course, being a Noble Metal, was acceptable for payment. Bees and their honey were to be given away, or traded for another natural resource.

It is unlucky, when moving bees to carry them across a stream, because, if carried across water, they will die. (c. 1911. Golden Cross Journal. Page 5)

He who steals bees steals from himself good luck, as stolen bees never prosper. (c. 1899. The honey-makers. Page 343)

It is also considered unlucky for bees to swarm upon dead wood, as for instance a post, a dead tree, or the dead branch of a living tree. In some places this means that the bees themselves will perish, in others that a death will occur in the family within a year. (c. 1899. The honey-makers. Page 343)

It is a widespread superstition that bees must not be bought with money but must be exchanged for some product of nature, though in some parts of England bees may be bought with gold. (c. 1899. The honey-makers. Page 343)

Bees, according to a prevalent Sussex notion, will not do well unless gold be paid for them, hence the old saying:

"If you would wish your bees to thrive, Gold must be paid for ev'ry hive; For when they're bought with other money, There will we neither swarm nor honey.'' (c. 1871. Sussex Archaeological Collections Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County. Page 65

If a person who keeps bees has his hives robbed, he gives them up immediately, because they never can succeed afterwards. This idea arises from an old Breton proverb, which says, 'Nasqult a chunche, varlearch ar laer' -No luck after the robber. (c. 1810. A Narrative of Three Years Residence in France. Page 180)

When bees sting, it is by many regarded as a sign of bad luck, and is supposed to indicate crosses and difficulties. (c. 1882. Author's Home Magazine. Page 88)

In France as in Britain it is considered unlucky to sell bees, but they may be bartered for some article of equal value. (c. 2004. The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore. Page 235)

It was long considered sacrilegious to kill a bee because of its holy character, and it is still thought to be unlucky in many districts. (c. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Superstitions. Page 38)

If a bee comes into the house, it is a sign of good luck, or a stranger coming shortly. It must, however, be allowed to stay or fly away on its own accord; if it is captured or driven away, the luck is destroyed. Don't let a bee die in your house: that's certain bad luck. c. 2001. Insect Facts and Folklore. Page 19 (c. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Superstitions. Page 38)

In some parts of England it is an omen of war if bees are idle or unfortunate in producing honey. (c. 1996. The Encyclopedia of Superstitions. Page 38)

It is unlucky to count your beehives. (c. 1911. Golden Cross Journal. Page 5)

It is unlucky to remove bees from one hive to another except on Good Friday. (c. 1911. Golden Cross Journal. Page 5)

It was accounted ominous in the Roman superstition, for bees to settle upon the top of a house, or of a temple. (c. 1739. The Satires of Juvenal. Page 337

It is "bad luck" to count your gums (beehives): if you count them they will die! (c. 1914. The New York Farmers: Proceedings)

Ill omens were of many kinds, and could cause deep unease in people. It was considered unlucky if a stray swarm of bees were to settle on someone's property without being claimed by their owner. (c. 1976. The folklore of the Scottish Highlands)

When putting bees into a new hive, one must knock three times on the top of the old hive and tell them they have a new home, otherwise they will sting you. (c. 1918. Signs Omens and Superstitions. Page 118)

The ancient Romans believed bees swarming and settling on a bay-tree was a bad omen. ( Pliny (H. N., ix., 17, c. 1849, page 678 - The Aeneïd of Virgil: With English Notes, Critical and Explanatory,)

Beekeepers in Northern Latvia practice tree beekeeping and usually place their hives on in largest trees in the forest, or they make holes in those trees where the bees have settled of themselves. They always take a companion to gather the honey, and they divide the honey and wax with the most scrupulous equality, because of the belief that bees have a deep antipathy towards dishonesty and the slightest fraud would cause the bees to emigrate or to die. (c. 18323 - The Museum of Foreign Literature and Science Page 332, Prejudices and Superstitions of the Livonians.

If a swarm of bees 'knit' (settle) on the ground, it is a sign of bad luck.( c. 1885 - Shropshire folk-lore, ed. by C.S. Burne, from the collections of G.F. Jackson, Page 235)

If a swarm of bees settle on the wall of a house, there will be a death in that house before long, and if on a person's head, his death is near at hand. ( c. 1885 - Shropshire folk-lore, ed. by C.S. Burne, from the collections of G.F. Jackson, Page 235)

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