beekeeping equipment

A bee suit is worth the money

New beekeepers sometimes ask if they really need to buy a bee suit. With all the start-up costs of a new hive, it may seem like a good place to save a little money. And then, in the early spring when you first get your bees, you may be even more convinced you don’t need one. After all, your newly hived bees with no brood or honey stores are surprisingly good natured.

But once the weather warms and the queen is busily laying eggs, the bees start getting a bit testy. Later, when the hive is overflowing with workers and a host of guards, they become even more aggressive.

In my opinion, you need at least a hat and veil. You can make do with long-sleeved clothing and a pair of jeans, but you need to protect your face and neck. The bees, who are defending the hive, will strike where you are most vulnerable. Even if you don’t mind getting stung, it is disconcerting and distracting (if not worse) to have bees butting into you.

Whenever I’m around the hives without a veil, they seem to go for my hair and I can’t get them out. They keep working their way deeper and deeper until they finally plant their stinger where they want it. I’ve seen them do this to my cat as well. They’ll get in his fur and just burrow down through it until they find flesh.

I started out with a jacket-type suit with an attached veil. This works pretty well most of the time. Still, if I have a lot to do on a summer day, they will sting right through my jeans. If the jacket rides up in the back, they go for that too. After a number of years making do with just the jacket, I finally opted for the complete suit. Now when they get me, it’s usually through my socks, just below the elastic ankles.

The thing to remember is that once one stings you, the others respond to the alarm pheromone. So where there was one bee intent on making you leave, now there are dozens. It’s hard for a beekeeper to do a thorough job of checking his hives if he’s not protected from this frenzy.

The other thing to remember is that a bee suit protects your clothing. I always have horizontal lines of propolis on my suit where I’ve braced a heavy super against myself as I moved it from place to place. Propolis is next to impossible to remove from fabric. If you can save a few changes of clothes from all the staining, your bee suit will pay for itself in no time.


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  • I found that a painters all in one white overall was made of stronger material than bee suits. I took my overall to a tailor’s shop and asked for all pockets and the front to have metal zippers put in. I provided the man with the ‘fencers’ type of hood and he sewed those zippers on and applied velcro onto the front of that and the top of the overall. The whole thing cost less than an all in one bee suit and I am 100% protected if I do need to open any hive at all…. And I have an awful lot of zippered pockets for stuff…..

    I have an allergy to stings, not like anaphalactic but that could develop if I get stung too much.

  • As you say, a new package of bees is quite docile. I’m cheap so I started out with a pop-up mesh laundry basket on my head (square – with shoulders at the corners). My husband thought it was pretty funny.

    It actually worked quite well. $3 at Walmart.

    The next year, I got a hat-veil combo. Worked well for a couple of years, but then the screen part started developing holes as fast as I could patch them.

    Betterbee has these Lyson children’s suits that seemed like they would fit me and they’re less than $50. We recently did a cutout, and I was so glad to have the full suit. Geez, bees are sooooo angry when you do a cutout! It was a huge hive up a ladder in a falling-apart building. They were ramming the suit like crazy and actually stung me thru the glove at the wrist, but nowhere else.

    I think anyone under 5’2” and 135 lb could easily wear the children’s suit. I’m 5 ft and 105 and find it quite roomy.

    I’m doing more invasive things, like splits and I have a 9-frame observation hive that it’s hard to get frames out of and now would not be without a full suit.

    You can also wear a tank top or bathing suit under it with impunity rather than having to trudge out to the bee yard in long pants/sleeves when it’s hot.

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