Published on Oct 5, 2012
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Bee bearding is the practice of wearing several hundred thousand honey bees on the face, usually as a sideshow-type demonstration at agricultural shows. Hive bees are attracted into position by a queen in a small cage worn under the chin.
Though beekeepers since ancient times have allowed bees to rest on their bodies in order to demonstrate their rapport with the insects, the practice of congregating measurable quantities of bees on the face was initiated by Petro Prokopovych, a Ukrainian beekeeper, in the 1830s. The practice spread to various "freak" exhibitions at American carnivals by the end of the nineteenth century.
The Guinness Book of Records includes a category for "most pounds of bees worn on the body," which is currently held by American animal trainer Mark Biancaniello. Biancaniello successfully wore 350,000 bees, weighing just over 87 pounds, during a 1998 broadcast of the Guinness World Records: Primetime television show.
A 2005 attempt to break the record by Irish beekeeper Philip McCabe, who was to wear a full one hundred pounds of bees, failed when only 60 pounds of bees landed on his body. McCabe was using Irish black bees, which are larger than Italian honey bees, so fewer bees (around 300,000) would have been required to reach 100 pounds than it took Biancaniello to reach 87 pounds. Bee bearding records are calculated by weight, not number of bees, because of this variation across honey bee strains.
Due to ever-increasing competition to break the record, most advanced attempts at bee bearding now involve bees covering the entire face, torso, back, and arms of the participant in order to provide sufficient surface area for over eighty pounds of bees to land. Nevertheless, the name "bee bearding" is still used.
In the 2008 The Simpsons episode "The Burns and the Bees", Lisa Simpson wears a beard of bees to help the local population of bees to flourish.
The episode "Aptitude" on the series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody shows Zack looking at a video called "Beard of Bees" on a YouTube-like website.
In Bee Movie, as a video clip on a bee news program, a crowd of bees chants "No More Bee Beards! No More Bee Beards!"
In the King of the Hill episode Mutual of Omabwah, Dale Gribble wears a bee beard.
In the 2000 Malcolm in the Middle episode "The Bots and the Bees", Hal wears a beard of bees as a result of his battle robot.