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Among the many different things available to make a beekeeper’s life easier, beekeeping gloves are one of the most popular. They come in almost every beekeeper beginner’s kit. Using them helps prevent bee stings and therefore lessens the chance of allergic reactions. Even mild mannered honey bees can become defensive when the hive is disturbed by routine inspections or when removing honey. Gloves come in several different styles and materials and give you another layer of protection.
Some believe that wearing gloves results in less dexterity, making it more difficult to hold frames properly. There is some validity to that argument. But, most new beekeepers choose to use this piece of protective beekeeping clothing.
Purpose of Beekeeping Gloves
We use our hands to manipulate parts of the beehive during hive inspections. Bees are attracted to movement so that makes our hands a moving target.
Personally, I think bee stings to the fingers hurt worse than some locations so I am pro-glove.
Gloves also provide a barrier between your skin and sticky substances like bee propolis. I always wear some type of gloves in the bee yard.
However, it is the peace of mind that beekeeping gloves gives the beekeeper that is most valuable to me.
It is easier to focus on the task at hand when you feel that you are somewhat protected from stingers.
Types of Beekeeping Gloves
Thankfully, there are many different types of beekeeping gloves made for beekeepers. You may need to try several to find the one that has the qualities you most desire.
All have pros and cons – none are perfect for everyone. Choose the kind that give you the protection, dexterity and comfort that you want. Most beekeepers have more than one style and use them for different situations.
This traditional favorite has been the preferred choice by beekeepers for years. They are valued for the durability and sting protection. Leather gloves are usually made of cowhide or you can choose more supple goat-skin gloves.
The cuffs of some leather beekeeping gloves have elastic at the wrists to keep bees out. They provide protection to the whole hand and wrist.
- durable – long lasting
- superior resistance to stings – nothing is sting proof
- protects hands from wood splinters – hive tool slips, etc
- good grip-with the right fit
- don’t breathe well – can be hot
- may be stiff until broken in
- heavier, thicker – may cause dexterity problems for some beekeepers
Ventilated beekeeping gloves are available in a variety of materials from leather to synthetic materials.
A favorite of beekeepers living in hot climates, these gloves have a mesh panel near the wrists. This allows some air flow that helps cool sweaty hands.
- ventilated mesh increases air flow to reduce heat and moisture build up
- light weight compared to traditional leather
- good protection against stings
- not as durable as regular leather gloves
- stings possible through the mesh area
- may not protect hands from injury as well as thicker ones
Nitrile gloves are not designed for beekeepers but they are a popular choice to use. They fit snugly but are still flexible (think about those gloves in the doctor’s office- the thicker ones).
Nitrile gloves are not sting proof but they do offer some protection from bee stings – especially to the backs of your hands. They come in different thicknesses or gauges so keep that in mind when shopping.
- excellent dexterity – easy of frame manipulation
- lightweight and comfortable to wear
- some sting protection
- less durability – must be replaced more often
- does not offer 100% sting protection
- may be short and not offer enough wrist protection
- sweaty hands in heat
Disposable gloves are made to perform a wide variety of tasks around the home. They are made of nitrile or latex and come in various sizes and thicknesses.
Designed to be single-use, they are a great option for beekeepers who do not want to bother with cleaning gloves.
- hygienic – excellent way to avoid spreading disease (like AFB) between hives
- easy to get on and off
- no clean up
- good dexterity
- not durable – lightweight tasks only
- single-use – not environmentally friendly
- sweaty hands in hot weather
Gauntlet gloves are less popular than in years past but you can still find them. Their claim to fame is extended cuffs that offer additional protection to the arms.
Especially in commercial operations, like migratory beekeepers, where many hives are being handled at one – gauntlet gloves offer more protection. They do the same in those situations where you are working with especially aggressive bees.
- additional protection to forearms
- good option for beekeepers with highly defensive colonies
- extended cuff may restrict mobility
- thicker and heavier than other types
- can be hot-as they are not ventilated
Key Factors to Consider
There is no one perfect choice for every beekeeper. Consider the factors below when trying to decide which is best for you.
All of these issues are important but are you willing to sacrifice a little comfort for more sting protection?
Or maybe good dexterity is more important that 100% protection? That is personal preference and a decision you must make.
- fit – comfort
- protection due to allergic reactions
If you possible can, try on different types of beekeeping gloves before you buy them. How do they fit you-are they comfortable – would you be able to get a frame out of the hive while wearing them.
If you live in a hot region, breathability does matter. I use disposable nitrile gloves (long cuff when I can find them) – they are awesome but oh boy they do sweat!
How much protection do you need? It’s okay to start out with the most protective gloves. It is good to have a leather pair on hand for difficult situations.
Due to the cost of beekeeping at startup, expenses may also be a consideration.
As with any of your protective wear, be sure to clean your gloves periodically. If they are reusable, let them dry completely before storing flat.
For most of us, beekeeping is supposed to be a safe enjoyable experience. Choosing the best beekeeping gloves for your situation can help make that goal a reality.