Sherlock Holmes & Bee Keeping

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

In the story His Last Bow, we read that Holmes has discontinued his consulting detective work and has taken up bee keeping. “But you have retired, Holmes.  We heard of you as living the life of a hermit among your bees and your books in a small farm upon the South Downs.’" After a long career of hunting criminals, Holmes looks for solitude in South Downs. It's a lovely place in the south of England with rolling hills and wonderfully rural space and apparently a perfect place for bee keeping.


Practical Handbook Of Bee Culture with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen, is the title of the publication Holmes made after working with the bees. This is typical of Holmes. He wants to document and catalogue his pursuits and knowledge into some publication. What are some of the benefits of Bee keeping? What can we learn from these amazing creatures?



They Can Teach A Lot About Organization and Hard Work

Bees are very complex insects that work tirelessly to manufacture honey and to build their hive. Each bee, while part of a community serve a very specific function. These are the types of bees in a colony:


Queen - They are responsible for reproducing the colony by laying eggs.

Drone - These are the males of the colony. They don't really do anything but eat honey and offer up genetics for the queen.

Workers - These are the cleaners, foragers, wax production, etc... They work, hence the name.

Here's my takeaway from this, if we could all find specific roles and tasks within our respective lots in life, our ability to see success would blossom. Think about how single minded the bees are. Every action they take is to serve the greater good.


For example, if a person wanted to get good at a musical instrument how would they take the lessons learned from the bees and apply them?


First they wouldn't want to divide their time between learning a number of instruments, but they would focus on just one. Remember, bees work all towards a very specific goal.

They would find specific skills or functions that would facilitate better playing on a consistent basis. This means they would become highly specialized at certain tasks.


Bees spend a lot of time foraging and building the hive so that they can eat during the winter. Likewise, they would create specific goals and schedules to help ensure development was constant. Every decision would serve the goal of getting better on that instrument.



They offer a lot of interesting things to learn:

There are so many little mysteries about these little insects. While the internet is full of really useful information about bees, learning first hand about them is a wonderful undertaking.


For example, think about the beehive. Beehives have a unique shape. They make each comb in the shape of a hexagon. Why hexagons? Why not spheres, cubes, cylinders, prisms? What in their DNA instructs them to make this specific shape?

Apparently the shape of the hexagon is extremely efficient, which I suppose shouldn't surprise anyone. Bees already show levels of efficiency and industriousness that are impressive, especially considering they are an insect. Why wouldn't their dwelling display similar characteristics of ingenuity?


To hear a little bit more about the efficiency of their space, watch the lecture by Professor Thomas Wales over the proof of these shapes (Hexagons.) I recommend watching about 25 minutes in. It's a pretty long lecture.


While Holmes is a fictitious character, his interest in them wouldn't be far fetched because of how intriguing they are. They, like his career in crime offer plenty of mental stimulation.




There is plenty more to learn about bees. If you are interested, there may be a bee society or association in your community. Why not join them in their next meeting and learn what you can about these fascinating little creatures?



Awesome sights to get you started:

  1. https://beebuilt.com/

  2. https://www.instructables.com/id/Start-A-Back-Yard-Honey-Bee-Hive/

Like anything, be careful if you decide to start building your own bee hive or attempt capturing bees and interacting with them. I would suggest going to a bee keeping society before attempting your own hive. They can share with you some insights into what you need to do as an entry level bee keeper and what to expect with a new hive.




Additional Information About Bees That I Found Interesting


http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160621-do-bees-dream


https://www.theguardian.com/science/1999/aug/26/technology


https://beebuilt.com/pages/beekeeping-for-beginners