beekeeping equipment

Why are bee suits white?

Why are bee suits white? Good question. Presumably bee suits are white because honey bees don’t like black. I’ve read that bees will attack dark things that move because they think that they are bears or skunks or raccoons. I’ve also read that bees will attack dark areas of the body such as the eyes.

But here’s one that tops all: I’ve read that if you wear pink, honey bees will gather around you because they think you are a flower. Really?

These explanations leave unanswered questions. For example, there are many colors that are neither black nor white nor pink. How do they affect the bees?

Also, if bees are so focused on black, why is it that most bee suits—especially the types with built-in hoods—have black netting over your face and eyes? Shouldn’t that be the very last place to be black? If you wear a white suit and a black veil are you not making your face a target?

Honey bees are not easily deceived

I was asked for my opinion on this, so here it is: I think bees are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Honey bees know you are a “threat” because you move and breathe and pry open their homes. They are not going to change their minds about you if you wear white, or blue, or pink polka dots. And trust me, they know you are not a flower.

I’ve worn light clothes and dark clothes and never noticed a difference in bee behavior. I’ve worn black veils and white veils, too, and saw no change. In my opinion, the aggressiveness of honey bees is more dependent on the variety, the season, the colony life cycle, the time of day, the temperature, the state of the queen, and the health of the colony. You can dress like a snowman, but you’re not going to fool your bees.

At least one company I know of—B.J. Sherriff in the U.K.—sells bee suits in colors. Way to go. Last I checked they had orange, blue, aqua and other choices as well. I’ve also seen pictures of bee suits made in forest camouflage, which also seems to make sense.

What I really want is a dingy gray suit with pre-printed brownish orange stripes across the front and green stains on the legs and seat. That is what mine look like after a few weeks anyway, so why not start there? The bees are busy being bees . . . and they just don’t seem to care.

Honey Bee Suite


  • In this part of the world we do not wear a veil or a bee suit … too hot …. Normal clothes of any color do not attract attention. A veil is worn by a minority but it is to keep the mosquitos off rather than the bees.

    I was told that bee suits are white because darker colors have a strong smell due to the dye added to give the color and that does not go down too well with the bees.

    • Thanks, Peter. Dye in the fabric is an explanation I haven’t heard before. Interesting.

      If I recall, your part of the world is Thailand. I cannot imagine the heat inside a bee suit in that climate. Here, I can hardly stand them when the temperature rises above 60 F. Do you use smoke or something else to keep the bees at bay?

  • I was asked this question just today by a friend who came by for a bee sting to get rid of her tendinitis. I will have to tell her what I have learned!!! Thanks!

  • What if you disguised yourself as a little rain cloud like Winnie the Pooh? That might fool them! Very interesting, I have been choosing my new bee suit and wondering what colour is best. I may as well go for pink!

  • The secret is that bees sit around in the hive all night, watching really old western movies.

    Thus they think that the good guy always wears white and the bad guy always wears black.

    Of course your bees wouldn’t know this, because you live way out in the woods where the bees can’t get their favorite cable channels, like AMC. Thus they will sting anyone that comes near, just because they’re miffed over having to watch broadcast TV. 😀

  • I really didn’t think it mattered until I wore some different gloves black and yellow and my bees which never bother me went wild stinging the black portion of the gloves!

  • My bees sting me when I wear black and they also only attacked the black dog. I don’t think they like dark colours.

    • Marcelle,

      My bees sting me when I wear white and they attack my white dog, so I don’t think it’s the colors. It’s people and dogs they don’t like.

      • I”m gonna have to say that black is most definitely an antagonist. I”ve been walking around my hives plenty this season so far with no problems, even during massive orientation flights. I wore a black sweater last Sunday with no vale and i was stung twice through the sweater (shoulder and back) and chased away once. I switched to a white shirt and no problems.

  • I think bee suits are white because honey harvest is when you need them most, and that tends to be in hot weather on a sunny day, and dark colors would make the poor beekeeper even hotter and sweatier than she already is from lifting those boxes.

    • Granny,

      That’s what people always say, but my camouflage bee suit which is really dark, it the most comfortable and coolest one I have. I think it has more to do with the design than the color.

  • Rusty,

    Maybe you could sell your marked up bee suits at a premium! Like acid washed jeans or jeans with “fashionable” holes already in them for $200.

    Get this seasons latest fashion! Propolis stained bee suits! Only on!

    This way people wouldn’t worry about keeping their new suits clean.


  • I couldn’t sleep, woke up at 4 am and found this website. Either I was extra silly or these posts just kept getting funnier ending with the bees watching old westerns and me laughing out loud and almost waking up my sleeping husband. LOL.

  • Bees don’t like black. I have been stung more times in areas where I had on black. Got really busted by some hot bees on my ankles where “Nike” was written in black. I have been outside in my yard with hives all around me wearing shorts and no shirt. I was digging not far from some of the hives. My actions gave me a few head bumps. But the only “shot” I took was on my wrist. I had on a watch with a black strap.

    Sometimes bees are aggressive on any color because they are harassed all night by other predators. Perfume/hairspray tend to make bees more “buzzy” around people. Perhaps they lady’s white dog is bathed with perfumed shampoo.

    I sweat a lot. So it is not unusual for bees and butterflies to land on me for some free salt. When this happens neither the bees or butterflies want to leave even with a few gentle brushes of the hand.

    I agree about having a new suit/coat that comes in a “dirty” color scheme. Between my sweat, honey, propolis, and anything else that sticks to the just mentioned the pristine white is gone in just a few hours. In the past I just washed the coat when it really smelled of me before I put it on. But that is a mistake. You are constantly taking hits from the workers while in the suit which absorbs the alarm pheromone. Between the sweat and pheromone I have bees attacking me as soon as I put the coat on prior to getting in the hives. Sometime this could be 100′ or more away. Not to mention the amount of flies that I can’t seem to ever get out of my truck in the summer.

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