A beekeeping suit is an essential piece of equipment that protects from stings and allows the beekeeper to work safely. While many commercial beekeeping suits are on offer, making one can be more cost-effective and rewarding.
This simple, step-by-step guide walks you through how to make a beekeeping suit at home, using everyday materials.
What you need
- A white shirt with thick fabric like denim or cotton. Choose two sizes larger than usual so that it’s baggy and bee stings are less likely to reach your skin.
- Sewing machine or a needle and thread
- Stick-on velcro roll, 1-inch wide
- Scissors and measuring tape
- Roughly one yard of nylon mesh
How to make the shirt
- Using the scissors, cut off all the buttons, taking care not to damage the shirt. The smallest hole will allow a honey bee to enter.
- Stitch the buttonholes closed using a sewing machine or needle and white thread. Ensure all holes are sealed off, including the cuffs and collar. Test the stitching to make sure it won’t pop open, and add another set of stitches if needed.
- Measure the shirt’s length, from the collar’s bottom to the end of the shirttail. Cut two pieces of velcro to turn down each side of the shirt opening. Attach the sticky side of the velcro to the shirt – one strip where the buttonholes were, the other where the buttons used to be. For added strength, sew the velcro onto the shirt.
- Measure the length around the collar and sleeves, then cut velcro for the collar and each wrist. You’ll need one piece inside and outside of the collar; and two for each sleeve. Attaching these strips will allow for adjustment, meaning the opening can be tightened.
Note: Elastic bands will also work if you don’t want to attach velcro to the wrists.
How to make the hat and veil
- Find a hat with a wide brim, like a fedora or cowboy hat. It needs to have enough thickness to stop bee stings but not so thick that a needle can’t pierce it. Select a hat that won’t get too hot in summer and is firm enough to hold a veil without flopping.
- Measure the hat’s brim, then cut a piece of clear mesh one inch longer than the brim’s circumference. The fabric’s height should drape 5-6 inches below the shoulders.
- Make a tubular piece of mesh by double-stitching the ends together. Hand sew the veil onto the brim, using tiny whip stitches that bees will find too small to get through.
How to complete the homemade bee suit
- Pull on a pair of socks, then get into a pair of thick sweatpants and tightly secure the ankles and waist with elastic.
- Get into some grippy, sturdy boots that are ankle high or reach close to the knees. Tuck the pants into the footwear.
- Wear a loose shirt, then pull on the DIY beekeeping shirt over the top and tuck it into the pants. Put on the hat and ensure the end of the veil is tucked under the shirt. Use the velcro attachments to tighten the collar and wrists, ensuring there are no gaps for bees and wasps to get past.
- Pull on a set of gloves to protect the hands. Canvas gloves allow for easy movement compared to leather and goatskin ones, but you’ll get less protection.
What is the best material for a homemade beekeeping suit?
Protection and comfort are the most important features to consider in a beekeeping suit. You want a material that is thick enough to prevent bee stings yet lightweight and breathable enough to keep you comfortable during inspections.
- One of the most popular materials for homemade beekeeping suits is cotton. Cotton is breathable, comfortable, and offers some protection against bee stings.
- Other beekeeping suit materials that work well include canvas, denim, and twill. These materials are thicker and more durable.
- In some parts of Africa, they use a clean maize flour bag to cut out pieces and sew together a bee suit. It is a low-cost way to get protection from stings.
Can I make a beekeeping suit out of coveralls?
Loose-fitting, long-sleeved coveralls are easier to wear, but they cost more than using household items. Always use light-colored materials, preferably white, to help keep the hive calm.
To transform coveralls, simply sew elastic around the wrists and neck opening. They need to stop stinging insects without making the bee suit uncomfortable.
Want to learn more about beekeeping suits?
- Learn how to clean a bee suit.
How does a beekeeping suit and jacket differ?
- Get 26 handy bee suit tips.
- Discover some beekeeping suit alternatives.
Will a homemade bee suit protect me?
A homemade bee suit will offer some protection against bee stings, but the level of protection will depend on the materials and construction of the suit.
A poorly made bee suit may leave gaps where bees can sting through, while a well-made suit may work as well as a store-bought beekeeping suit.
Remember that no beekeeping suit is guaranteed to stop beekeepers from getting stung.
How long does it take to make a DIY bee suit?
If you’re handy using a sewing machine, a bee suit can be made within an hour or two. Beginner tailors should allow an extra hour to get the job done.