Riding On A Horse While Being Swarmed By Bees

Daniel Wildman

Daniel Wildman, a showman, who became famous for his remarkable stunts involving bees which were unmatched at the time. For example, there was a time when he performed before King George III, he was standing on a horseback, with a grist of bees suspended in garlands from his chin, akin to a beard. Afterwards, he moved the bees from his chin and body to his hands which were fully stretched out. Then upon firing a pistol, all the bees on his arms coalesced together in the air and promptly returned to their hive. 

The following is an advertisement Wildman used when he performed in Islington.

June 20, 1772


At the ‘Jubilee Gardens’, Islington, this and every evening until further notice (wet evenings excepted).

The celebrated Daniel Wildman will exhibit several new and amazing experiments, never attempted by any man in this or any other kingdom before. The riders standing upright, one foot on the saddle and one on the neck, with a mask of bees on his head and face. He also rides standing upright on the saddle with the bridle in his mouth, and, by firing a pistol makes one part of the bees march over the table, and the other swarm in the air and return to their hive again, with other performances too tedious to insert. The doors open at six, to begin at a quarter before seven. Admittance: Box and gallery, 2s., the other seats, 1s.

Many people who had witnessed Wildman’s performances attributed them to witchcraft and the occult. However, there’s nothing supernatural involved. The key to achieving this feat is to have a way to control the queen bee. Others did it by tying a strong thread to the queen’s leg. But Wildman opted to make it simpler — he held the queen bee with his bare hands. After securing the control of the queen, the other bees can be controlled as well. The secret may be straightforward but the execution is another story. Confidence is an important factor to pull this off.

Doctor John Evans’ poetic description of Wildman’s feat and its secret in The Bees: A Poem, in Four Books (1806) summarized it:

Such was the spell, which round a Wildman’s arm
Twin’d in dark wreaths the fascinated swarm,
Bright o’er his breast the glittering legions led.
Or with a living garland bound his head.
His dexterous hand, with firm but hurtless hold.
Could seize the chief, known by her scales of gold.
Prune, ‘mid the wondering throng, her filmy wing.
Or o’er her folds the silken fetter fling.
Still round, their captive queen, where’er she treads,
In harmless gyres the duteous circle spreads;
Or, as the spaniel thro’ the tainted dews,
With sense unerring, his lost lord pursues,
From the fresh-scented paths their horns inhale
Her balmy breath, and snuff the fragrant gale.


A. P. Beresford et al., Altägyptisches Bienenwesen im Lichte modernen Welt-Bienenwirthschaft, Vol. 1, 1820

George W. Johnson et al., The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Country Gentleman, Vol. 7, New Series, 1864

Alfred Neighbour, The Apiary: Or, Bees, Bee-hives and Bee Culture, 1865

John Evans, The Bees: A Poem, in Four Books, 1806

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

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