Beekeeping suits protect beekeepers from aggressive bees and keep them cool on hot days. Combined with a smoker and experience, the risk of getting stung is much less.
If you’re new to hive inspections, this guide to beekeeping suits is essential reading. We look at how they work, the parts of a complete outfit, and what to consider before buying one.
What is a beekeeper suit?
Beekeepers wear a beekeeping suit to protect them from bee stings and other aggressive pollinators like yellow jackets. Modern suits consist of full-body overalls, a hooded veil, and gloves. Elastic in the ankles and wrists is vital for blocking bees from accessing skin.
1. Beekeeping jackets and pants
The main component of a beekeeping suit is the jacket and pants. They’re connected seamlessly as a single piece, like overalls, to reduce the number of entry points for insects to enter.
Beekeeping jackets will vary in design, but the best brands have detachable veils. This feature means beekeepers can easily remove the face cover when out of the danger zone. The ability to unzip the hood is also helpful when the time comes to machine wash the beekeeping suit.
At the front of the jacket is a zip that runs from the neck to the waist. It makes for easy removal; on hot days, open it to let in cool air. Most jacket manufacturers use a YKK zipper, known for durability and ease of use.
Pockets are a vital part of a beekeeping jacket. They’re commonly found on the chest, waist, sleeves, or legs and may use velcro for easy sealing. Six or more pockets are handy for holding mobile phones, pens, inspection checklists, tools, medication, etc.
- Elasticated cuffs and ankles are a crucial part of the beekeeping outfit. Tightened elastic keeps our inquisitive and angry bees and wasps.
- Pop a magnet in your pocket for attaching a hive tool when not in use.
- Choose a suit size that’s larger than your actual size. The extra room allows for clothing underneath and makes movement easier.
2. Beekeeper hat and veil
A hat and veil defend a beekeeper’s head and neck from attack. The best ones detach from the jacket, but not all of them. Pay special attention to this feature, as it’s not ideal to be unable to separate the two.
The veil is made with a see-through material like high-visibility mesh. It keeps out stinging insects without impeding the view of the wearer.
There are various styles of beekeeper’s veil hoods, including the following:
A fencing veil is similar to those used by fencers and is a popular option for professional beekeepers. It looks like a hoodie but has stiff material that keeps the hat from resting on the head.
- Comfortable, cooler design
- More protection than a round veil
- May have a distracting, narrow viewing area
- Won’t move as well with head movement
The classic round veil sits on top of the beekeeper’s head. It offers a wide view and ample space between the protective mesh and the face.
- Wider, unobstructed view
- Moves in unison as the head moves
- A brim offers excellent sun protection
- May be stifling on hot days
The square veil offers a good mix of ventilation and view, thanks to mesh at the front and sides. Most manufacturers design square veils to fold them up for easy storage.
- Good viewing area
- Excellent ventilation on hot days
- Easy storage
- Less common design
3. Beekeeping gloves
Beekeeping gloves are an accessory, usually sold separately from the suit. They shield the hands from unwanted stings.
These specialized gloves typically have sleeves covering the forearms and an elastic end to keep everything secure.
The hands and wrists are common areas for stings, so choosing a quality pair of gloves is worth the expense. The arm section could be canvas or cotton, but ventilation is important on hot days.
- High-quality leather gloves offer the best protection but are bulky, and holding bees is challenging.
- Goatskin gloves provide greater flexibility than cowhide, but they’re thinner.
- Nitrile exam gloves offer the best dexterity as well as reasonable protection.
Recommended: Check out our practical tips for beekeeping suits to help you choose, use, and store one the right way.
4. Beekeeper boots
The choice of beekeeping boot will come down to the individual. A style that comes close to the knees gives the best cover. However, they get hot, so consider ankle-high boots for quick inspections.
Specialist beekeeping boots aren’t necessary for hobbyists. But choosing waterproof, grippy boots that are easy to tuck the beekeeping suit legs into is worthwhile.
While not essential, choosing odor-resistant footwear will help reduce bee aggression on return visits.
Benefits of wearing a bee suit
Protection from bee stings: the suit is designed to cover the entire body, providing a barrier between the beekeeper and the bees.
Increased confidence: beekeepers feel more confident and in control when working with their bees, reducing anxiety and stress.
Sun protection: suits offer protection from the sun’s harsh rays and don’t absorb as much heat as colorful clothing.
Professional appearance: commercial beekeepers look more professional, helping establish customer credibility.
Durability: A good quality beekeeping suit should be durable and withstand the rigors of regular use.
Disadvantages of wearing bee suits
Heat: Beekeeping suits add a second layer of clothing, so they’re often hot and restrictive to work in.
Reduced visibility: veils restrict the wearer’s vision, making it more challenging to conduct hive inspections.
Cost: Good quality beekeeping suits can be expensive, especially those made from high-quality materials, which may be a barrier to those on a tight budget.
Tip: If these bee suit pitfalls are an obstacle, check out our beekeeping suit alternative options. You’ll need experience and a docile colony to consider these.
Types of material used for beekeeping suits
Beekeeping suits come in a range of materials that each have their advantages and disadvantages.
Cotton: A popular, thick fabric that bees struggle to penetrate. It has been used for centuries, but cotton canvas tends to overheat in warm weather.
Mesh: Some modern suits have layers of mesh that are thick enough to ward off stingers. These suits are excellent in summer thanks to their breathable fabric. However, they are less durable than other materials.
Nylon: Nylon makes it hard for bees to grip the fabric; it is tricky for them to deliver a sting. This material is breathable as mesh or cotton and lacks absorbing properties beneficial on hot, humid summer days.
When to wear a beekeeping suit
The choice of when to wear a beekeeping suit will depend on the beekeeper’s preference. While some always wear full protective gear, others will only use it during invasive tasks. We recommend beginner beekeepers wear full protective gear until they gain experience around honey bees.
Bee defensiveness and aggressiveness will vary by breed. While some races are comfortable with human intruders, others won’t hesitate to sting. Africanized bees are incredibly aggressive, while Italian bees are more docile.
You may also like to read whether a bee suit or jacket is best.
Commonly asked questions
Why are beekeeping suits white?
Beekeeping suits are white as they absorb less heat on sunny days. White garments are also a neutral color that bees find calming.
Is a full or partial beekeeping suit best?
Wearing a complete bee suit offers excellent protection from stings, but it’s heavier, hotter, and cumbersome to inspect hives. Partial suits are cooler, easier to put on, and movement is more straightforward. Of course, if the hive takes exception to your presence, you’ll probably end up with many stings.
Can bees sting through a bee suit?
Although bee-protective suits offer excellent protection from stings, none are 100% sting proof. A stinger will occasionally penetrate the material, and agitated bees can find their way into the smallest of gaps.
Do I need to wear a bee suit?
Beginner beekeepers should always wear a full bee suit with gloves and a veil, as their stress levels will be higher, putting the colony on alert.
Mistakes are also common with beekeeping newbies, so it’s good to have a wearable safety barrier as a backup. Bees are wild animals, so even the most experienced keeper could get severe stings if unlucky.
If you’re on a budget, consider making a DIY beekeeping suit with low-cost household items.
Where can I buy a beekeeping suit?
Beekeeping jackets, veils, and other accessories are easy to find at beekeeping supply stores. The benefit of visiting a physical store is trying on the gear before buying. There are also many online stores offering beekeeping suits in a wide variety of styles and prices.
Are there times when bee suits aren’t needed?
New beekeepers should wear a full suit every time they visit a hive. More experiences beeks sometimes go without for quick, less intrusive visits like refilling a water feeder.
Are bee suits wasp-proof?
While bee suits offer resistance to wasps, they are not wasp-proof.
What should I wear under a bee suit?
Wear loose-fitting, light clothes that won’t get too hot under a bee suit. Long sleeves and pants provide extra protection under the suit. If you find loose jeans comfortable, they offer a secondary safeguard against stingers.
Beekeeping suits give protection from hot weather, aggressive bees, and other stinging insects. They consist of a full-body suit with a hooded veil, gloves, and boots.
Whether or not you need to wear a beekeeping suit depends on your experience with bees and personal preference. Here at Bee Professor, we encourage people to wear them. It may not be the most comfortable kit to work in, but it’s much better than an angry hive stinging you repeatedly.