Have you ever heard that a beekeeper is only as good as his beekeeping suit? Me neither. That was just a hook to keep you reading. Still here? Good.
The fact is, though, that there is a lot more that goes into “good beekeeping” than the clothes you wear. What makes a good beekeeper? Well, in our opinion, it’s a pretty even 3-way split between experience, knowledge, and luck.
The other fact is that if you want to be a beekeeper at all, then you’re probably going to need a beekeeping suit. A good one is better than a bad one and the best ones are the “bee’s knees”. #boom. That just happened.
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What is a Beekeeping Suit?
A specialty designed suit for the act of beekeeping comprised of garments that protect the wearer from stings and also keeps the bees away from the face so that you can work your hive. Let’s face it, despite the cuteness of our logo and that little smiling bee, when real bees are provoked…they can get ornery. And that can lead to painful stings.
In large numbers, those stings can be deadly.
But…hey, every profession or hobby has risks, right? And they usually have protective gear. Dirt Bikers have helmets and pads. Gardeners have gloves. Comic book collectors have pocket protectors.
The main reason we keep bees, of course, is for their honey production. Either for personal use, friends and family, or for profit. However, people often forget about beeswax which is a wonderful product that comes from a plentiful beehive. By the way, you can also sell and use beeswax as it has numerous applications for medicinal purposes, food, and flavoring.
Of course, you can always keep bees to raise bees (good, productive bees) and sell them to other beekeepers and even for study purposes by scientists.
Lastly, farmers often rent bees from keepers to pollinate crops and cross-pollinate when required.
So, let’s get into this beekeeping suit stuff!
Beekeeping Hat and a Veil
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride but…
Oh, wait…wrong type of veil.
Your head, face, and neck are among the most important parts of your body to protect as a beekeeper. A beekeeping hat and veil will cover the entire head, face, and neck and keep those pesky stingers out of your face and from buzzing around your eyes. It can be distracting.
There are certain sets that you can keep the hat and veil separated with the veil being pulled over the entire head and neck. We, however, think that it’s more practical to get a set-up that has the hat and veil connected. We feel more comfortable and secure with the connected set. (It’s definitely a preference thing, though. We have a friend who doesn’t wear a hat and just a veil. He gets stung everyone once in a while.)
You can imagine how sensitive the face and neck are to beestings and we prefer a hat and veil that have integrity around the entire area and which prevents even the occasional stray bee from getting inside.
We’ve talked about it before: Bee stings hurt and if you’re allergic, then bee stings on the face and neck can be big trouble and a big pain. Stingers from hands, arms, wrists, etc can be easily removed and, compared to a neck sting, can result in pain and swelling to a large degree.
Get a good beekeeping hat and veil!
3 Types of Beekeeping Veils
It’s a modern design that minimizes contact between the veil and head and hears. This is great for claustrophobic or those that don’t prefer things touching their face. This makes it easier to see in most cases and keeps the hair all nice and pretty, too!
This is OG of beekeeping veils. The Classic. The G.O.A.T. It offers a wide field of view and it provides plenty of open space between the mesh and the face. It gives great ventilation and they breathe well so that you stay cool while tending the hive in the hot weather.
In many cases, you’ll see beginner beekeepers in this type of veil but we still prefer the fencing type veil as explained above.
This is a fold and store type of veil. The square veil can be folded small and stowed away in a trusty beekeeping tool bag. It has a wide-open front mesh that is spacious and breathes easier.
So, here’s the deal…
There are some beekeepers who swear by beekeeping protective gloves and some who opt not to wear them at all.
For the ones that DON’T wear protective gloves, they like to argue that the gloves reduce sensitivity to near zero and that makes it possible to squash bees.
While squashing bees IS NOT the business here, we feel that you should wear beekeeping gloves (especially beginners) to avoid stings on hands. If you get stung on the hand then you flinch, pull away, cuss, and that throws the bees into more of a frenzy. Which is more dangerous, in our opinion, to bees.
When you’re thinking beekeeping jackets, think “integrity”. The best beekeeping jackets are the ones that the veil & hat, and gloves can fasten to. This keeps all the openings closed (or minimized) and prevents bee stings.
Beekeeping jackets will resemble most protective outerwear. If you’ve ever seen military people in chemical protection gear, then you have an idea what the suit looks like. Only it breathes and it’s more like a parka and less like a full-body suit (in most cases but designs to vary).
Beekeeping protective gear, and particularly jackets, should be white as the color is mostly avoided by bees. Also, white is cooler in the summer months when most beekeeping is done. This isn’t a case of “don’t wear white after Labor Day”. You should always wear white when beekeeping.
Beekeeping jackets will come standard with 6 pockets; 2 for hive tools, 2 on the chest with Velcro closings, and 2 near the waist.
Remember to buy beekeeping jackets up to 2 sizes larger than your usual clothing size as you’ll be wearing them over your street clothes. Or pajamas. However, you choose to keep them bees!
What Materials are Beekeeping Jackets Made of?
We knew you’d ask. Some people have allergies and need to know what is touching their bodies. We get it.
Most beekeeping jackets are made of the polycotton fabric. (You’ll see this when you start researching beekeeping gear on Amazon). But, there are mesh parts and foams so that the jackets breathe easy and allow cool air in and allow perspiration to evaporate off.
Polycotton jackets are made of a 50-50 poly/cotton blend that is interwoven using a pattern that makes it difficult for bees to penetrate and get into.
There are, however, specially designed bee jackets for improved ventilation that are made of a layered design and have 100% synthetic fabric on the outside of the jacket. As long as the air gap between the two fabric layers is longer than a stinger you’re good to go.
Last to protect, but definitely not least, is the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Boots round out a great beekeeping suit.
Some bees will drop to the ground and start climbing up your legs. You definitely don’t want bees getting up inside your pants or down into your socks.
Remember to wear your beekeeping boots along with the rest of your beekeeping protective gear and you’ll be max protected. Also, make sure that the boot is made of a quality rubber; they’ll last longer and perform better in mud or wet grass.
Beekeeping Suit Video Intro from your friends at Harvest Lane Honey
Beekeeping is a rewarding, fascinating, and traditional activity that has been going on for thousands of years. Despite all of that, bees can be dangerous and they’re definitely painful when the sting. As beekeepers, we should do all that we can to ensure that they’re safe and comfortable. However, that doesn’t mean that we should sacrifice our own comfort and safety. A beekeeping suit is the most consistent and proven method of staying safe when tending bees. Plus, it makes you more confident and comfortable when working with your colonies. And that’s great for everyone (and everything involved).