Sylvia and the Bees

From Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home. London, Faber and Faber, 1975.

Dear Mother,

Well, this is the last letter I will be writing before you come! . . . I have been working so hard physically out in the garden that I am inarticulate and ready for bed by evening, hence my long silences. I don’t know when I’ve been so happy or felt so well. These last few days I have been weeding our strawberry patch and setting the runners, just as I did on Lookout Farm, and at night I shut my eyes and see the beautiful little plants with the starry flowers and beginning berries. I love this outdoor work and feel I am really getting in condition . . .

Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! We went to the local meeting last week (attended by the rector, the midwife, and assorted beekeeping people from neighbouring villages) to watch a Mr Pollard make three hives out of one (by transferring his queen cells) under the supervision of the official Government bee-man. We all wore masks and it was thrilling. It is expensive to start beekeeping (over $50 outlay) but Mr Pollard let us have an old hive for nothing, which we painted white and green, and today he brought over the swarm of docile Italian hybrid bees we ordered and installed them. We placed the hive in a sheltered out-of-the-way spot in the orchard — the bees were furious from being in a box. Ted had only put a handkerchief over his head where the hat should go in the bee-mask, and the bees crawled into his hair, and he flew off with a half-a-dozen stings. I didn’t get stung at all, and when I went back to the hive later, I was delighted to see bees entering with pollen sacs full and leaving with them empty — at least I think that’s what they were doing. I feel very ignorant, but shall try to read up and learn all I can. If we’re lucky, we’ll have our own honey, too!

–Sylvia Plath, 1963

–Posted by Sandra Knauf

Image of honeybee on strawberry blossoms, from 123rf


Filed under Garden Writers We Love

3 responses to “Sylvia and the Bees

  1. Bloomin'Chick Jo

    I found your post here through Brenda Haas/BG_Garden on fb. What a wonderful letter! I only wish that Sylvia could have found true peace from the demons that haunted her through the healing & comforting powers of gardening. I know it has been a life-saver for me!

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