Thousands Of “Royal Bees” Were Among The First To Hear Of Queen Elizabeth II’s Passing

When Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022, palace officials immediately kicked the Operation London Bridge plan into motion.

According to NPR, the plan described in detail what should happen after the Queen’s death, including who should be informed and in what order.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While those informed of the Queen’s passing are mostly politicians and the press, there’s another group that is one of the first to know: bees.

The Museum of Cambridge reports that there’s a tradition called “telling the bees” where beekeepers in the area would inform their bees of major events in the family, such as a birth, marriage, or death.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to the museum, “In the case of a death, a family member would sit down with the bees and gently tell them what had happened. Religious verses might be read and then a piece of black material would be placed on the beehive.” It was believed that if bees weren’t told of major events, they would fail to produce honey or even die.

To honor the tradition, the Operation London Bridge plan included a part where the official palace beekeeper would visit the royal bees at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House and inform them of the Queen’s passing.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When the Queen passed away in early September, 79-year-old John Chapple was sent to tell the bees. According to the Daily Mail, he tied black ribbons around each of the hives, knocked on their doors and said, “The mistress is dead, but don’t you go. Your master will be a good master to you.”

He explained to the bees, speaking in a hushed voice, that King Charles III was their new master. The tradition may not hold the same importance as it once did, but it’s stood the test of time!

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