My first hive of bees became known, collectively as ‘The Mabels’ . I think that was down to my husband, a Scot. They seem to like playing with language which is why he calls the chiropractor a chiroprodder; the cash machine the wongamat and is fond of phrases such as ‘that is VNI’ – and when you ask what that stands for, he answers ‘very nearly interesting’ – a very useful thing to bring out if someone has bored you for a very long time and you cannot get away..
So when, shortly after I got my first bees and he was asked to help with feeding when I was away for a few days, the fact he had called one Mabel morphed with the idea of ‘mabel syrup’ – and the name stuck. When I acquired a swarm last year it seemed entirely proper they should have a name, too and for some reason lost in the mists of time, the Normas was the allocated colony name. This year I have my name down for a nuc so I can plan their name in advance and given the last two, it has to start with an O. I have a granddaughter called Olivia and a beekeeper friend called Olwyn. Neither seemed quite right. I enlisted the help of the internet and quite fancy the name Odette. That was the name of one of the famous female spies during the war, I believe.
I remember reading the book by Leo Marks called Between Silk and Cyanide. It gives information about his role in codes during World war 2 and working with Violette Szabo who was a spy. Merged with that is the memory of the story of Odette , another spy working with the French resistance during the war. And now I find that Odette means ‘ruler’ – a sort of female equivalent of Odin. How appropriate for a predominantly female colony of bees. Unless I come across a more suitable name.
During the war, the spies used poems as keys to some of their codes and Leo Marks wrote some of these himself. Somehow I find this one particularly powerful. I am not sure I’d be allowed to write it in full due to copyright issues but perhaps I can find a link. It ends talking about peace in the long green grass so that makes me think about my apiary!