The Personal Safety Gear You’ll Need for Beekeeping Pets & Animals | 13 July 2015 Share article facebook twitter google pinterest As the time-honored practice of beekeeping evolves, new light is continually being shed on bee health, beekeeping techniques, and some of the principles that shape the way we care for bees. This is why we’re celebrating the release of an updated edition of Kim Flottum’s book about the fundamentals of beekeeping: The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden. Kim has been a passionate and widely-published voice of expertise about honey bee research, plant science, and farming for decades, and The Backyard Beekeeper is a comprehensive resource for first-time beekeepers (as well as beekeeping experts). Here, Kim talks about the protective beekeeping gear you’ll need to get started caring for bees and their hives safely. (As you would expect, Kim goes into great detail about every kind of tool and equipment you’ll need to outfit and care for your bees, too – check out Chapter 1 for this info.) Bee suits come in two styles: jackets and full coverage. Full-coverage suits protect your clothes from wax, honey, and propolis, and they also keep the bees out of places where you don’t want them. Full suits are good for heavy-duty work. Jackets provide less protection than full-coverage suits. Plastic-covered gloves are commonly used, fairly durable, and moderately good for fine motor skills. Photo credit: Kim Flottum / The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition Bee Suits A bee suit is your uniform, your work clothes, what keeps you and your bees at a comfortable distance, and what keeps your clothes clean. To meet the needs of the individual beekeeper, the sophistication and variety of bee suits is first rate. You’ll find that white is the most common color, but any light-colored suit is acceptable. Full suits cover you from head to foot but are quite warm in summer weather. An alternative is a bee jacket. These are cooler, but they don’t keep your pants clean. The important thing to keep in mind when working with honey bees is that they are very protective of their home. When anything resembling a natural enemy approaches, such as a skunk, bear, or raccoon, they will feel threatened. These enemies have one thing in common—they are dark and fuzzy—so, wearing dark and fuzzy clothes near the hive is not a good idea. Whichever bee suit style you pick, keep it simple to start, and get one with a zipper-attached hood and veil. These offer good visibility, durability, and no opportunity for an errant bee to get inside. And because the veil is removable, you can try other head gear later without having to invest in a whole new suit. When you’re examining your colony, bees will land on your suit and your veil, and they’ll walk on your hands. This isn’t threatening behavior, but initially it can be distracting and a little disconcerting. Wearing gloves can remove that distraction. Most people wear gloves when they start keeping bees, and most quit wearing them after a while. The cardinal rule is to wear what makes you comfortable. When buying sized gloves, measure the distance around the heel of your hand. The circumference in inches is the size of the glove you need. 5″ (13 cm) is a size 5 glove. Photo credit: Kim Flottum / The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition Beekeeping Gloves You can buy heavy, stiff leather gloves, which are made for commercial beekeepers, but our goal—as hobbyists—is finesse, not hard labor. I recommend buying the thinnest, snuggest, most supple gloves you can find. A common style is made of thin, plastic-coated canvas material. Long cuffs, called gauntlets, are attached. Gauntlets slip over your long sleeves to keep bees from climbing into your sleeves. All manner of gloves are available. From left to right: ranging from heavy duty leather, thin and pliable leather, canvas coated with plastic, cloth coated with plastic to thin dishwashing gloves. Photo credit: Kim Flottum / The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition Some suppliers sell gloves in exact sizes (not the traditional S, M, L, XL) and these, usually made of thin, soft leather, will fit best. This is especially important for the fingertips. Glove fingers that are too long make you clumsy and awkward, and it’s difficult enough to be careful when moving frames. Regular rubber dishwashing gloves work well too, offering excellent dexterity when handling frames. When you are ready to give them up, not wearing gloves is the best way to go for most beekeeping activities. But everyone has his or her own schedule for reaching that level of comfort. Eventually, you’ll cut the worn-out fingers off an old pair of gloves to increase your dexterity. Then one day, you’ll forget to put them on completely and not even notice. Avoid squashing bees when manipulating hive parts during an inspection. Try picking up a quarter with a pair of heavy duty leather gloves. You have all the dexterity of a bulldozer. If you can’t pick up a quarter with your gloves they have no place in a bee hive. But with thin or no gloves, you can feel a bee and not squash her. With heavy gloves you will squash bees, releasing alarm pheromone in the process. Photo credit: Kim Flottum / The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition Beekeeping Ankle Protection Something not often thought about until it’s too late is the gap between the tops of your shoes and the bottom of your pants. We seldom think of bees as being on the ground, but when you open a hive to lift out a frame or move boxes, bees will fall out. Most will fly away, but some won’t. These are the bees you need to be aware of, because these bees will crawl—especially if the weather is cool or they are young and not used to flying. Sometimes, a lot of them will drop to the ground in a bunch and crawl for a bit before they get their bearings and fly away. This is especially true if they land in grass or weeds, rather than on a smooth, flat surface. Bees that land on the ground naturally crawl up something. Usually their options are climbing up the hive stand or on your shoes. To avoid the latter, beekeeping suppliers sell elastic straps with hook-and-loop attachments that are easy to use. Tip: Elastic Straps for Protective Beekeeping Gear Long-legged bee suits with cuffs have elastic or closing straps that make crawling bees a nonissue. But, because a determined honey bee can make it an issue, having these elastic straps that can be wrapped around a wrist or ankle and secured with Velcro is a wise choice. Keep a pair in your back pocket. Cleaning Your Protective Beekeeping Gear After you have worn your bee suit and your gloves for several colony examinations, the amount of venom and alarm pheromone begins to build up in the material. Frequent washing will eliminate these chemicals and reduce visits from guards when you work a colony. Wash these clothes in a separate load so that alarm pheromones don’t contaminate your other clothes. ————————————————————— The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: About The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition: The Backyard Beekeeper, now revised and expanded, makes the time-honored and complex tradition of beekeeping an enjoyable and accessible backyard pastime that will appeal to gardeners, crafters, and cooks everywhere. This expanded edition gives you even more information on “greening” your beekeeping with sustainable practices, pesticide-resistant bees, and urban and suburban beekeeping. More than a guide to beekeeping, it is a handbook for harvesting the products of a beehive and a honey cookbook–all in one lively, beautifully illustrated reference. This complete honey bee resource contains general information on bees; a how-to guide to the art of bee keeping and how to set up, care for, and harvest honey from your own colonies; as well as tons of bee-related facts and projects. You’ll learn the best location to place your new bee colonies for their safety and yours, and you’ll study the best organic and nontoxic ways to care for your bees, from providing fresh water and protection from the elements to keeping them healthy, happy, and productive. Recipes of delicious treats, and instructions on how to use honey and beeswax to make candles and beauty treatments are also included. About the Author: After receiving a degree in horticulture from UW Madison, Kim Flottum worked four years in the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab, studying pollination ecology. After that, he spent two years raising acres of fruits and vegetables, where bees played a large role. He brings this experience, plus nearly 20 years of writing and editing articles for beekeepers in the monthly magazine Bee Culture. He is the publisher of books on honey bee pests and diseases, marketing, queen production, beekeeping history, beginning beekeeping, and the classic industry reference, The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture. Kim Flottum brings a background of twelve years of plant science, honey bee research, and basic farming to his thirty years as the editor of Bee Culture magazine where his main occupation is finding the answers to the multitude of questions that beginning, intermediate, and even advanced and experienced beekeepers bring to the table. He teaches beginning and advanced beekeeping courses, travels extensively to educate and lecture, and contributes to a variety of other publications on the basics of honey bees and beekeeping biology, the business of bees and pollination, producing and using varietal honeys, and a host of other subjects. His books, magazine articles, interviews, and blogs are widely read for both their fundamental and advanced contribution to beekeeping knowledge. His magazine platform gives voice to his social commentary on topics ranging from genetically modified foods to pesticide abuse to both good and bad government regulations in the industry. He is beekeeping’s leading advocate for fundamental honey bee safety including insuring excellent honey bee health, providing extraordinary forage, and minimizing the use of agricultural pesticides. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.