Another interesting entomological tidbit I stumbled over on the interwebs:  bee performance art in Canada!

“Who Will Tell the Bees?
Telling the bees is a tradition dating back to Medieval times, where a member of a community was designated as a messenger to visit the apiaries to relay to the bees significant events in the lives of the community nearby. It is still thought by some farmers that when a beekeeper dies someone must inform the hives of her death and introduce them to their new keeper….

The Beespeaker Project is a site-specific interactive performance in Victoria Park, downtown Regina. Performance-based artist Lori Weidenhammer will channel Madame Doolittle, a time-traveler who uses her scientific knowledge and extra sensory perception to communicate with honeybees….

Yolanda Doolittle was a little-known Edwardian theosophist who developed a unique body of research into an area of science that continues to be a hotly researched topic: honeybee communication. As well as creating a system of notation for a language that combines human phonetics and musical notes with the buzzing and humming sounds of bees, Doolittle developed a number of inventions for communicating with honeybees, including the Auditory Hive and Beespeaker Milinery. “

You can apparently contribute to the project by emailing messages to the beespeaker.  Neat!

As far as I can tell, Yolanda Doolittle is a fictional invention–but I’d be interested to hear otherwise.

In case you are interested, there are a whole bunch of “Telling the Bees” sites online:

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I have read about “telling the bees.”
    “In Secret Lives of the Bees” there is a scene where the hives are covered with black cloths after a death in the family.
    I love this post. I do think there is “bee speak”. I had a tiny honey bee as a friend last summer and the summer before a Bumble Bee would come and land on my coffee cup every morning.
    I miss the bees and the butterflies in the winter.

  2. Hey that’s really intersting. I have a few apiarist friends, I wonder if they know about this history.

  3. if you ever visit LA, i highly recommend the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Venice, CA. they have an exhibit called “tell the bees”, which is all about old european traditions and old-wives-tales presented in a museum context. It’s a subtle and fascinating take on what legitimacy a museum setting gives to superstitions, and offers some interesting twists. also, kick-ass tshirt.

  4. This is interesting. I know that my bees are calmer when I am calm…and they definitely respond differently to my various speeds of movement. I wonder, how does the migratory beekeeping affect the bees?

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