In Transit Blog: By the Bees on My Chinny Chin Chin

Written By wartini cantika on Jumat, 18 Juli 2014 | 17.36

Photo Justin Hiemstra won a trophy at last year's competition for being the crowd's favorite.Credit Clovermead Apiaries

Beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder. At least, that's the case in Aylmer, Ontario, on July 25, when Clovermead Apiaries hosts its 10th annual Worldwide Bee Beard Competition. The event brings together teams of insect aficionados who strut their stuff on a catwalk — while covered in thousands of confused bees — in a contest for charity to crown the queen (or king) of bee beards.

"Bee beards are wonderful, but they're really tickly," said Chris Hiemstra, a third-generation beekeeper and the co-owner of Clovermead Apiaries. "It takes well over a thousand stings in one shot to kill a person, so if you get a sting or two it's no big deal."

To create the spectacle, a caged queen is affixed to the beard model's chin, drawing the rest of the hive to the model like, well, bees to honey. Teams, led by "bee whisperers" skilled in the obscure art of bee grooming, spend 20 minutes shaking and smoking their charges into position.

"It's like a pheromone perfume, so they're going to snuggle up with their queens somewhere around your chin part," said Mr. Hiemstra, who will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event. "Each bee has six legs, so it's kind of like monkeys in a barrel: Everyone's hanging on for dear life on your neck."

Bee bearding is a spectacle that traces its origins to country fairs, Mr. Hiemstra said. Keepers wore bee beards to attract more customers — ultimately selling more honey. Spectators at Clovermead are invited to pose for photos with the swarm (and beards) after trophies — one champion, one crowd favorite — are awarded. The competition awards 2,500 Canadian dollars to the champion's favorite charity, 2,000  dollars to the crowd favorite's charity, and 500 dollars to the other contestants' favorite charities.

Admission to the 7 p.m. event is 12 dollars per person, or 55 dollars for a group of five. In case of rain, the competition moves to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.


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