Shedding gloves naturally
I just read another lengthy diatribe about gloves. Apparently, if you wear gloves you are not a “real” beekeeper. This kind of BS irritates me no end.
This particular article wasted a lot of ink on how to wean yourself from gloves. You go from thick leather, to thin leather, to dishwashing gloves, to latex, to nothing. It talks about psyching yourself up for the task of bear-handedness. The first day you stand in the apiary—gloveless. Next day, you take off the outer cover—gloveless. And on and on. How inane.
The article has you “becoming accustomed” to your bees by smoking everything—the bee yard, your hands, clothing, outside the hive, inside the hive. Smoke, smoke, smoke. Clouds of it everywhere. That is moronic. That is not “becoming accustomed” to bees, that’s just replacing one suit of armor with another.
Speaking of smoke and psychology reminds me of a roommate I had in college. She was deathly afraid of snakes and signed up for a series of sessions designed to cure her fear. The first day she had to be in a room with a snake in a cage. The next time, she had to take one step closer. Then two steps . . . and so on, for weeks and weeks. But between sessions, she became so anxious she went from smoking a pack a day to two. Long term, which is worse? A fear of snakes or a two-pack a day habit?
I’ve seen a form of this in beekeepers, as well. Some newbees, in their lust to become “real,” simply avoid inspecting their hives altogether rather than having to do it gloveless. Sure, a thick glove my kill more bees than a bare hand, but long term, which is worse? Squishing a few extra bees or not checking them at all?
Beekeepers who have recently shed their gloves are the worst when it comes to giving advice. They are just as self-righteous as reformed drinkers, smokers, and sinners. Seriously, I’m happy for those people; they have accomplished something. But must they rub it in your face?
My advice to beekeepers? Forget it. Wear what makes you comfortable. You will do the best for your bees when you are relaxed around them.
The first time I did a gloveless hive inspection I didn’t even realize it until I was almost done. I was worried about the hive and had a mental list of things I wanted to check. I was so intent on not forgetting the list that I forgot my gloves instead. As I was putting the hive back together I got stung on the finger—and suddenly realized I was gloveless. That was easy enough.
This will happen to you, too. It will happen naturally—at the right time for you—without any stress or strange rituals. In the meantime, don’t make a stigma out of nothing. I still wear gloves when I feel like it. Or I don’t, if I don’t. If someone decides my gloves indicate I’m not a “real” beekeeper, that is their problem, not mine.