A world record attempt with a sting in the tail
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Friday 20 April 2012
Remember Room 101 in George Orwell's 1984? The place where you were confronted with your worst nightmares? Well if you don't like stinging insects, this is Room 101 for you: Chinese beekeeper She Ping covered with an estimated 331,000 honeybees, in an attempt to break the world record for such a practice.
They don't all swarm on him at once. In nightmare terms, it's worse than that. Mr She, an apiarist in the city of Chongqing, has a queen bee placed on his body, and then stands in a basin into which bees are poured; they climb up him to get to the queen, and the whole process takes about an hour. An hour! You'd have confessed to anything long since, wouldn't you?
Not that Mr She is completely the daredevil he might seem; look closely, and you can just see cotton wool buds protruding from his nostrils, to prevent occurrences of that complaint with which two-year-olds are taken to casualty with, "foreign-body-in-the-nose". And an assistant keeps bees away from his face with burning incense.
But otherwise he's completely covered, with 33.1 kilograms of bees, and he gets "a few" stings. He was doing it to break the previous record for a "bee mantle", as it is officially called, which Chinese media believed was set by a Jiangxi province beekeeper, Ruan Liangming, in 2008, with 26.8 kilos of bees about his person.
Alas, a check with the Guinness World Records website reveals the record is actually held by Vipin Seth from India, who was covered with 61.4 kilos of bees – 613,500 insects – on March 9 2009.
Back to the drawing board, Mr She. And don't forget your cotton wool buds.
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