Annual Beeard Competition

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2013

Having a bit of facial fuzz can make a fashion statement, but these beards are enough to make even the most ardent hipster’s skin crawl – or at least come out in hives (see photo on cover, Canadian Press/AP). Contestants at an annual ‘bee beard’ competition in Canada allowed their heads and upper torsos to be covered by up to 16,000 insects.

Beeard of beesEach facial bee colony weighs about 1.8kg (4lb) and has to be sculpted into shape before competitors take to the catwalk. ‘It’s itchier than you think it would be,’ beekeeper Chris Hiemstra said.

Competitors at the annual event at Clovermead Adventure Farm in Ontario lure swarms by placing a caged queen bee around their neck. More experienced contestants are known to use petrolatum, a substance bees avoid, to sculpt their beards. Beekeepers minimise the risk of contestants getting stung by keeping the colonies fed with sugar water. They also ply the bees with smoke before they are allowed to join the beard.

Marenda Schipper, 20, was crowned this year’s bee beard champion with Justin Hiemstra named as crowd favourite on Saturday August 10th

The beards are judged by their weight, which is determined by placing the contestants on the scales before and after the bees settle on their faces. Brazilian-born Miss Schipper, 20, had a beard weighing 2.2kg (5lb) and contained about 20,000 bees. She is not a beekeeper but a student specialising in agriculture business. It was her first time with a bee beard and she has only been stung once, which was a few years ago.

Judges also evaluate the beard’s style and each competitor’s performance in front of the audience. Past contestants have even managed to hula hoop for the crowds while covered in bees.

Matthew Champion and Nicole Le Marie, writing in Metro