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Not every beekeeper chooses to wear a full suit. But, there is no shame in enjoying the protection that a beekeeper suit offers. In fact, it may be one of the most important items you buy for beekeeping. Don’t let the “nay-sayers” keep you from feeling relaxed why working your bees. Use these tips to choose the best beekeeping suits for you and your friends.
Best Beekeeper Suits for Beginners
One of the first questions asked by new beekeepers is – Do I really need a beekeeping suit? The good ones can be rather expensive and you already have so many other cool things to buy for your hives.
So, must you make that investment in the beginning? The choice is completely yours and their is no wrong answer. However, you definitely do need some protective wear.
You have many types of bee sting protection options to choose from and a full suit is not the only option.
But, for many beekeepers – especially those new to honey bees, the protection and feeling of security provided by beekeeping suits is a plus. You can always choose when to wear it vs “going in commando” – it is up to you.
Do Bee Suits Really Work?
A bee suit does reduce the number of stings a beekeeper is likely to experience. Quality made suits in combination with gentle hive inspections do offer good protection.
But, if your bees are very defensive or aggressive (and they will be sometimes), no bee suit offers 100% protection.
Searching for the Sting Proof Suit?
Yea… good luck with that one. Beekeeping suits vary in the degree of protection that they offer. Good seams, tight sealing zippers and sturdy veil screens are a good line of defense. But, no suit that I know of is 100% sting proof – at least not for regular beekeepers.
Preventing serious stinging situations is about more than just your protective gear. When you understand why bees sting and learn how to inspect your hive properly – your time in the hive will be more pleasant.
Choosing the best weather conditions for inspection day, using slow gentle movement and using the bee smoker – all contribute to the effectiveness of your beekeeper protective clothing.
What Kind of Beekeeper Suit Do You Really Need?
“Whoa Nelly.” Before you head off looking for the beekeeping catalog, you have a bit more thinking to do.
What kind of bee suit do you really need? Some of that is up to personal preference but you should be able to find something that fits your budget and style.
And yes, I will include beekeeping jackets in this discussion but they can be a good middle ground for those unsure of what to buy.
Now, the search for the best beekeeping suit begins. Alas, the confusion also begins because you will find hundreds of beekeeping suits to choose from.
Some key points to look for:
- you feel comfortable in the suit (if you order – make sure our can exchange)
- velcro or elastic cuffs (wrists and ankles) to keep out crawling bees
- heavy duty brass zippers (or sturdy plastic)
- pockets for your hive tool etc
- full suits are easier to keep in place-jackets are easier to get in and out of
- jackets: zip up models are easier to get in and out of than pullovers
How Much do Beekeeping Suits Cost?
Expect to pay between $50 and $250 for a beekeeper suit or quality jacket. With the popularity of beekeeping, supplies have become easier to find.
That’s a good thing overall as it gives the consumer many choices. You might choose to buy ore frequently and pay less.
However, many of the bee suits offered online and by major bee suppliers are cheaply made and will not last very long without special care. Some will seem expensive and some will be cheaper. Maybe, too cheap to be true???
A well made beekeeping suit should cost more and last for many years. But, not everyone needs to buy an expensive beekeeping suit.
If you are not sure beekeeping will “be your thing”, try a cheaper suit. Just understand that it will probably not last for many seasons. This is not a bad choice for a beekeeper gift – an inexpensive extra jacket to have on hand.
Are all Beekeeping Suits White?
What color are the best beekeeping suits? Are they always white? No, beekeeping suits are traditionally white but they don’t have to be.
When feeling threatened, honey bee colonies become defensive. Over the years, beekeepers realized that angry bees are more attracted to dark colors.
That white or light-colored suit is sounding better and better – isn’t it. Any suit that is a light-color will be fine.
No matter which color you choose, it won’t stay clean for long anyway! I will say that you do not want to wear black in the bee yard. Why would you want to look like a bear?
** Personal Story – A few years back a magazine was doing an article on me and my bees. They sent a photographer to take pictures in the bee yard. The young man arrived for the photo session. He got out of his little sports car dressed in tight black jeans and a black t-shirt. My first thought – “Hmm, this is not good.” I had a spare suit so things turned out well.
How Should Your Beekeeper Suit Fit?
The bee yard is not the place to be over concerned about fashion. The last thing you want is a tight fitting bee suit or jacket.
It is a great idea to try the beekeeping suit on if possible or order from a source that will allow returns. I always seem to end up ordering because local stores don’t have the size or type I want – be sure to check the exchange policy.
Your suit or beekeeping jacket should fit loosely. Think loose – but not too loose. The fit must allow easy movement and cover all of your “essential parts” when you bend over.
Remember, you will not be spending a lot of time standing still and straight in this suit. This is a great time to “say no to crack”. Bend, twist, run a few steps – can you do this with ease?
A roomy fit allows you to bend, twist and work in the bee yard during hive inspections. Are the sleeves long enough when you stretch out to pick up things and not expose too much arm?
An elastic waistband helps keep the suit in place. Allowing roomy movement at the top and keeps the legs from dragging in the dirt. If you end up with one that is a bit long in the torso – the waistband can sometimes be altered to help keep the suit in place.
Beekeeping Suit Fabrics and Veils
Fortunately, beekeeping suits are available in a variety of materials and styles, so you can still have a little bit of fashion flare when working your bees.
Cotton and polycotton beekeeping suits have been popular for year and are still favorites. In recent years, ventilated beekeeping suits made with several layers of mesh material have become popular.
These mesh suits do allow for more ventilation and may help you feel cooler – especially is a little breeze is blowing. However, they are not very lightweight. Expect them to feel a bit heavier than a nylon or polycotton suit.
Today, most hoods or veils zip onto the suit. This is important because when its time to wash your suit – you can protect your veil. You can still purchase tie-on veils but unless you are used to them – its a pain to tie them on.
Round veils are the more traditional option. They can be made onto a hat or consist of 2 separate pieces. The dome-shaped hood (fencing veil) has become a beekeeper favorite.
When shopping for a less expensive suit or jacket, check product reviews to ensure that the self-supporting hood stands up well.
Top Choices to Consider When Shopping
There is no a clear winner on which is best. In a quality product, all will do the job well. Check out all the options and decide when ones fit you best.
Natural Apiary – Full Beekeeper Suit
It is hard to beat a full cover beekeeping suit in a poly/cotton blend. The fencing type veil is easy to keep on and I like the pockets on the leg to hold my hive tool.
This type of bee suit can be washed and will last for years. Some beekeepers do not prefer the fencing style hood but I find it to be comfortable and actually prefer it to the standard round veil.
Ultra Breeze Ventilated Jacket
My favorite. I love my ultra breeze jacket and you will too. Made in the USA with the best zippers I have seen on ANY piece of beekeeping equipment.
Yes, it is very bee sting resistant – feels a bit heavy at first. Cooler while working bees – I love it!
Many foreign made ventilated beekeeping suits are on the market now. Some of them work well but you must take care to be extra gentle with them. The Ultra Breeze can “take a licking”, I know.
Ultra Breeze Full Beekeeping Suit
Let’s not forget the Ultra Breeze in full length version. Cooler in the bee yard than other types of suits. Sturdy construction with a veil that is easier to see through than some.
Pockets to help you keep up with your hive tool. And, great quality and workmanship. This is the Cadillac of beekeeping suits.
Economy Full Suit from Mann Lake
Getting started with beekeeping is not an inexpensive endeavor. If you would like a more economical investment for bee protection, consider the economy full suit.
Usually a type of poly/cotton blend, I have 2 suits like this. They are durable if you take care when cleaning them and be gentle with the veil during storage.
This is a good choice for new beekeepers who don’t want to invest a lot of money in protective clothing.
Deluxe Beekeeping Suit with Square Hat/Veil
For those of you looking for the traditional type of bee veil, the Mann Lake Deluxe suit is a good option.
This is similar to the economy suit above but the material, seams and zippers are more sturdy. A roomy bee suit with large pockets, it will last for years.
A beekeeping jacket is a nice addition to your bee protective wardrobe. It can be paired with blue jeans or even better a pair of beekeeping pants. ( Of any light color).
Who says beekeeping style has to be completely boring? You will love the quality and style of this jacket. It is a poly/cotton blend and comes in fun colors.
The addition of many women into the world of hobby beekeeping has had some nice affects on bee clothing options.
Kids Beekeeping Suits
Sharing the world of bees with children is a wonderful experience. But, we don’t want this early experience to turn bad. Most kids outgrow their bee suit before it wears out.
But kid’s suit have great resale value. There will be people more than willing to buy your used beekeeping suit for kids.
Best Beekeeping Suit For You
There is no perfect beekeeping suit. No regular beekeeper suit can promise zero bee stings – so be prepared. You don’t have to spend a fortune but beware of very cheap products.
Most of the time, they will be of poor quality. The veils are notoriously fragile and hard to see through. Zippers break easily and sizes run small. Having a cheaper suit for a spare is okay. You never know when a photographer will show up in black clothes.