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Beekeeping Suits: An Ultimate Buying Guide for Beekeepers

Beekeeping Suits: An Ultimate Buying Guide for Beekeepers


There’s a lot to know to become a pro beekeeper. What to wear? Where to buy it? Why you need it all? And, how to avoid getting stung. Beekeeping can be a potentially risky activity, but when done safely it is incredibly enjoyable and relaxing. Bees are not typically aggressive creatures, and their survival is essential to humans. Globally there are more honeybees than other types of bee and pollinating insects. Making honeybees the world's most important pollinator of food crops.


If you’re looking to get into beekeeping, below is a guide compromised to make your life that little bit easier. Answering all you need to know before getting your own bees.


What is a Beekeeping suit?

Beekeeping suits have been an important garment for centuries, evolving from wicker masks with limited visibility to a modern design with long sleeves and a transparent veil. The veil is an essential part of the beekeeping suit which hangs down past the shoulders to protect the beekeeper’s head, face, and neck.


A bee suit should never be too tight, a proper fit can be worn loose, but not baggy. The fit should allow for easy movement while also properly covering your body whether you are standing up straight or bent down. When you consider sizing, make sure that you have plenty of room to bend and twist. However, if the suit is too big, you can trip on the excess fabric.


When purchasing a bee suit, take measurements and read the sizing guide to make sure it fits correctly.


When picking your bee suit, if you’re a glasses wearer, make sure to wear them while trying on the suit.

What are beekeeping suits made of?

A typical, full body bee suit is a single garment normally made from heavy, white cotton canvas or several layers of mesh netting that is bee-proof. It will have long sleeves with elastic at the ends to close around your wrists and long legs with elastic to close around your ankles. This is to avoid any curious bees wandering inside the suit.


Some beekeeping suits are made of nylon. But, because nylon is slippery, bees are unable to land on it and are more likely to sting the beekeeper. Nylon is also not as breathable as cotton so the wearer will get sweaty more quickly.


Can bees sting through bee suit?

The short answer is yes. Bees can sting you through the suit but wearing a bee suit does greatly lessen the chances of getting stung.


To avoid a bee sting as best you can, wearing baggy clothes that are not tight against your skin is the best bet. The further away the clothing is from your skin, the more space between you and the sting.


Bees will try and sting through any kind of clothing that you are wearing, regardless of the material. Always wear thicker rather than thinner layers.


What is the best material for a bee suit?

Bee suits are typically made of a thick cotton canvas. The cotton provides great defence against bee stings, but it can also get quite hot, especially in the summer. Ventilated bee suits are available and are made of several layers of breathable mesh. The mesh material provides much more air flow than cotton which can reduce the feeling of claustrophobia and overheating.


Some beekeepers prefer to not wear a bee suit as it can reduce mobility and visibility. If you opt not to wear a bee suit, wearing something light coloured, layered and baggy is encouraged to avoid stings.


A smooth fabric, which allows bees that may land on your suit to fly away easily, without being hampered by loose fibres is recommended. Caught bees will become angry and are more likely to sting.


Cotton suits are ideal for regions with mild summers. Polycotton is a blend of cotton and polyester that makes the suit durable. Ventilated bee suits are made up of three layers composed of synthetic layers on the outside and a foam core in the centre. The foam creates an air gap, large enough for a bee stinger to get stuck in it without contacting skin.


An aerated suit is made from polycotton fabric but will have foam panels for additional air flow. If you live in an area with hot, humid summers, you may opt for a ventilated or aerated suit to keep you cooler.


Why do beekeepers wear white?

In order to be able to evolve bees have had to learn to protect themselves against predators. Therefore, by wearing white, a beekeeper can go relatively undetected as a non-threat and approach and open the hive without the bees becoming defensive and attacking. This decreases the chances of the beekeeper being attacked/stung.


Do bee suits protect from wasps?

‘The Complete Professional Bee Suit’ can protect against most stinging and biting insects including wasps, hornets and spiders.


Regular suits will help avoid stings from wasps, but as they are typically more aggressive this cannot be guaranteed. Wearing thick, baggy clothing is the best option for attempting to avoid a sting, but it is of course, a hazard of the job.


Are bee suits washable?

Most beekeeping suits and jackets are machine washable, except for the veil part which can become bent or snagged by the main body's zipper and closures. For this reason, it is important to purchase a suit or jacket with a fully detachable veil.


Washing a bee suit is very important, as a dirty suit may still contain stingers from previous bee stings. Old stingers may still carry a pheromone alerting the other bees to attack.


How to maintain my bee suit?

It is recommended that you inspect your beekeeping suit every time you want to use it. Checking specifically for any rips, tears, or holes. Bees tend to find these weaknesses and crawl into small spaces and holes. Once you have the suit on, inspect again for any gaps, making sure all zippers are closed.


Always wash your suit. If bees try to sting you while you’re wearing your suit, the stingers will give off a scent that can be alarming to bees the next time you wear it. This can result in more bees attacking you. Washing your suit will remove any leftover stingers.


To wash a suit, remove the veil (which is hand wash only) and wash the suit alone in the machine with cold water. Cotton suits can be put in the dryer on low heat, although it’s recommended to hang dry suits to minimise damage.


Store your suit properly when not in use. Ideally, hang your suit upright and try to avoid contact with any sharp corners or objects.


Visit for ultimate Guide on protecting your bee suit


The best colour for a bee suit?

The default colour for beekeepers’ suit is white and it is normally advised that beekeepers stay away from wearing dark-coloured suits when tending to their bees. Having white suits is not a must but dark colours can trigger a prey response in bees and therefore evoke aggression in bees' behaviour.


What are beekeeping suits called?

A beekeeping suit may look different and funny, but it doesn’t have a strange name. They’re just called a bee suit.


Aside from a suit, you’ll need some other additions to your beekeeper outfit to stay safe and look the part.


A complete bee keeping suit:

A smoker: a beekeeper’s number one defence against stings. The bees pick up on the smoke signal and start preparing for a hive fire. They will then consume honey as fast as they can so they will have nutrition to take with them as they prepare to move the colony away from the “burning” hive. The excess honey puts the bees in a sort of food coma, where they become lethargic and less aggressive, and therefore less likely to sting.


Gloves: gloves need to be long enough at the cuff to prevent bees getting up your sleeves. An elasticated cuff around the wrist provides additional protection if the cuffs on your bee suit or jacket are open and have no elastic. Some beekeepers prefer to use latex gloves because it’s easier to feel with the fingers for more fiddly tasks when inspecting the hive. Bee keeping gloves are made of heavy cotton and are long, meant to go up the arm toward the elbow. It’s important to note that glove sizes are made for men, so if you’re a lady beekeeper, keep this in mind!


Boots: sturdy boots, wellingtons or specially created leggings can be worn with the bee suit. It is important to note some additional care will have to be taken to ensure bees cannot congregate around the tops of boots and find their way in.


Suit: There are many different suit designs to choose from, all offering different amounts of coverage. Some are half suits which protect the torso and arms. Some are complete suits that cover the entire body. Bee suits are not 100% effective, and a bee can still sting through the material in the right conditions, but a suit lessens the chance greatly.


A veil: a veil protects the face and head from stings. The veil usually has some sort of brim, or stiff construction to keep the veil fabric away from the face and head. This prevents stings from meeting the skin. There is usually a mesh front so the keeper can see and breath. There are several options of the veil to pick from, and each has its own positives and negatives.


Hood veil: Offers surpassing protection to the head and neck as well as minimising the connection between the veil and the head. However, if the design is not pertinent, it can restrain the view from certain angles.


Round veil: It has plenty of space between the mesh and the head and provides a wide field of view. It features a unique design and breathable mesh which provides excellent ventilation and assists the keeper in staying cooler on a sunny day.

Square veil: It has a separate mesh veil and a hardhat. The side mesh allows adequate ventilation, and the front mesh is spacious for a good view.


Features to look out for in a bee suit

With all bee suits, there are a few features you might want to prioritise, such as:

Strong pockets: sufficiently deep and robust pockets are useful for items such as the hive tool and other bits of equipment you may need handy.

Ventilation: breathable and comfortable fabric is important for comfort when beekeeping. As well as finding something strong enough to help shield your skin from stings.

Washable: machine washable for the suit, and hand washable for the veil. Some bee suits are not washable, but this is not easily noticeable in the product description when purchasing the suit. However, hygiene is incredibly important to protect the bees and yourself. If you are uncertain from the description if your suit is washable, you should contact the retailer.

Additional space: You’ll potentially need space underneath the suit for wearing additional layers, to protect against cold weather as well protection against potential stings.

Quality zippers and fastenings: reliable zippers and fastenings are important to seal off area’s bees could sneak into, as well as keeping things safe in pockets. Additionally, if you do find a bee in your suit, a reliable zip is essential for a quick strip down and escape.


Other tips:

Purchasing bee suits can be relatively expensive, so purchasing from a retailer who offers a warranty is advised. Better still, finding a reliable retailer with multiple positive customer reviews over several years is a good option.

  • All zippers must be closed completely

  • The arms and the leg cuffs of the suit must be elasticated

  • If possible, secure flaps over the zippers with Velcro

  • Avoid gaps where the veil is attached to the suit


Once you’re suited and booted:

All the clothing items advised can help to prevent stings, but do not guarantee complete protection. Usually when a sting happens, it is when a bee climbs up one of the garments and gets trapped or nearly squished.


Some beekeepers will advise to wear what makes you feel comfortable rather than an entire bee suit. However, if you’re a novice, a bee suit is probably most recommended. Until you’re more skilled and understanding of your bees.


Below is some additional tips for beginners.


Don’t stand in the way of the entrance.

Bees establish a flight pattern that guides them into the entrance of the hive. If you block this entrance with your body, returning bees will become agitated. They might buzz close to you angrily or start smacking into you with their bodies. These are your warnings to move out of their way before someone stings you.


Slow movements. Do not swat,

bees see fast movement as threatening. Try to be calm and move slowly and deliberately.


Pay attention to the buzzing.

The humming level and the activity of the bees is a general indication of whether the colony is happy with you. Louder buzzing, increased movement, and circling of bees around you is a good indication that they might need another puff of smoke to calm them down. Or maybe you need to move away from the hive for a moment until they settle. Additionally, if they’re smacking into you, this is another good indicator that they aren’t best pleased with you.


If you are stung,

move away from the hive. When a bee stings, it releases a pheromone to the rest of the colony telling them they’re under attack and in danger. The rest of the colony will often team up to chase off the aggressor.


When installing a new package of bees,

you want to avoid using the smoker to calm the bees. They may interpret this as a sign that their new home is dangerous and fire prone. Instead, lightly mist the package with sugar water. This will cause the bees to concentrate on cleaning themselves and therefore become less likely to sting.


Get the Honey and Go.

When removing honey, do so quickly and make sure all bees have been removed from the frames. If a bee is still attached to the frame, they can send out a pheromone to the rest of the colony, alerting them to where you’re taking their honey. This can result in a swarm of angry bees following you around, and potentially into your home.