Choosing a Beekeeping Suit for You

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There are many styles available but how do you choose the right beekeeping suits for you and your family? Protective clothing is a great way to lessen the chances of painful stings and make beekeeping more enjoyable. From traditional full suits to ventilated jackets, lets look at the various styles, materials and features to help you make a good decision.

Three beekeepers around a hive wearing different types of beekeeping suits image.

Choosing the proper protective beekeeping clothing is a big deal. 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 right beekeeping suit for your adventure.

Types of Beekeeping Suits

While there are many different styles on the market, wearable protective gear generally falls into two main categories. Each one includes a veil (either attached permanently, or zipped on) to protect the head and face.

A Full Bee Suit

The full suit is a garment that is all one piece (expect perhaps for the veil). A long zipper down the front of the suit allows it to be put on and removed with relative ease. The long sleeves and long pants protect the legs and arms of the beekeeper.

Not every beekeeper chooses to wear a full suit. But, there is no shame in enjoying the protection that a full suit offers.

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.

Features and Advantages

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. 

“Whoa Nelly.” Before you head off looking for the beekeeping catalog, you have a bit more thinking to do.

Some key points to consider:

  • you feel comfortable in the suit (if you order – make sure you can exchange it)
  • 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
  • costs vary widely with workmanship – pay more for longer use or pay less for short term
  • full suits are easier to keep in place-jackets are easier to get in and out of

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Top Full Bee Suit Models

The standard cotton suit gives you years of use with its heavy duty brass zippers and sturdy veil material. It can get hot in the bee yard – but most full suits do. This model has an attached round veil that gives you a good field of view and thumb straps to hold those sleeves down.

Premium Cotton Beekeeping Suit with Round VeilPremium Cotton Beekeeping Suit with Round VeilPremium Cotton Beekeeping Suit with Round Veil

 

Another style features a dome shaped hood and veil that some beekeepers prefer. Personally, I prefer this style of veil on my beekeeping suits. This economical option is a good deal for beginner beekeepers.

Full Beekeeping Suit with Self Supporting Veil HoodFull Beekeeping Suit with Self Supporting Veil HoodFull Beekeeping Suit with Self Supporting Veil Hood

 

Beekeeping Jackets

The beekeeping jacket is a type of bee suit that is preferred by many seasoned beekeepers. It does not provide protection for your legs! However, the long sleeves and attached veil protects the beekeeper from most stings to the upper body. Protect your lower half with pants!

Features and Advantages

One of the most important advantages of using a beekeeping jacket is that it is easier to get out of. This is especially true if you are hot and sweaty from working in the bee yard. Sometimes, jackets are less expensive as well.

Key Points to Consider When Buying

  • even jackets can have handy pockets to hold things
  • look for quality zippers – they should be metal or very sturdy plastic
  • is the veil good quality – can you see through it well
  • make sure it fits well and you can move in it

Top Beekeeping Jacket Models

The durability and fit of beekeeping jackets varies widely. Be sure to try it on before buying or ensure you are able to return or exchange if needed.

Beekeeping Jacket - Goatskin Gloves &Fencing Veil HoodBeekeeping Jacket – Goatskin Gloves &Fencing Veil HoodBeekeeping Jacket - Goatskin Gloves &Fencing Veil Hood

 

A great option for beginner, this economical version of the beekeeper’s jacket is a good start. It may not last for years and years but the price is right.

Premium Cotton Jacket with Round Veil, Professional Beekeeper Jacket YKK Brass Zippers - LargePremium Cotton Jacket with Round Veil, Professional Beekeeper Jacket YKK Brass Zippers – LargePremium Cotton Jacket with Round Veil, Professional Beekeeper Jacket YKK Brass Zippers - Large

 

If you are a lover of the round veil, this model will work great. The heavy cotton helps protect from stings and it features heavy duty zippers!

Materials Used in Beekeeping Suits

There are a variety of materials used in the construction of beekeeping suits. Some folks will tell you that the best beekeeping suits are made from a certain type of fabric – because we all have our favorite. But in reality, each has its own pros and cons.

  • cotton
  • synthetic

When it comes to traditional beekeeping suits, cotton has passed the test of time. Cotton is a breathable fabric and provides a good level of sting protection. Also, buy “pre-shrunk” suits of course as we beekeepers tend to “not” get smaller in size – but cotton can.

Cotton bee suits are durable and will last for years – you can also wash these beekeeping suits to keep them fresh.

Synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon have gained popularity in recent years. They are lightweight and provide good sting protection. They offer water resistance and are easy to clean. It is not uncommon to find poly/cotton blends – which I honestly prefer.

Top Cotton, Nylon and Blends

Each type of material used in your protective wear has advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few favorites to consider.

Professional Cotton Full  Beekeeping Suit with VeilProfessional Cotton Full Beekeeping Suit with VeilProfessional Cotton Full  Beekeeping Suit with Veil

 

A solid, durable full cotton suit with dome veil. Elastic at wrists and ankles help prevent bees crawling up legs or arms. I also love poly/cotton blends as they are a bit cooler but just as durable.

YKK Brass Zippers Cotton Fencing Hood JacketYKK Brass Zippers Cotton Fencing Hood JacketYKK Brass Zippers Cotton Fencing Hood Jacket

 

Canvas cotton is another popular material used in bee jacket construction. Prewashed material with a tough finish and heavy duty zippers.

Ventilated Beekeeping Suits

In recent years, ventilated beekeeping suits have become all the rage. I must admit that I do love my Ultra Breeze Ventilated Jacket – it is currently on year 13 for me and still functioning well.

Ventilated jackets are a bit cooler because they use several breathable layers of fabric to let a breeze through while keeping more stings out. They may be cooler but they will not keep you cool – beekeeping in the south is hot work.

Ventilated Beekeeping Suit with Round VeilVentilated Beekeeping Suit with Round VeilVentilated Beekeeping Suit with Round Veil

 

Ventilated suits are available in a range of price points.

Ultra Breeze Medium Beekeeping Jacket with Veil,Ultra Breeze Medium Beekeeping Jacket with Veil,Ultra Breeze Medium Beekeeping Jacket with Veil,

 

Top quality and long lasting. I love my Ultra Breeze Jacket – they also sell a full bee suit in ventilated material. This type of jacket does feel heavier than a poly/cotton suit but it is worth the weight.

Beekeeper kneels in front of hive wearing a bee suit.

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.

The Proper 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.

Beekeeper wearing yellow beekeeping suit in apiary image.

FAQs

What kind of beekeeper suit do you really need?

Choosing the best beekeeping suit for you depends on several variables including: budget, comfort, level of protection wanted etc.

Do I really need a beekeeping suit?

The choice of using a beekeeping suit or not is completely yours. There is no wrong answer. However, you definitely do need some protective wear (veil?).

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 offer good protection.

But, if your bees are very defensive or aggressive (and they will be sometimes), no bee suit offers 100% protection.

How much do beekeeping suits cost?

Expect to pay between $50 and $250 for a beekeeper suit or quality jacket. With the popularity of the hobby, beekeeping supplies have become easier to find.

Are all beekeeping suits 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. 

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.

A Final Word

There is no perfect beekeeping suit.  No regular beekeeper suit can promise zero bee stings (keep those bee sting remedies on hand) – be prepared. You don’t have to spend a fortune but beware of very cheap products.

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 model.

This is not a bad choice for a beekeeper gift – an inexpensive extra jacket to have on hand. You never know when a photographer will show up in black clothes.

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