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Secrets Behind the Bee Beard

March 16, 2016

First, the disclaimers:

  • DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME or anywhere else, unless you are experienced in handling bees.

  • EXPECT TO BE STUNG. This demonstration should be performed only by experts.

That being said, we found the process of bee bearding to be an interesting one. We followed three members of the legendary Cutts family as they donned bee beards at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College March 4-5 and our photos offer insight into a time-honored demonstration of the basic gentleness of bees, properly handled.

First, prepare the bees and check the weather

Bee handlers want only the calmest, gentlest bees on their faces. So often they will move a hive when the scouts are out gathering nectar. The bees that remain in the hive will be the gentlest.

FindQueen

Locating the queen is one of the first steps.

The optimum temperature for bee beards is above 70 degrees. Colder temperatures make for grumpier bees and, potentially, more stings. The day these photos were taken was less than ideal, with temperatures in the upper 60s and a breeze.

The bees are calmed by misting them with plain water and fed with a bit of vanilla water mist prior to handling them.

Find the queen

After finding the queen, the bee bearder, having placed gauze or cotton in his ears, places her on his (or her) chin. Next, bees, which have been placed in a shallow box, are invited to join the queen.

PutEmOn

Logan Cutts, with queen placed on his chin, encourages the colony to join her.

Then, it’s time to sit quietly as bees crawl onto one’s face. An assistant may use a credit card to gently move bees away from eyes, nose  and other sensitive areas of the face.

StandUp

Stephen Cutts, on the right, has the best beard, because he has been sitting the longest, allowing the bees to move toward his face. His son, Logan, center, is sporting a turtleneck of bees. Lawrence Cutts, left, has just placed the bees and they have not had time to move upward.

All good things must come to an end, of course. The beekeepers use a funnel and a credit card to move the bees back into their box.

CleanUp

As if the bee beards aren’t interesting enough by themselves, Cutts family members usually display a hand puppet and sing songs that clearly articulate the message they are attempting to convey: Bees are important to us all, and in the proper hands, can be downright friendly.

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