The curious 19thC Cornish superstition about telling the bees about death by draping mourning crape on flowers.
On the occasion of a death in the family the old people always made a point of draping the flowers with mourning, and of telling the news to the bees. 'I saw with my own eyes,' wrote Mrs Pascoc of St Hilary, in 1838, 'a little black flag attached to our church–woman's bit of mignonette, which she assured me had begun to quail away since her poor grandson was burnt to death, but had revived after she put on it the piece of mourning. It was not, she added, that she had much faith in it herself, but her daughter in Penzance had twenty–two plants that the ladies used to stop at the windows and admire, which began with one accord to droop from the time the accident happened, and would certainly have died if she had not given them a suit of black apiece. Shall not a poor pew–cleaner,' adds Mrs Pascoe, 'be pardoned for a weakness which moved a President of the Royal Society on the occasion of his mother's death to order, by letter, that his bees in the country should be invested with crape, lest they also should die?'
(Jenkin, Cornwall and Its People, page 285.)