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When it comes to summertime festivals, no event is quite as buzzworthy as the Clovermead Bee Beard Competition.

Held this year on 27 July at the Clovermead Apiary in the town of Aylmer, Ontario, the annual competition brings in four beekeepers to cover their faces with as many honeybees as possible.

To achieve this crazy feat, the contestants place a queen bee in a small cage around his or her neck – since the colony recognises queen’s scent, the worker bees will gradually cluster around her when placed in the vicinity. Seasoned bee-bearders will use petrolatum (a substance bees avoid) on parts of their faces to “grow” the beard in all the right places.

To avoid stings, the apiarists usually keep the bees full and happy with sugar water the day before and tranquilise them with sedating bee smoke before letting them crawl on their body. Occasional stings do occur, but the professional beekeepers are usually able to deal with it.

Since it would be difficult to count the number of bees in the beard, competitors are weighed before and after to determine the bee beard’s overall weight, with about 4,000 to 5,000 bees weighing a pound. Judges also factor in the beard’s aesthetics and the contestants’ performance on a short runway. Last year’s heaviest beard and crowd favourite came in at 3.8lbs, or more than 15,000 bees. Another contestant even managed to hula hoop down the catwalk while wearing his beard full of bees.

After the competition, the bee beard can be removed in seconds with a little shake over the hive and some help from a leaf blower.

Admission to the competition costs 11 Canadian dollars, and includes entrance to Clovermead’s Adventure Farm, where spectators can see full hives on display and taste six different types of honey on tap. Those who want to get closer to the bees can swarm to the farm’s “Summer Days with a Beekeeper” and hold a drone bee without a stinger.

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