Bee Beards, Your New Favorite Hobby

Published June 6, 2014
Updated January 17, 2018

Bored and near a colony of bees? We've got just the hobby for you: bee bearding.

Humans share an intimate history with bees, having hunted and gathered their sweet honey as far back as 13,000 BC. It only seems natural, then, that this close association would eventuate into donning their winged friends as…beards.

The practice – aptly named bee bearding – has been a mainstay of the beekeeping world since the nineteenth century, often as a sideshow in carnivals. In doing so, bee bearers have sported hundreds and thousands of honey bees on their faces, though in recent times more have taken to rocking bees all over their bodies.

A Brief History Of Bee Beards

Vintage Bee Bearding

Source: Blogspot

It is a well-known fact that beekeepers have historically allowed bees to rest on their bodies as a way to illustrate rapport with their charges. But it truly became prominent in 1830, thanks to Ukrainian beekeeper, Petro Prokopovych. The practice eventually began to spread throughout the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century bee bearding was a regular feature at carnivals throughout America.

Bee Bearding Turban

Source: Evergreen

The Art Of Bee Bearding

While bee bearding might look like quite an elaborate pastime, its execution is actually quite simple. Every colony has a queen that they recognize by smell. This queen – usually a young one because her scent is more potent to her colony – is placed in a small plastic cage that is tied around the bee bearder’s neck.

section of the honey bees is separated from the rest of the colony, and once those bees catch the scent of their queen, they begin to huddle around the cage. Thus, a bee beard is formed. The queen and her small selection are often separated for a couple of days and fed a diet of sugar syrup to make them more complacent.

Bee Bearding Profile View

Source: Bloopers

Bee Beards Pictures

Source: Dave Chidley

Many people who partake in bee bearding describe the sensation as one akin to little claws grasping at the skin. It’s important not to move very much while bearding, as the bees will cling that much more tightly to the skin.

Once the show is over, though, the best way to remove the bees is to lean over the colony box, make like a lunatic and shake. After the jerking motion causes the bees to drop like, well, flies, smoke is then sprayed around the bee bearder and the caged queen is removed from around the neck.

Bee Bearding Records

Bee Face

Source: Dan Chaon

Because everyone deserves to feel like they are the best at something, The Guinness Book of Records includes a category for “most pounds of bees worn on the body”. And in attempts to reach this record, ambitious bee bearders have turned to bee body suits. Most people cover their face, torso, back and arms to break the record.

Currently, the record is held by Indian Vipin Seth, who has covered his body with 135 pounds of bees (around the weight of a newborn giraffe).

Mamta Bhatt
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
Cite This Article
Bhatt, Mamta. "Bee Beards, Your New Favorite Hobby.", June 6, 2014, Accessed April 19, 2024.