Thursday, 5 August 2010
Bannette with a story.........by Cerelle B
Malicorne, like Quimper, is a town of course, and in Malicorne there were numerous faïenceries starting from the mid 1700s.
The banette in this blog was made by the Pouplard-Béatrix liaison of Plat d'étain. The number of faïenceries has greatly declined, but there are still active ones there making beautiful things and there is a museum worthy of the trip for lovers of faïence.
So it was with delight that recently I saw on sale a Malicorne banette featuring a scene with bees. Now this was a first for me! I am especially fond of the Pouplard painted Malicorne pieces, but never before had I seen anything like this.
PBx mark on the back of the banette.
It is a busy scene with seven people ranging in all ages. A younger man is showing an elder what is going on. Some of the people, including a young girl, are wielding strange instruments or tools of some sort.
My husband, Bill, who had helped his grandfather tend the beehives on the ranch, did not recognize the devices. He said that they had used smoke to calm or daze the bees when they would harvest the honey, but that these surely didn't look like smokers.
After much puzzling and conjecture, I searched the Web and who knew there would be so much on bee keeping?!
I came upon a site John's Beekeeping Notebook which had all kinds of information on bees, as well as other topics, and an address to contact.
I wrote to John and presented my questions about the scene. He kindly replied that it appeared the people were doing what was called "drumming" or "tanging" the bees.
I found this fascinating picture from a late 17th century Dutch book.
The object in the man's hand looks very much like the ones people are shown using on my banette.
The book stated that "Tanging was also a way for a beekeeper to alert other beekeepers that a claim was being made on a found swarm. Acquiring new bees by laying claim to a swarm was important, as it was routine at this time for beekeepers to asphyxiate their bees with fumes from burning sulphur in order to access the honeycomb safely.”
Oh dear! Poor hardworking bees!
This is evidently a very old technique to get a swarm of bees to stop flying and settle down. This is hardly ever used today, according to John, but getting a free swarm to settle into a skep (or skip, as the straw hives were called) was the primary way for a beekeeper to increase his number of hives.
He said, "Today, we raise queens when we want to increase our number of colonies."
Bill was amazed, and said that in his experience making all that noise would only anger the bees. However, he stated, they had been working with resident bees, not ones free and searching for a spot to settle and live.
John referred me to other sites. Beesource.com and Bee Lore.com
On Bee Source, there was an interesting discussion of drumming the bees and there were some great stories of firsthand experiences doing that.
So, it appears that they are not concerned that it will anger the bees. Surely the elder persons would not be so close, nor that young girl either, if that were so.