Beekeeping Suits - A Primer

Although a beekeeing suit doesn't look like armor, that's exactly what it is. It's the shield between you and a potentially dangerous situation, so it's important to know the components and characteristics of a beekeeping suit. Here's a primer for you.Color. Bee suits are not light in color just because white fabric was on sale. Light colors help keep bees calm, which is very important to a beekeeper approaching a hive protected by thousands of bees. Most bee predators--such as bears--are dark in color, so bees react aggressively to dark colors. Bees are less likely to emit aggression-producing pheromones when a light-colored object approaches them.Bee suits and jackets. The purpose of bee suits and jackets is to put another protective layer between your skin and the bees' stingers. Beekeeping suits may be made of polycotton, cotton, or even microfiber. Helpful features include elasticized ankles, thumb loops, tool pockets, and sewn-in wire hoops to keep the veil away from your face.Fit. Bee suits should fit loosely to prevent stingers from penetrating your skin underneath the suit. When you are a beginner, it's also wise to wear extra clothing beneath your bee suit as an added layer of defense against through-the-cloth bee stings. Head and Face Protection. There are a couple of choices available for head and face protection: the traditional hat and veil and the newer zipper hood, which comes with the cricket suit. A bee suit's veil should be tied around the collar of the jacket tightly enough to keep bees from flying up underneath the veil. The cricket hood works in much the same way, but it zips directly to the cricket suit, making penetration through the veil impossible.Gloves. Many seasoned beekeepers retire their gloves because their hands are immune to stings and they work more easily without them. If you're new to beekeeping, though, you should wear gloves made from thick leather, which is impenetrable to bees' stingers.Maintenance. Your beekeeping suit may not appear to be dirty, but you should wash it frequently for your own protection. When bees sting you or your beekeeping suit, they emit defensive pheromones that remain on your suit. Other bees sense these pheromones and respond to them as if they were air raid sirens--by stinging you repeatedly. Your job will be much easier if you approach the hive with a clean, pheromone-free suit.