Choosing a beekeeping suit is something that can be a bit of a mystery when just starting out as a beekeeper. I know that I had no idea what to look for, and so just looked for something cheap. Well, that’s what I got, and when it comes to preventing bee stings, cheap isn’t the way to go. In other parts of the country, where you have sweet little bees who aren’t out to kill you every now and then, it may be okay to skimp a little. I mean how often do you see northern beekeepers out there in their shorts and t-shirts handling their beehives? Seems like a dream. However, it’s not something that happens often here in Arizona where the bees just seem a little meaner and a lot more Africanized. I like to help my beekeeper friends with bee extractions too, so you always want to be prepared for an aggressive, non-managed colony.
Now that I have a little experience under my belt, I’d like to help a few of my newbie beekeepers out by sharing a bit of advice on what to look for in your protective gear.
Beekeeping suits are not supposed to be tight-fitting. You really want it to be roomy enough to keep the bees from getting their stingers through the fabric and into your skin, but not so large that you can’t move well. Assume you will look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man, and get over your vanity.
Things I look for
Make sure the zipper doesn’t end or begin in the back, only the front.
I love my suit, but I also think having a beekeeping jacket as a spare is really useful. It’s nice to be able to quickly put it on to check something (or go prune the tree around the behave). I can also let a friend put it on if they want to see the bees or help me with something. I would prefer to have a jacket with a hood similar to my bee suit, but I have this cheaper version for now.
This type of veil is more like a hat with veil material attached around it. It is long and the veil material fits over your head and into your jacket. Not super comfy. I think it would work better with an additional hard hat underneath.
These are some gloves I am reviewing. The white gloves on the left are goat skin, which is thinner than the yellow cow hide. All of them are super soft and pliable. These gloves are size Large, and I think they are a little big for me. Medium would be perfect.
Whenever I get stung with my suit on, it’s almost always right there in my wrist where the gloves crease. That’s why its so important for me to have gloves like any of these three that have something to prevent bees from getting their stingers in. The leather usually does the job, but if you have fabric that creases there, plan on getting stung.
The thick layer of mesh here will definitely keep the stingers out and help my hands be cool. The goatskin is thinner than cowhide, which makes it nice when maneuvering frames.
The yellow cowhide gloves are about twice as thick as the goatskin, but just as soft. These would be great for doing colony extractions. They come with a tough canvas wrist guard or with an additional strip of venting fabric to keep your hands cool. The vented gloves are also longer, coming to halfway up my bicep. I really like these because they are so comfortable and roomy in the sleeves.
Ventilated Beekeeper Suits
They do make bee suits almost entirely out of that mesh fabric, which would be very nice during the summer in Arizona. I think I will have to try one out. Everyone I know who has one likes it. The only complaint is that it doesn’t absorb sweat, so it gets uncomfortable in that way.
The only thing left is to make sure that you wear boots to keep the bees from going into your pants and stinging you. When dealing with Africanized bees here in Arizona I have to also tell you that duct tape may also be necessary. Should you get a hole or your zipper not close completely, an Africanized bee WILL find a way in. Sometimes you don’t get the zipper right or your seem starts to come undone. Having a roll of duct tape in your pocket is some added comfort.
That’s it for the basics.
There are a number of types of veils and hats, along with varying quality of beekeeping suits. Get the best you can afford and what feels the most comfortable to you. I have a number of beekeeping equipment suppliers listed with links in this post. Check them all out. If you live in the Phoenix area, you can also visit Shoppers Supply store, Crockett’s Honey, and various feed stores for local supplies. Amazon, of course, is another resource.