A man who describes himself as “The King of Bees” claims he has never been stung despite regularly walking around with thousands of bees crawling over his unprotected body.
Ndayisaba, a beekeeper from the central African republic of Rwanda, has been taking care of bees since he was a child but has gained new fame after a series of photos showing him wearing a “coat” of bees emerged on social media.
Ndayisaba explains: “In order to control the bees, I have to look for the queen bee first. Then I put the queen on my body to attract the other bees.”
The experienced beekeeper said he gets the queen bee to remain in one spot on his body by attaching her to a piece of string around his waist.
His other bees naturally follow and fiercely protect their queen, flying towards the Rwandese man and forming a shield around her to keep her safe.
Ndayisaba calmly added: “I am well known for beekeeping, they never sting me.”
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He says: “People are not bothered by this. It rather makes them happy, and they want me to teach them. They are not afraid, all they want is to learn in order to start keeping bees themselves.”
Ndayisaba says that that, aside from the popularity he has gained in and around his community, his unusual skill has helped him earn a decent living through selling the honey.
Bees will naturally swarm around their queen, and beekeepers have often exploited that instinct to create a “beard” of bees.
Experienced beekeeper Katie Lee writes on Bee Informed that the trick to making a beard of bees is to prepare carefully.
“We spray the bees periodically with sugar syrup. Well-fed bees are less likely to sting, so we keep them fat and happy,” she explained.
She says before a display she will put vaseline under her eyes and on her lips to prevent the bees from crawling there too much. She also plugs her ears and nose with cotton wool to prevent any curious bees from going where they’re not wanted.
Then comes the scary part, as she sits down in a chair, before “an assistant ties the queen around my head, so the queen rests under my chin.
“I hold a lunch tray against my belly and my assistant dumps the bees onto the tray.”
Once the bees catch the scent of the queen, they will create a swarm to protect her.
“The bee feet feel strange and electric as they grip the skin on my face and neck,” Katie says.
“They cling to each other and hang down like a beard. The bees will think they are in a swarm, so they should not be defensive.”
It’s not without risk though. Unlike Ndayisaba, who says he’s never been stung in over 30 years of beekeeping, Katie says she’s been stung at least once every time she’s made a bee beard and she knows of one unlucky beekeeper who received over 50 painful stings in one attempt.
She warns: “Do not try this if you aren’t prepared for something to go wrong with the bees.
“You will have thousands of stinging insects on your face, so you have to be physically and mentally prepared to deal with getting stung many many times, and potentially on the face.”