This is why beekeepers take precautions to avoid being stung. Just in case our bee-whispering powers fail us, we use protective gear. If you’re venturing into beekeeping, you can’t afford to go without a beekeeping suit. This guide makes it easy for you to choose the best one for you.
Do You Need a Beekeeper Suit?
If you don’t want to get stung every time you attend to your bees, then yes. Beekeepers have various tasks, from helping bees to build and manage their hives, to harvesting honey, or choosing new queens.
Wearing a beekeeper suit makes it so that we won’t get stung if we accidentally aggravate our bees. It also stops bees from crawling into our ears or mouths, up our noses, or hitting our eyes.
There are very few people who are brave (or reckless) enough to manage bees without protection. I, for one, don’t enjoy being stung by bees, so a suit is a necessary piece of beekeeping equipment for me.
They’re also vital if you’re allergic to bees but still want to pursue beekeeping. Note though, that no beekeeping suit is 100 percent sting-proof. If you’re allergic, a suit is not an ultimate guarantee of safety.
In all cases, beekeeper suits don’t stop bees from stinging, but they do lessen the chances of being stung. They make beekeeping easier and safer.
Types of Beekeeper Suits
Shortly, I’m going to tell you all about the different styles and materials you can choose from. I first have to mention that not all beekeepers wear full suits, though. You can choose between the traditional full body suit or the simpler beekeeper jacket. So which one is better?
That’s entirely up to you. Both have their pros and cons.
Beekeeper suits (which I’m focusing on in this article) are safer because they cover your entire body. They’re best for hands-on beekeeping, like harvesting honey or directly handling the hive. They protect you from way more stings than jackets do, but at a price. Also, beekeeper suits can be uncomfortable, hot, and inflexible.
Beekeeper jackets are often cheaper than full suits, but they don’t protect you below the belt. They’re better for quick visits to your hive, mostly just to check up on it. They’re not suitable for heavier work.
They’re much more comfortable than full suits, but you have to be extra careful when wearing them. You will also have to invest in a beekeeper’s hat.
Full suits will take some getting used to, but I highly recommended them for beginners starting their first beehive. They’re safer in the long run, and are necessary if you’re unsure of what you’re doing, or need to interact with your hive directly.
Why You Should Get a Full Suit
Some of the more courageous beekeepers don’t bother with either and will simply get a beekeeper’s hat and hope for the best. The explanation behind this is usually that the bees they keep are docile, and stings aren’t enough of a problem to suit up for.
I have two pieces of advice on this.
Firstly, If you don’t want to wear a beekeeper suit (for whatever reason), you absolutely cannot afford to go without the protection for your face. In the event that your bees do turn on you, it’s the last place you’ll want to be stung.
More importantly, even the most expert beekeepers can make mistakes. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your bees, their attitude toward you can change in a heartbeat. Don’t be surprised if one day you misjudge how docile they’re feeling, and up with a new collection of stings.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
If you decide to go for just the hat or the jacket, seriously think about keeping a full suit, even if only for backup. I think it’s better to keep a suit and never use it than to need it and not have one at hand.
The Best Beekeeper Suits
Wearing a beekeeper suit for the first time, especially when it’s your own, is an oddly exciting and rewarding feeling. Buying your first beekeeper suit… not so much.
We’re spoiled for choice, and since you’re dealing with safety equipment, you can’t afford to pick the wrong one. Here’s a list of my favorites, so that at the very least you’ll know where to start.
The Ultra Breeze Beekeeping Suit with Veil
The Ultra Breeze beekeeping suit is a popular choice because it’s comfortable and does a nearly perfect job of guarding you against stings.
The body is made of three layers of ventilated mesh, which makes it immensely breathable and safe. It also boasts zippers across the entire length of it, so getting in and out of it won’t be a hassle at all.
A detachable hood veil is included, so you can save a bit of effort and money finding a matching headpiece. Like I mentioned above, hood veils are the safest choice, so that’s a bonus.
This all-American suit also comes in a selection of sizes, so you can find your perfect fit. Overall, this suit is one of the best. It has fantastic customer satisfaction and is a firm favorite for beekeepers.
- It’s made from ventilated mesh, so it’s cool and comfortable.
- A detachable hooded veil is included with the suit.
- Zippers make it hassle-free and extra-safe.
- The body is machine washable.
- Comes in a range of sizes.
- It’s got multiple handy pockets.
- It protects like a charm.
- The zippers are stiff and will require lubrication every now and then
- It’s only available in men’s sizes, so women will need to take extra care when selecting one.
- If you choose the wrong size, the hood veil could obscure your vision.
- It’s not a budget-friendly choice.
Natural Apiary Max Pro Beekeeping Suit
The Natural Apiary Max Pro is another favorite because it is almost infallible in its protection. It gives the Ultra Breeze a good run for its money.
This suit is made from 100% fine weave cotton, so it’s strong without compromising comfort. Its zippers run along the suit, so it’s easy-on, easy-off. It also has extra velcro on top of strong, elastic seals. The collar is reinforced and the included hood veil is made of nylon. It’s available in a range of different sizes too.
This suit’s design is where it shines, but it does have a few flaws I can’t overlook. First of all, the creators made an amateur mistake in creating a camouflage suit. As I’ve mentioned, there is a reason why beekeeper suits are white—something the designers disregarded.
It’s also not as breathable as mesh suits, and for all its comfort, could become very hot.
- 100% cotton makes this a strong and durable suit.
- It’s lightweight.
- A hood veil is included.
- The zippers make it easy to put on and take off.
- It’s machine washable.
- You can choose from a range of sizes and designs.
- The body has handy pockets.
- You get a lifetime guarantee.
- Some users complain that the sizes are not accurate.
- The hood veil could pose a vision problem if you choose the wrong size.
- It comes in dark colors, which is an amateur (and potentially dangerous) mistake.
- It’s not as breathable or ventilated as mesh suits.
Natural Apiary – Apiarist Beekeeping Suit
Here’s another one by Natural Apiary. It’s a more affordable option than the one above. It’s a great choice for both beginner and professional beekeepers who will appreciate saving a few bucks.
There aren’t many differences between this suit and the Max Pro. The quality and efficiency of the suit haven’t been lost here, though the material is different and the design varies. The main consideration is that this suit is made from mixed materials (cotton and polyester).
Other than that, the features are the same. You’ll still get a fully zippered suit with a hood veil included. The extra velcro fastenings are still in place and the customer satisfaction is the same.
That said, it carries the same flaws. It’s available in dark colors, which you should avoid, and won’t be as comfortable as mesh suits.
- It’s good quality and an affordable option.
- A detachable hood veil is included.
- Hassle free zippers run along the suit.
- The body is machine washable.
- There’s a variety of sizes and designs.
- Its pockets are handy.
- The mixed material is not as sting-proof as the 100% cotton.
- It gets quite hot in this suit.
- Sizes could be inaccurate.
- Dark colors are not a good idea.
Humble Bee 430 Vented Beekeeping Suit (with Veil)
Perhaps you’re looking for a traditional suit. The Humble Bee 430 might be the ideal suit for you, if so.
This ventilated suit includes a self-supporting round veil (so you don’t need a hat to hold it up). It has heavy-duty brass zippers, and four reinforced pockets. Elastics will keep the suit tight around your wrists and ankles. It even has cushioned knee pads.
The suit itself is made of a cotton and synthetic blend. It’s strong and ventilated, so you won’t be too hot in it. Its unisex design is made to fit men and women, and there are a number of tailored sizes to choose from.
A nice extra is that 10 percent of Humble Bee earnings are donated to bee conservation organizations.
- It’s got a detachable round veil, which is the best option for visibility.
- Elastics and zippers form a strong seal around openings.
- It’s ventilated.
- It’s available in tailored sizes.
- You’ll help the bees through the charitable donations by Humble Bee.
- Mixed materials mean it’s not as breathable as mesh.
- Sizes may be on the small side.
- Rounded veils are not as safe as hoods.
Humble Bee 411-M Polycotton Beekeeping Suit (with Veil)
If you want to support Humble Bee but don’t want a round veil, don’t worry. They’ve got a suit with a hood veil included. You won’t be compromising quality, either. These are excellent suits, regardless of style.
Just the same as above, the suit includes a detachable veil, a ventilated design, and reinforced seals around the wrists and ankles. You still get the tailored, unisex fit, but it has 10 pockets as opposed to only four on the 430 style.
This suit is just as breathable and comfortable as the previous one, but you get another extra perk: the addition of the hood veil means extra protection for your face.
- The detachable hood veil is your best bet in safety.
- It’s reinforced around your wrists and ankles .
- It’s ventilated and comfortable.
- It has 10 pockets.
- You can choose between tailored sizes.
- 10 percent of the company profits is donated toward conservation.
- It’s not as breathable as mesh suits.
- Hood veils could get in the way of your sight if not sized correctly.
- Some users mentioned the suit sizes run small.
Humble Bee 410-M Poly Cotton Beekeeping Suit (with Veil)
One more for Humble Bee. If you’re looking for the same quality and design at a more affordable cost, the 410-M polycotton suit could be exactly what you need.
Not much is different here. You’re still getting a self-supporting veil, heavy-duty zippers and reinforced stitching in the pockets. This suit is made from 50% cotton and 50% synthetic material, and it uses the same tailored measurements as the other Humble Bee suits.
It has elastics for extra security around your wrists and ankles, and you’ll have thumb and foot holds so it won’t slip out of place.
A big difference though is that this suit is not ventilated. It’s excellent in its protection but could be the least comfortable Humble Bee suit around. It feels more traditional than mesh suits, but you run the risk of overheating in it.
- The round veil is the best for visibility.
- It has strong seals around your wrists and ankles.
- It’s a traditional suit that does well to protect you from stings.
- The tailored sizes and unisex design means there’s a suit to fit most sizes.
- 10 percent of profits goes to charitable causes.
- 2-year warranty.
- The suit is not ventilated and could become very hot.
- The mesh on the veil seems to be poor quality.
Why Do Beekeeper Suits Look So Silly?
Let’s face it, beekeeper suits are not the most fashionable outfits in the world. They’re unflattering, and make us look like we’re trying to ward off contagious diseases. We’re not masochists. Beekeeper suits are designed that way for a number of reasons.
The hats we wear are so large and over the top because protecting your face is more important than any other part of your body. Getting stung in your eye could blind you (not to mention it will be excruciating). We’re also more prone to wave bees away when they approach our face, which is the quickest way to annoy them and be stung.
The hats and veils are designed to keep bees off our faces. This way, even if they do try to sting and penetrate the material, the stingers won’t get to our skin. They’re made to be breathable too, so that we don’t suffocate or struggle for air.
The suits themselves (along with the extras, like gloves and boots), are usually heavy duty. The idea is the same as with veils—if a bee tries to sting you, it won’t reach your skin.
When each component of a suit is connected, they form a seal that prevents bees from flying (or crawling) into your clothes or shoes.
Our suits are white because bees don’t like dark colors. The darker your suit, the more motivation bees will have to attack. White suits keep bees calmer, so we can approach or handle them with a lessened risk of aggravating them.
How to Wear a Beekeeper Suit
Often when you buy a suit, it won’t come with everything you need. Before you even look at your bees, make sure that you’re covered from head to toe. You won’t regret inspecting your suit before you put it on, either. This is to make sure that it hasn’t developed any tears or holes—compromising your safety.
Even though your suit could (or most likely will) become sweaty and smelly, avoid wearing strong perfumes, scents, or deodorants with it. Bees are drawn to sweet smells and might become more inclined to sting you if you smell too nice.
Combating the Heat
A common complaint among beekeepers is the heat in a suit. This is something you will just have to get used to. Beekeeper suits retain heat because, as I mentioned, they should form a seal that fully contains your body. If they let in too much air, they’d be redundant, because bees would be able to get in.
That said, learn to recognize when the heat is unhealthy. Extreme discomfort is not normal. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, short of breath, or have any other heat-induced symptoms, get out of your suit and cool yourself down immediately.
Keep in mind that when you are in the suit, you won’t be able to wipe sweat away or brush hair out of your face. Headbands and sweatbands can prove to be quite useful, but they contribute to the heat. Wearing them could either help or hinder your beekeeping. Experiment and find what works for you.
As for what to wear under your suit, that’s up to you, but it’s recommended that you wear something light and cool. Something sleeveless (or even sweatproof, like a moisture-wicking athletic shirt) is handy. You can get away with wearing shorts under a full suit too.
One other way to fight the heat while wearing your suit is to engage in smart beekeeping. Time your trips to the hive when it’s cool out. Try your best to work in the shade.
Avoid direct sunlight, or working in the hottest heat of the day. Don’t wear thick clothing underneath your suit, and take breaks whenever you can, in order to open the suit to cool down.
Don’t push it. Heatstroke can be deadly. Beekeeper suits are necessary, but they’re not worth making yourself sick over.
What to Look for in a Beekeeper Suit
It’s perfectly okay to choose a beekeeper suit that fits your style, but fashion should be the least of your concerns. To achieve all that I’ve covered above, there are a few things you’ll have to consider before you invest in a suit.
These are qualities and features that you can’t do without, so pay attention when you’re shopping for one.
Full Body Protection
To put it bluntly, there isn’t any point in wearing a suit if it doesn’t cover your entire body. If the other elements (gloves, boots, hats, and veils) aren’t included in your suit, you have to make sure that they will fit properly.
A beekeeper suit should act as a barrier between your skin and your bees. If there are gaps between each part of it, or if the suit is missing some components, you won’t be fully protected.
Check out this helpful video.
You’ll have a choice of fabric when picking a beekeeper suit. Traditional suits are made of canvas, which is uncomfortably hot. Newer beekeeping suits are ventilated and made of breathable mesh, like most veils.
If you’re looking for a modern mesh suit, you’ll want to get a layered one. The best you can hope for is triple-layered mesh. This will be thick enough to protect you from stings, but breezy enough to keep you cool.
Make sure that your suit, regardless of the material, is of good quality. Cheap materials won’t hold up as long as higher-grade materials will, and they’ll probably be flimsy too. Be sure that your beekeeper suit isn’t made from something ridiculous, like plastic. Be smart and think about the efficiency and comfort of what you’re buying.
Speaking of which, you should think about the quality of your veil too. The thickness of it could affect your ability to see. You want to make sure that your eyes and face are safe, but you don’t want to go in with limited vision.
A mesh veil that’s too thick (or too dark) could block your vision. A veil that’s too thin, too tight, or too close to your face will leave your face at risk. Make sure that your veil is large but not loose. Like the rest of the suit, you need good-grade mesh.
You shouldn’t have to replace your beekeeper hat too often. Cheap materials could tear easily and cost you more in the long run.
Heavier gloves protect better against stings but limit the precision of your hands. They can be difficult to work with, especially if you’re inexperienced. Lighter or thinner gloves could leave you at more risk, but you’ll have full control of your fingers. Gloves are usually made from leather, plastic, or cloth.
The only consideration here is to decide what’s more important to you—dexterity or extra protection. In a perfect world, go for something in between. When you’re starting out, I’d say go for the heavier ones.
You’ll have to adjust to them but it will be worth it. Bee stings on your hands aren’t pleasant. Save yourself the irritation whenever possible.
As for your boots, rubber is your best bet. They’re strong, durable, and bees won’t be able to penetrate the material. Just make sure that they fit well enough to seal off the suit by your legs. Bees will find a way into your suit whenever they can, and you don’t want them crawling up your pants.
If all of this sounds like too much, remember that while comfort is important, safety should be your top priority.
Lastly, you can choose which design suits you best, with special regard to your headgear. While the body suit, gloves, and boots don’t offer you much choice other than material, beekeeping helmets vary.
There are three types of veils, and they could affect your beekeeping.
Hood veils are most likely to protect you because the mesh is placed a good distance away from your face. Their flaw, though, is that they have to be exact. If they don’t fit properly, they can obscure your vision.
These are not only the most ventilated, but they also give you the best vision too. The only problem is that they’re big and could potentially get in the way of what you’re doing. They don’t sit tight and might require regular adjusting.
They’re the most common type of veil and are probably the first to come to mind when thinking about beekeepers.
Square veils come in two parts that are typically sold separately from each other—the hat and the veil. They’re spacious, breathable, and shouldn’t interfere with your vision too much.
They’re often the most affordable choice, but they’re not preferred. This is because they’re simply not as secure as the other two kinds, especially if you’re improvising to save money.
No matter which headpiece you pick, make sure that they can be attached to your suit, preferably by a zipper. Veils that are held in place with strings or elastics aren’t as safe.
How Should A Beekeeper Suit Fit?
You could choose a beekeeper suit that’s made of the best materials and take every precaution you can think of. If your suit doesn’t fit the way it’s supposed to, I guarantee you will still get stung.
The most important thing to remember is to buy a beekeeper suit that’s loose-fitting and baggy. If your suit is skin-tight, you’re still at risk of stings. You want some room between your skin and the suit. This way if bees manage to pierce it, you’ll still be safe.
That said, you need your suit to be as tight as possible around your wrists, ankles, and neck. If your suit doesn’t come with velcro fastenings, you will have to use string or elastic to hold it in place. Trust me, you don’t want bees crawling into your suit—and they will if given half a chance.
How to Look After and Maintain a Beekeeper Suit
Beekeeping suits are built to last, but they still require maintenance. If you take proper care of yours, it could last you for years. There is a method to this though. Treating it like an ordinary pair of jeans could damage it.
Keep It Clean
It might require some effort, but a smelly and gross beekeeper suit is the last thing you want (just trust me on that). Washing your suit will largely depend on its instructions. Some suits can be machine washed, others can’t.
If all else fails, follow the rule of thumb. Hand wash your veils and gloves (never machine wash them). Don’t use bleach. Hang your suit out to dry instead of tumble drying it.
Store It Well
Don’t store your beekeeper suit haphazardly. Hanging it up is best. You’ll want to make sure it’s stored far away from damaging objects or substances. Take special care of the mesh here. Sharp objects could tear it and render it useless.
Try not to fold your suit, and do your best to keep insects and bugs (like moths, that will try to eat the material) away from it.
Beekeeper suits are not only handy, but they’re also necessary if you want to save yourself the agony of being stung by your own bees. Some makes can also be used for protection against wasps, and even mosquitoes. Although they make a world of difference, they are not 100 percent sting-proof.
If you are a beginner beekeeper, you should consider buying one of the best beekeeper suits before you do anything else. Beekeepers handle bees and hives directly, and going in unprotected can be dangerous, especially if you are inexperienced. They might not be stylish or particularly comfortable, but they’re worth it. Get yourself one. You won’t regret it.