Monday, July 18, 2011
The other day two beekeepers competed in China's annual bee wearing contest. Each man wore only shorts, goggles and nose plugs. The two bee enthusiasts competed by each standing on a scale and using queen bees to attract as many drones to their bodies in one hour. The queen bees were locked in small cages and tied to them and the swarming bees picked up their scent and formed living suits around the competitors.
Wang Dalin won the bee-wearing competition, by attracting 26 kilograms of bees onto his body, while his fellow beekeeper only manged to attract 22.9 kilograms of live bees. Despite their valiant efforts, the two weren’t able to break the world bee-wearing record, of 39.5 kg (350,000 bees), set by American Mark Biancaniello.
The origin of bee bearding is attributed to Peter Prokopovitch, a Russian beekeeper, in the 1830s. Although bee keepers through the centuries have encouraged masses of bees to congregate on their bodies. The practice spread to various "freak" exhibitions at American carnivals by the end of the nineteenth century.
This Vintage bee bearding photograph is from Life 1955.
It seems like a dangerous pastime, although a beekeeping friend told me that after a few years of working with bees the stings no longer hurt and she has no reaction to them. So maybe it wouldn't be that bad. Although for anyone who has even passed close to a hive and heard the sound from within I would imagine the sound would be deafening. Especially after what I assume is several hours of supporting many pounds of moving, buzzing, vibrating bees.
Perhaps a little like this clip from Mathew Barney's Cremaster 2