Royal beekeeper informs the Queen’s bees of her death in bizarre tradition

Image - bees: Sushaaa/shutterstock

Image - bees: Sushaaa/shutterstock

The royal beekeeper John Chapple (79) travelled to Buckingham Palace in order to inform the Queen’s bees of her death with an arcane ritual. 

The superstitious ritual involved placing black ribbons tied into bows on the hives, which house thousands and thousands of bees. During this process, Chapple informed the bees that their previous mistress, Queen Elizabeth II had died, and that their new master would be the new King of England, Charles III. 

The tradition is carried out so that the bees are made aware of their new owner. If not, superstition dictates that the bees may stop producing honey. 

Chapple also told the MailOnline, whilst he was at the hives, that “it is traditional when someone dies that you go to the hives and say a little prayer and put a black ribbon on the hive.” 

The royal beekeeper had also been Clarence House to carry out the same ritual, reassuring the bees by saying “The mistress is dead, but don’t you go. Your master will be a good master to you.’ 

He has said that in “each hive contains 20,000 each, maybe a bit more”. In summer he explained that there can be over a million. 

Chapple, now a retiree, sees beekeeping as a hobby, and he spends his time looking after hives for various important people. However, recognising the monumentality of Buckingham Palace, he said “Number one is the Queen, or rather was, the Queen.” 

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Image - Annie Dabb
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Annie Dabb

From Newcastle originally, Annie is based in Manchester and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a story you want to share? Then get in touch at