Queen Bee (an amuse-buzz for the hive mind)
July 25, 2018 7:05 PM   Subscribe

"Their order is such that they may well be said to have a common wealth, since all they do is common without any private respect. Nihil norunt nisi commune: They work for all, they watch for all, they fight for all…And all this under the government of one Monarch, of whom above all things they have a principal care and respect, loving reverencing, and obeying her in all things.” So wrote the Rev. Charles Butler in his 1609 masterwork, The Feminine Monarchie, Or the Historie of Bees. The book was the first of its kind, an exhaustive treatise on the bee, and especially notable for its radical, carefully-observed proposition: That the leader of this complex society was, in fact, a queen.

"Butler’s 1623 and 1634 editions include a four-part bee madrigal, Melissomelos (with some of the parts printed upside-down so four people could sing from the one book). The lyrics praise queenship: ‘Of all the states the monarchie is best, So of all Monarchies that Feminine, Of famous Amazons excels the rest’; he even added sounds to resemble honeybee ‘piping,’" writes Dr Diane Heath, lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University. You can listen to a recording of Melissomelos made by the Choir of Little St Mary’s, Cambridge" (YT).

Need more classic texts on beekeeping? Try Jan Swammerdam's The Natural History of Insects (1737; Archive.org version is 1797). Just look at those fabulous drawings of bee anatomy!

Or maybe Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee: A Bee Keeper's Manual (1853; pdf; also available at Project Gutenberg and Archive.org)? The book that launched the boxy beehive we know and love today! Or if you're really old-school, you could go with François (New Observations on the Natural History Of Bees Volume I) Huber's 1789 leaf hive, as or Edward Bevan's 1827 box hive...

Maybe you'd enjoy looking at bee houses throughout the ages?

Or maybe you need something a bit more recent to inspire you to learn more about stewardship of the Feminine Monarchie?

Post inspired by Hannah Nordhaus's marvelous book, The Beekeeper's Lament.
posted by MonkeyToes (3 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The Drones Club is like to be set all abuzz and aflutter
posted by mwhybark at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fun fact: Charles Butler was also an early advocate of spelling reform, and published another edition of The Feminine Monarchie in his own system of phonetic spelling. Here's his advice on bee-stings:
Wen you ar stung, or any in de company, you wer' best be packing as fast as you can: for de oder Bees smelling de rank savour of de poyson cast out wit de sting, wil coom about you as tik as hail. Den is der' no way to appeas dem but fligt: de mor' you resist, de fiercer dey are.
For more, see Rupert Baker's discussion on the Royal Society special collections blog: A ting or two dat bees do.
posted by verstegan at 11:59 PM on July 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the Bee is a lovely poetic meditation on bees and beekeeping. For example:
"If skies remain clear, the air warm, and pollen and nectar abound in the flowers, the workers, through a kind of forgetful indulgence, or over-scrupulous prudence perhaps, will for a short time longer endure the importunate, disastrous presence of the males. These comport themselves in the hive as did Penelope's suitors in the house of Ulysses. Indelicate and wasteful, sleek and corpulent, fully content with their idle existence as honorary lovers, they feast and carouse, throng the alleys, obstruct the passages, and hinder the work; jostling and jostled, fatuously pompous, swelled with foolish, good-natured contempt; harbouring never a suspicion of the deep and calculating scorn wherewith the workers regard them, of the constantly growing hatred to which they give rise, or of the destiny that awaits them."
posted by misteraitch at 4:04 AM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

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