Monday, February 27, 2012

The Mysterious Bee-keeping Correspondent

I have done some research on the British Beekeeping Association and found that, as with most organizations, it has had its share of ups and downs. It has also had backstabbing, politics, and underhandedness among other problems. However, it is recognized as a solid, stable society with a storied history of success and continued interest that spread its fingers out to all corners of the British Empire and has studious and dedicated members.

Having said that I would also like to add that I have never delved too far into the organization, and most of my info comes from different sources, most of which I have not confirmed. But, it is impossible to have any group of considerable size and NOT have these kinds of problems and praise.


A few years ago my home Sherlockian society had the pleasure of having a visit from a noted entymologist. He gave a talk about the subject, answered questions, and entertained us with information that we never dreamed about knowing when it came to bugs, bees, and beetles...among others.

On the occasion of that meeting I decided to jump into The London Times archives once more and see what kind of interesting tidbits I could find about the BBKA (British Beekeeping Association) and see if I could find any correlation between it and the world of Holmes (and his retirement).

I found out that nearly every piece submitted to the paper was written by correspondents. Almost every time the article was not credited and no name was given, and while the readers may have known who the person was by their style, subject, or locale, it is a mystery to us now. But, I did find quite a few entries that can give us a glimpse into some of the things the association was dealing with at the time, and at least one that had a tone and character that sounded familiar.

The following are just a sample of those letters to the paper from the time of retired beekeeper Sherlock Holmes' retirement to Sussex Downs.

April 24, 1908
Bee-keeping As A Rural Industry.
(By a Correspondent.)
As to literature which may be recommended for those who wish to pursue the subject, we may mention Cheshire's two volumes on "Bees and Bee-keeping" and Cowan's admirable little "British Bee-keeper's Guide Book." For those who wish for poetry mingled with science there is, of course, Maeterlinck's "Life of the Bee."



May 17, 1910
Proposed Amalgamation of Societies.
(By a Correspondent.)
A special meeting of the British Beekeeper's Association will be held tomorrow to consider a scheme for the amalgamation for that association (the parent body) with all of the affiliated societies, thus forming one bee-keeping association for the whole of Great Britain.

(later in the same article...)
It is hoped that the maintenance of one flourishing association in place of the thirty existing associations will establish complete identity of all members who are engaged in the bee-keeping industry.


September 8, 1919
Bee-keeping Industry Growing.
An indication of the revival of the bee-keeping industry in the country is the receipt by the authorities of over 3,000 additional applications for registration for the supply of sugar for winter feeding of bees.



June 16, 1919
Promise of the Bees. A Good Honey Harvest.
(From Correspondent.)

[This article is 1,000+ words long, but the most
interesting thing about it is the last sentence,
specifically the last two words.]

An experienced beekeeper can carry out more intricate manipulations in dealing with swarms which issue from supered colonies, but the one mentioned above [from the start of the article on the subject of removing the queen] is the simplest for those who have not an extensive acquaintance with practical beekeeping.


Recall that Holmes wrote a book called "The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen." We don't know when he wrote it exactly, only that it was during retirement after 1904, or 1907 depending on which chronology you follow.

It's interesting to note that there is a large lapse in letters from correspondents, amateur or professional, from about 1912 to 1919. I know it is because of the war, but it was also a critical time for the hobby as apiarists from all over the U.K. were dealing with something called the 'Isle of Wight' disease. However, since we know our hero was chloroforming Germans during this time it might be that the hiatus in missive-writing might have had something to do with Holmes' post-retirement activities.

Could Holmes be one of the unnamed correspondents?

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