To Bee or not to Bee? That is the question on the lips of apiarists in Ontario where beekeepers gather for the annual Clovermead Bees & Honey, Bee Beard Competition in Aylmer, Ontario, Canada yesterday.
While a hundred years ago a bee beard was a good way for a honey vendor to attract customers to his goods, nowadays, bee bearding is mainly done for fun, and for charity – and this year in aid of World Vision Canada.
The day kicks off with demonstrations of beekeeping skills such as ”squeezing honeycomb, lighting smokers, suiting up quick, and building bee boxes, and catching bees”.
And then it’s beard time. As counting the bees would be tricky, the winner is assessed by weight (10,000 bees a pound.) Beekeepers are weighed before being sent into the tents to be ”groomed with bees’ and after it.
It was a case of who dares wins as the contestants bravely wore thousands of honey bees on their face and body. Tibor Szabo was among those who took part and was pictured with his head completely covered with honey bees.
Beebearding is thought to date back to the 1700s when an English beekeeper discovered he could create a beard of bees by tying the queen to a thread around his neck and would parade through the streets wearing the unusual costume.
In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph (Australia), professional beekeeper Melanie Kempers explained the beard process. “Every colony has one queen,” she says.
“They all recognize her by smell. We put her in a small plastic cage and tie it around the neck, and we take the bees from her colony.”
“We put them onto newspaper, and then pour them into a pair of hands just below the queen. They smell her and walk up towards her. Once they smell her, they huddle around her, that’s what creates the certain look,” she added.
Melanie Kempers also said: “You can definitely manipulate the bees. A lot of contestants put Vaseline along the edges so the bees can’t get above a certain level.”
When she was asked about ‘what does it feel like in general?’ she said: “It’s kind of like monkeys in a barrel. The original bee holds onto the face and they hold on to each other.”
“It’s kind of little claws, holding on to the skin, If I try to move my face, they hold on with all their might, it feels like a sunburn. The skin is tight,” she added. [via Daily Telegraph (UK) and Daily Mail (UK)]