Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bee Beard Competition at Clovermead Apiary

The air was literally a-buzz with bees and excitement.

The day of the bee Olympics held annually at Clovermead Apiary had finally come.

(How's that for girl power? Melanie wins the bee beard competition!!!)

Originally scheduled for July, the weather was so wet with rain this year that it was rescheduled to the end of August.

Even then the forecast threatened rain but it seemed the good wishes and prayers of everyone were answered and the sun came out and stayed the whole time.
Most of my family attended along with me which was really nice. They may not share my obsession every day but they've been patient to listen to me go on and on and on about bees.
I volunteered that day answering bee related questions in the Train Station building which is where the 24 frame observation hive was housed.
Thousands of bees were on display and could be seen coming and going through large clear pvc piping at the back of the hive.
They also had a regular hive set up inside with a tube going to the outside. This hive had a plexi-glass top and cutouts on the sides with plexi-glass inserted so that observers could see what a real Langstroth hive set up looks like.
The entire room is set up with antique beekeeping equipment and posters about the life cycle of bees.
This to accommodate it's visitors and bus loads of children that come to visit the apiary during the school year.
Clovermead is set up with education in mind and also some fun things for the kids. There's a few animals in pens, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, a pig and some goats. The goats have a high walkway which they climb with enthusiasm.
The reason is because there's a little pail at the bottom on a pulley and for .25 cents, kids can get a handful of corn from a gumball machine which they can put in the pail and then send it up to the top of the bridge to the goat.
The goats are certainly not afraid of heights!
It was fun to watch. They also have tractor rides and go-carts.

The Olympics involved a Hive Tool Toss, Fastest Smoker Lighter, Quickest to put on a Bee Suit, The most Honey Hand Squeezed from Comb and finally the Best Bee Beard.

Last year, I participated in the comb squeezing and placed second. This year I opted to work around the crowd between events, letting children try on the beekeeper veil and hat.

The last competition of the day was the bee beard. The bee beard wearers and their "groomers" were enclosed inside screened in areas along with a hive of bees.
The groomers were given 20 minutes in which they shook frames of bees into newspaper which they then poured onto their waiting wearers.

The wearers had queen cages tied with fishing line hung under their chins. Her pheromones would do the job to keep the bees close to her.
The wearers would cup their arms to hold the bees in place when they were poured.
Spectators could walk safely and comfortably around all four sides of each enclosure to watch the whole process.
The competitors were weighed before the beard and again after in order to determine how many bees they were wearing.
The beards took on many shapes, some long and flat and others bumpy. One beard looked like a Pharaoh's goatee (in the shape of the queen cage hanging under the chin).
The winner was Melanie (who works for the Ontario Bee Association) and second place went to Dan, a local beekeeper.
Each competitor walked a straw bale platform to music to show off their beards to the crowd.
Melanie got the trophy and Dan got second place as the audience pick but that was mostly for the way he danced down the bale platform.
Melanie said she got a few stings and seeing their faces afterward they were none the worse for wear.
It was a fun afternoon and we made sure to finish up in the gift shop where we could buy all kinds of bee products and gifts.
Maybe one year I can wear the beard....
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