Lady dons a ‘beard of bees’ at OMSI

No, they didn’t slather her face with honey! Find out how this gal got a beard-o-bees – and why she wanted one! It’s all right here …

NE Portland beekeeper Glen Andresen shows the container that holds the queen bee from the hive that will shortly swarm on Kristin Hoffman’s face.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While she called herself a “lucky winner”, to be selected to wear a colony of 5,000 honeybees on her face, Kristin Hoffman began to question her good fortune as she stepped into a specially-constructed bee booth for the demonstration at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) not long ago.

“I’ve always loved bees,” Hoffman confided, minutes before her close encounter with a swarm of bees. “I never seem to have the fear that other people have of them; but I hate spiders.”

Although he didn’t participate in the demonstration, a local beekeeper from Northeast Portland, Glen Andresen, said he hoped his bees would be okay. “I’m not a commercial beekeeper; I only have about 40 colonies that I rent out to area blueberry farmers. The rest of the year, they help pollinate my home garden.”

The bees are shaken out of their bucket on a file folder; they’ll crawl up above their queen. Kristin’s face happens to be up there.

John Gibeau, who is from the Honeybee Centre in Vancouver, BC, was the day’s bee wrangler. “I learned beekeeping from my dad; I’ve been doing it for 42 years. I keep about 1,000 colonies, but we can’t transport bees out of Canada. Our main source of income is pollinating commercial blueberry fields. A second revenue source is honey production, that we sell our country store in Surrey, and in Victoria, B.C.”

Good thing that Kristin Hoffman says she loves bees – she’s wearing them, at this OMSI demonstration!

Gibeau said he’s had ten years experience wrangling bees for television commercials and motion pictures. “And, we put on these demonstrations to show people how gentle bees are.”

Then, Hoffman and Gibeau climbed into the cabinet to start the show.

Holding up a small, white container on a string, Gibeau said, “The colony’s queen is in here. When we tie it on her neck, the bees will gather around it, usually upward.”

Hoffman held a file against her chest, giving the bees a landing place when they were dumped from a hive bucket. “You’ll feel a light prickling feeling as the bees cling to your skin,” Gibeau warned.

It took about 15 minutes for the bees to crawl up her neck and under her chin; they looked very much like a beard.

Kristin Hoffman is instructed to sit very still, as bee wrangler John Gibeau carefully vacuums the bees from her neck and face back into their temporary hive.

Removing bees took nearly as long. “We don’t smoke the bees. In a very slow and gentle process, we use a vacuum cleaner to draw the bees back into their hive,” Gibeau said.

After it was over, the formerly bee-bearded Hoffman remarked, “It does feel a little strange when they crawl over your face. I was afraid one would go up my nose, but it was really fun.”

New exhibit opens January 30
One can never tell what they’ll find at this fascinating place!  OMSI debuts its newest exhibit – on display from the end of this month through May 31stSpace: A Journey To Our Future”.

Through immersive environments, interactive experiences, 3-D displays, and multimedia, visitors experience the present and future of human spaceflight. This new, fascinating exhibit is free with regular OMSI admission.

The museum is located on S.E. Water Street, just north of the Ross Island Bridge, on the eastside Willamette waterfront. Look for the red tower and the OMNIMAX dome. For information call (503) 797-4000, or visit their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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