I know that bees are experiencing some serious challenges at the moment, but it seems to me that there are much more of them out there than in previous summers—at least in our region. I’ve encountered mini-swarms on rural walks in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts over the past month, it seems like individual bees have been buzzing around my garden constantly since July, and just the other day I saw hundreds of bees affixed to the sunflowers in the large patch at Colby Farm up in Newbury: neither bees nor people can resist this flagrant perennial display!
I went into my clip file—comprised of very random digital images which I find interesting or attractive and store away for whenever or whatever (other people seem to use Pinterest this way but I just don’t)–and found several bee images there that I had clipped or snipped over the last few months: books, ephemera, creations. So clearly I’ve had bees on the brain: maybe because I decided to forego sugar over the summer and thus became more intensely focused on honey. In any case, this seems like a good time to get these images out there–Thomas Tusser suggests that the ongoing process of “preserving” bees demands a bit more human attention in September in his classic agricultural manual Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry (1573): Place hive in good air, set southly and warm, and take in due season wax, honey, and swarm. Set hive on a plank (not too low by the ground) where herbs and flowers may compass it round: and boards to defend it from north and northeast, from showers and rubbish, from vermin and beast. Tusser is one of many British and continental authors writing about bees and beekeeping in the sixteenth century, and over the succeeding centuries this sub-genre continued to flourish, right up to the wildly-popular Beekeeper’s Bible. I’ve written about bee books before, but my favorite recent discovery is Samuel Bagster’s Management of Bees, with a description of the Ladies’ Safety Hive (1834). Bagster has a very entrepreneurial attitude towards bees, and is striving to transform their keeping into a feminine avocation with his promotion of the “Ladies Safety Hive”: they can be built at home or delivered by Bagster, fully-equipped.
My apian ephemera is focused less on the bees than their hives: which of course serve as an accessible symbol of industry and by extension, achievement. The most prominent uses of beehive symbolism on Salem ephemera that I have found were issued by the Salem Charitable Mechanic Association (which it clearly borrowed from the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, or vice-versa) and Frank Cousins’ many trade cards advertising his Bee-Hive store but there is also an early trade card for the Salem goldsmith and jeweler Robert Brookhouse which features the very Salemesque combination of hive and ship. I discovered a completely new type of ephemera this summer–watch papers–of which there is an interesting collection at the American Antiquarian Society, including several embellished with beehives.
Ephemeral beehives: Phillips Library (printed in EIHC Volume 113); Historic New England; and courtesy American Antiquarian Society.
Another discovery of this fading summer are the amazing textile creations of Mister Finch, which you must see for yourself. His bee is among the more realistic of his species–check out his website for more surrealistic creatures. And then there is Tamworth Distilling, to which I returned several times, which manufactures several varieties of botanical gins, including the Apiary Gin pictured below. To be honest, this was a bit too honey-based for me: gin is my favorite spirit and I tend to be a London Dry traditionalist. But I love the bottle, of course (and their cordials).
Mister Finch Bee and Tamworth Distilling Apiary Gin.
September 14th, 2017 at 10:39 am
Agree on the honey-based gin. Honey comes forward in a way that makes it tough to drink.
September 14th, 2017 at 10:50 am
Barr Hill Gin made by Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick VT is another honey-based gin that is very smooth.
September 14th, 2017 at 11:30 am
Will check out Barr Hill–I’m in a big gin-tasting phase but seem to always go back to the classic London dry varieties!
September 14th, 2017 at 11:56 am
Maybe we should do some apian husbandry in the Chestnut Street Park! 😀. Bill Henning
Sent from my iPhone
September 14th, 2017 at 12:44 pm
Check out the beehive in the metalwork decorations at the top of the Salem Masonic Temple.
September 14th, 2017 at 1:16 pm
Thanks Larry; I will. I have a masonic handbill with the beehive but masonic symbolism is so involved I decided to keep it out of here, but it is very interesting.
September 14th, 2017 at 5:00 pm
Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery sells honey from beehives located in the cemetery. It’s called “Sweet Hereafter”.
September 15th, 2017 at 10:23 am
Love this, Pearl! Thanks so much for sharing.
September 15th, 2017 at 6:51 pm
You’re welcome! I tried to order some to be shipped to me but unfortunately you can only buy it on the premises. Want some of that graveyard honey!