As the world reacts to the death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace’s queen bees and their bee colonies learned about Her Majesty’s death earlier today through an old tradition (per the Daily Mail). John Chapple, who is the official royal beekeeper, went to the Buckingham Palace grounds where the queen’s bee hives are located to inform the insects of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing.
According to JSTOR Daily, this tradition of “telling the bees” of any major life updates, such as marriage or death, has its roots in Celtic mythology. The tradition became especially popular in the U.S. and Western Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a symbolic tradition that continues to this day, as it’s believed that the bees could stop producing honey or die if they were not informed and “put into mourning,” per the Daily Mail.
Chapple performed this tradition by tying black ribbons around each hive before telling the bees of Her Majesty’s death and about their new master, King Charles III — who may have included a subtle nod to Princess Diana in his first official speech as the latest monarch — in a quiet voice. The bees were also told to be on their best behavior with His Majesty. Chapple, who has been in the role for 15 years, told the Daily Mail, “It has been a wonderful privilege to do things like this for the Queen and hopefully now for the King. I hope they still want to keep the bees on their premises.”