When commercial beekeeper Bethany Karulak-Baker became pregnant and decided to have a maternity photoshoot, it was only natural that her job and life would be included. However, Bethany decided to do something that most people would find repulsive, staging the photograph so that thousands of bees were perched on her stomach. Perry and Bethany decided to challenge themselves with their photoshoot by having their bees form a “beard” around her eight-month-plus pregnant stomach. The allergy issue was the initial cause for concern. Bethany stated, “I have a local reaction, which causes me to develop welts that can last up to six weeks. They are extremely irritating but not in any way dangerous.” Bethany was apprehensive but had the photoshoot cleared by physicians beforehand. Consequently, the couple chose to employ nurse bees, which are more docile and easier to manage.
The next challenge was finding a photographer; it took the couple ten attempts to locate the ideal candidate, Brooke Welch. Then there was the matter of logistics. Bethany stated, “We tied a crown to my belly while she was in her confinement. It is common practice to confine queens in enclosures, and it does not cause her any pain. After tying her to my belly, we had to make sure the weather was ideal (cloudy and chilly) and chose to work with nurse bees (who are the most docile). We selected frames containing nurse larvae and extracted them from the hive. I held a folder beneath my belly, and we poured the bees onto my belly; the bees then ascended up from the folder and “bearded” the queen in her cage.
There were approximately 10,000 bees depicted in photographs of Bethany’s midsection, but she was not stung. The photographs of Bethany quickly went viral, but she reports that the response has been overwhelmingly supportive, kind, and loving. She continues, “Many women have come forward to discuss their own miscarriage experiences. Others have placed orders with our commercial honey enterprise. There are a few individuals who do not comprehend bees or beekeeping, so it is natural that there are a few negative internet armchair combatants.” This has not been a simple period for Karulak-Baker. Previously, she had experienced a miscarriage. She pleads with skeptics not to view it as merely a photograph of her pregnant belly covered in bees but rather as a brave and courageous act helping her unborn child recognize that her mother is a hero.