Apiculture, or beekeeping, is a growing trend for the hobby-farmer, producing honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly. While honey bees don’t tend to generally be aggressive, part of being a beekeeper means investing in and wearing protective clothing. This helps not only keep you safe from stings but also helps keep the bees calm.
Bees do not want to sting you – in fact, honey bees will die when they sting a person. This is because they are unable to pull their stinger out again; it remains in the person’s skin, rupturing the abdomen of the bee. Unless bees become alarmed and seek to defend their colony with their lives, they will only sting occasionally or accidentally.
What Clothing should Beekeepers Wear
Beekeepers, at the very least, will usually wear a protective hat and veil. Many will wear a full hooded beekeeper’s suit.
The most important parts of the body requiring protection from bee stings are the face and neck, which is why a hat with a veil is so critical to be worn. This is because when bees become defensive, they are attracted to human or animal breath, and hence can easily sting the face of their beekeeper or another human. Stings on the face result in more pain and swelling than elsewhere on the body and stings near the eyes can be particularly dangerous.
Facts About Beekeeper Suits
The suits are made from smooth material. The veil is a breathable mesh, while the suit itself is made of thick cotton or nylon. Cotton provides a great defense against stings, while nylon is slippery and bees have trouble landing and stinging on it. Modern suits have a number of layers of breathable mesh for better ventilation.
The suits are white and smooth. This helps differentiate the beekeeper from the bee colony’s natural predators (like bears and skunks, which are black or brown and furry). This helps the bees to remain calm in the presence of the beekeeper.
No bee suit is impervious, but the best ones will deter stings. By making sure there is plenty of room to move in the suit, it is not skintight and the bees can’t sting through the suit as easily.
Some Tips about the Clothing Beekeepers Wear
- A Hat and Veil is the most important protective clothing you’ll need. The veil should sit away from your face as bees can sting through the veil if it contacts your skin.
- Ventilated Bee Jacket is a popular alternative to an all-in-one bodysuit. The hood and veil may be incorporated into the jacket, and ventilation will prevent you from overheating in hot weather. Your jacket should have strong and durable zippers, thumb hooks to insert the sleeve ends into your gloves, and a zipper to attach your veil if it is not attached.
- Pants offer more protection than jeans or other materials for the lower body. Boots are also an option.
- Gloves may not be used by very experienced beekeepers, but they are a very good idea for protecting the hands from stings. Seek lightweight, ventilated gloves, or nitrite gloves for better dexterity while wearing gloves.
Your suit and gloves should be washed regularly. This is especially important as any bee stings that are retained in the suit will continue to emit an “alarm pheromone”; this will alarm your bees, eliciting continued aggression and more stinging attacks.
Remain relaxed and calm with your bees, wear your beekeeping suit, and your bees will also be relaxed, calm, and happy – and avoid stinging you.