How to Get the Best Protection From Your Bee Suit
Bee suits are made from thick, tightly woven materials that create a barrier between the beekeeper and the bees. However, even with a bee suit, there is still a chance that a bee’s stinger can penetrate the fabric or find an area of the suit that is less protected.
You can take precautions to minimize the risk of stings when wearing a bee suit. Some of these precautions include:
- Ensuring that the suit fits properly with no loose or exposed areas
- Wearing gloves and socks that seal the openings of the suit
- Running a smoker when working with bees to help calm them down
- Avoiding sudden movements or aggressive actions when handling bees
Remember that wearing a bee suit significantly reduces the likelihood of being stung, but how you handle your bees will influence how much the bees want to sting you.
Bee Suit Materials and Protection
Thickness and Layers
Thicker materials and multiple layers make it more difficult for a bee’s stinger to penetrate the fabric. However, these thicker materials can also be less comfortable and more restrictive for the wearer. Bee suits commonly use cotton, polyester, and specially designed sting-resistant fabrics. In countries where these fabrics are unaffordable, they find sustainable alternatives. For example, someone came up with a design for a bee suit from a well-washed maize flour bag, a readily available material in various parts of Africa. You can read more about it here. It’s low-tech but shows you the fundamentals needed to protect yourself.
Ventilated bee suits provide protection and comfort by allowing air to circulate, keeping the wearer cool. These suits usually feature multiple layers, with the outer layer made of mesh material to prevent stings. While the ventilation helps with comfort, it doesn’t make the suit entirely sting-proof, as bees may still find small openings to sting through.
Seams and Zippers
Bees can exploit even the smallest openings in a suit, so it’s essential to have secure and well-sealed seams and zippers. Using proper protective gear like gloves and ensuring seams and zippers are fully closed can help reduce the likelihood of being stung.
Bee Suit Fit and Coverage
There are three aspects of fit and coverage to consider when choosing your bee suit. They are sizing and adjustability, gloves and boots, and head and face protection.
Sizing and Adjustability
A suit that is too tight may cause discomfort and make it easier for bees to sting through the fabric. A suit that’s too loose creates gaps where bees can enter, especially around the wrist and ankles. Most bee suits are available in multiple sizes and offer adjustability features like elastic waistbands, drawstrings, or Velcro closures.
Gloves and Boots
Hands and feet are common targets for bee stings. Choose gloves that offer protection and dexterity for handling tools and beekeeping equipment. Most beekeeping gloves on the market are leather, which is soft enough to allow you to work in the hive but makes it difficult for tasks that require you to be gentle, like picking up the queen.
On the other hand, nitrile gloves, which are thinner and made of a synthetic material a little thicker than latex, allow for more flexibility but offer less protection. That said, for reasons we don’t yet understand, despite being thinner, the bees don’t seem to get through as much as you’d think, so they are worth a try if you don’t have other alternatives.
Head and Face Protection
A sting around the eye, nose, or mouth can be excruciating and extremely distracting, making it difficult for any beekeeper to complete a task in the hive. That’s why most bee suits come equipped with a veil or a hood that covers the entire head and has a mesh window for visibility. This mesh helps keep bees away from the face while still allowing proper ventilation and clear sightlines. Some beekeeping suits offer removable veils or hoods for added convenience and customization.
Reducing the Risk of Bee Stings
Beekeeping Best Practices
It’s important to wear the appropriate protective gear, such as loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and pants, gloves, and a bee suit, all of which protect you from honey bee stings.
Secondly, never swat at a bee. Bees are usually gentle creatures that only sting when provoked or threatened. Therefore, staying calm and avoiding sudden movements around bees reduces the risk of stings.
Dealing with Aggressive Bees
At times, you may encounter aggressive bees while beekeeping. In such situations, move slowly and deliberately to avoid provoking the bees further. If necessary, seek assistance from an experienced beekeeper or a professional to handle the situation safely. If the colony is repeatedly defensive, meaning they react the same way every time you get near them, requeen that colony as soon as possible.
Monitoring for Allergic Reactions
Individuals allergic to bee stings should be extra cautious and take steps to minimize their exposure to bees. Always have essential allergy medications and equipment, such as an epinephrine auto-injector nearby in case of a bee sting. Don’t forget to inform those around you of your allergy so they can assist in case of an emergency.
The likelihood of getting stung through a full-body bee suit is quite low, particularly when precautions are taken to ensure proper fit and closure at zippers and other openings, but it will happen.
Choose a quality bee suit made from durable, thick fabric, choose light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and double-check the zippers and wrist closures on your suit and gloves.
Unless you are allergic to bee venom, a sting or two won’t cause you too much hassle, but it hurts and can slow you down as a beginner. Taking the necessary precautions allows you to work with your bees safely and confidently.