It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community, and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz, apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at Uncon, briefly spoke to Richard, and had a charmingly old-fashioned habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes`, when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or somethimes something more scatological), until I told her not to. She is obviously one to watch...
I was not an ordinary little girl. My friends mithered their parents for puppies and ponies. I wanted a hive of bees. To be fair, beekeeping is in my blood. My late Grandad, Cyril, always wanted bees (Gran put her foot down, though; I think she thought 4 cats, 3 ducks, 2 dogs, several chickens, a shedful of pigeons, 2 mice and a rabbit were quite enough of a menagerie!) and his father, Tom and Grandfather, William had kept honey bees on their farm on the Brecon in Wales.
As a little boy, when old Will died, my Grandfather accompanied his Dad and witnessedm in practice, an old beekeeping custom said to prevent newly keeper-less bees from swarming: after warning little Cyril to wait at a safe distance, Tom went to one of the hives (bravely without any protective gear!) and knocked three times on it's side. According to Grandad all buzzing stopped and in the ensuing silence Tom announced "Your master is dead. I'm your master now." Several 'scouts' came out of the hive and hovered around Tom's face for some minutes before disappearing back inside the hive. Soon after this the buzzing started again. Tom then went to all the other hives in turn and repeated the same process. From then on my Great Grandfather was able to take over full responsibility of looking after the colonies and harvesting the honey.
Science is not my strong point but since bees communicate with each other using pheromones I can only assume they picked up on a 'grief signal' from the son of their late keeper and understood that Will had gone. Whatever the case, in memory of my three bee-loving ancestors, if ever I get a big enough garden, I intend to continue the family tradition.