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The how and why of bee beards

If you are unfamiliar with such things, a bee beard is a stunt or trick. It is a way to get bees to cluster on a person’s face in such a way that it looks like a beard. If you’ve never seen this done, type “bee beard” into Google Image and you can see hundreds of them.

First, the how:

In order to make a bee beard (and I do not recommend it) you take the queen from a hive, cage it, and hang it around your neck—sort of like a necklace.

Next, block your ears and nose with some material, perhaps cotton, to avoid having the bees stroll around in those rather sensitive places. You can also spread Vaseline in any place where you don’t want the bees to collect. Some folks “design” their beards with the artistic application of Vaseline.

I’m told that some people smear honey on the areas where they want a lot of bees but, apparently, it isn’t necessary.

Next, your assistant—and I can’t imagine doing this without help—shakes all the bees from the now queenless hive onto a piece of newspaper. Then your assistant picks up the newspaper and pours the bees into your hands which are cupped in front of you at about chest height. The bees, sensing the presence of their queen, will crawl up your chest and neck and cluster around the queen. (Just the thought of this totally creeps me out.)

You are well advised not to move quickly, cough, snort, or sneeze. If you do get stung, you can’t react. And don’t scratch—any jostling could set them off. One of the difficult aspects of bee bearding is the weight. Although it is only a few pounds of bees, it can seem quite heavy, especially since you are remaining motionless.

By the way, before beginning the beard, be sure that someone is nearby with a camera, and that the camera contains film or a memory card and good batteries—you don’t want to have to repeat this process very often.

Once the pictures are snapped you have to remove the beard. This is the point where most people get stung. Someone removes your queen “necklace” and replaces her in the hive. Then someone can brush the bees off of you, or you can jump up and down, or you can just stand there and wait for them to leave. In my opinion, none of these options sound very good, but what do I know?

Now, the why:

Honestly, if I had any clue whatsoever as to why someone would construct a bee beard, I would write it for you here and now in the space below. However, I haven’t the foggiest notion, the least idea, or the slightest inkling of why someone would spend his (or her) time doing such a thing. Sorry. I really love my bees, but even I gotta wonder ‘bout some bee people some of the time.

Space below:

Now, the warning:

I’ve written only a general outline of how bee beards are constructed. If you plan on doing it, get some advice from people with actual experience. I have no experience and don’t plan on getting any.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Bee beard. Photo by Robert W. Matthews, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org.

Comments

Toby
Reply

I can tell you only why I would consider it – Having had quite a bad reaction to a sting on my upper lip I have since become quite paranoid about being stung in or around the face. I have thought of a bee beard as a means to conquer that fear. Since it would likely result in further stings to the face and all likelihood an increase in said paranoia, I think I’ll stick with looking at pictures of bee beards on the internet instead.

Rusty
Reply

Toby,

As much as I like bees, I would ever do this. When I get stung on the face my eyes swell shut, among other things. No way.

Bruce
Reply

HI Rusty,

In the 1960’s, there was a tv show called “You Asked For It” that had a guy with a bee beard. He was George Biggers from California, a beekeeper and preacher that came to WV yearly to the church I attended. Don’t remember the first host, but later it was Art Linkletter’ s son. Just reminiscing.

Tony Fuentes
Reply

I remember reading at one point that somewhere around the late 1800s, bees were being sold to start behives so that they could produce honey and sell it. Bee vendors made bee beards in order to attract the attention of potential buyers. Now a days, I have no idea as to why someone would want to do such a thing.

Rusty
Reply

Tony,

I’ve never heard that before, but it makes sense.

Granny Roberta
Reply

Well I wouldn’t want to do it, but I sure would like to HAVE DONE it, with the pictures to prove it. I think it would be incredibly cool, right up to the moment when some bee got nervous and every bee suddenly smelled alarm pheromone.
Also, why do they do it? Well why keep bees? Not everybody wants to be crazy in the same way.

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