Should the family of the departed one possess a hive, the announcement of a death must at once be made to the bees, and the hive be draped in black. The bees must also have given to them a portion of everything, to the minutest detail, which is offered to the bidden guests, including wine, spirits, tobacco, and pipes; nothing must be omitted, for in some undefined way bees watch over the welfare of those to whom they belong, and it would be unwise to offend them. It is held that if the first swarm following a death, no matter how long the interval, is easy to hive, success is guaranteed for the next business transaction, but should the swarm settle on a dead bough, it foretells death to another of the family in the near future; while should the swarm fly away and be lost, then great care must be exercised in all undertakings, until such times as a swarm has been successfully hived.
Yorkshire Wit, Character, Folklore & Customs. R Blakeborough. 1911
Rev. Atkinson tells of the bees being put into mourning at the death of their master, this account was given to him by the rector of Sessay.
..Presently his attention was aroused by the passage of a woman, the wife of the eldest son of the deceased man. She was carrying a tray, on which he saw there were piled a variety of eatable and drinkable matters. She went straight to the beehive, and he heard her address the bees themselves. Naming the late owner, she said, “John G____ is dead, and his son is now master. He has sent you something out of every dish and jug on the table, and we hope you will be content to take him as the new master.”
Forty Years in a Moorland Parish. 1908