Will the real "Queen Bee" please stand up? We hear that term in hip hop all of the time as female rappers claim that they're number one in the game, but if we're to take the phrase literally, Sara Mapelli would have that title. This bee queen has been making headlines for her unconventional practices, but Sara tells National Geographic that it's "all about community."
Growing up, Sara said that she lived in a small community where people worked and lived together, and as she began studying bees, she realized it was the same for them as well. She wrote on her website that she's been a healer for over 27 years, and for the last 10 she's been doing the "bee dance" to help others.
Sara is all about alternative medicine, and being a bee charmer is one of those options. Not only does it bring her closer to nature, but she hopes that others will feel connected to the earth and conquer their fear of bees.
While it may seem as if Sara has been dreaming of wearing bees her entire life, she told National Geographic that the idea came to her while driving by a farm in Washington. "It came to me that I needed to be covered in bees. I could visualize this bee blouse, but it took me a long time to find people to help me make it happen. I finally found an entomologist to work with me, and I’m also connected with beekeepers all over the country," Sara said.
This bee whisperer would like to say that the little buzzing insects just naturally gravitate toward her, but she admits to getting a little help when it comes to attracting bees. Entomologist Michael Burgett gave her a pheromone similar to that of the queen, which can attract bees for weeks. "Michael told me I’d be attracting bees for weeks after my performance, but the next day I didn't have a swarm after me—probably because after that dance I sat in a hot tub and sauna. But at least every other day I hear a honeybee buzzing in my ear."
If the thought of over 10,000 bees—weighing about 4 to 5 pounds—resting on your torso gives you the willies, you'd be in good company. Sara describes it as being like a tree with a constant humming sound. She told EcoWatch.com, "I’m like a tree with a huge tornado above me that gets smaller and smaller as the bees land. They are so loud; it’s an engulfing, beautiful sound."
As beautiful of an experience as Sara makes it, there is still some pain involved in the process. While the vibration can bee soothing, she told National Geographic "Mostly it’s itchy. It’s also a little painful: Their feet pinch my skin as some hold on while others climb over them. It can be very hot. But it’s all part of the experience, part of the meditation."
Just in case you're wondering: yes, she does get stung. She says her bee bites happen most of the time when she removing the bee blouse, but she counts it as part of the meditation process.
Sara says she has also begun apitherapy, which is defined as "the use of products derived from bees as medicine, including venom, honey, pollen, and royal jelly." "It’s really amazing ancient medicine, a huge asset to us. It’s another reason we must protect our bees," she says.
For the group sessions where she does the bee dance, she asks that the person signing up should bring a friend. There's an inner circle and an outer circle, and Sara moves about dancing in the center from person to person. There are those that are so used to city living that all things nature terrify them, and others who can't stand bees and are looking to conquer a fear in a safe environment. Whatever their reasons, Sara says it can be an emotional experience.
While Sara's practices hope to teach others about the importance of bees in nature and promote healing to people, she recognizes that what she does isn't going to be attractive, or understood, by everyone. "Sure, some say ‘I would never do that!’ So I say, that’s okay, you don’t have to! But it’s more than a job for me: It’s become a part of me, of my body."