This topic doesn’t come up a lot, but it is one that should be discussed. I would have to say that any bee suit, gloves, or veil that claims to be sting proof is not telling you the whole truth.

Gloves– I use the thickest gloves you can buy and still be able to bend the fingers, and these are still not sting proof. Don’t get me wrong the leather hand part as long as there are no tears will keep your hands from getting stung. The problem with these is that most have a long sleeve that runs up your arm in an effort to keep your forearms from being stung. The Achilles Heel of these is the part that has the elastic which makes it so the bees can’t climb into your glove. These of course keep the bees out , but it also pushes your suit right next to your arms. If you wear short sleeves and at some point get your bees mad you will get stung through the suit. If you’re like me and are ‘most sensitive’ on your bony parts (fingers, ankles, head, neck, elbows, etc) you will also not want to pull the glove bands all the way up to your elbows as that is where you will get stung.

Suit- I also use a ‘one piece’ bee suit with the suit attached to the veil, and would suggest this to any beekeeper. It also is not sting proof by any means. If you wear shorts or short sleeve shirts under your bee suit you are most likely to get stung at some point. You are also the most likely to not pass out from the heat if you stay in your suit for long periods of time, so its a give and take. The suit like most cloth is tightly woven, but it will not keep the stingers from contacting you in all cases. These suits along with the wearing of shorts or short sleeves are also most vulnerable when you sweat a lot and bend over as this is when the suit is tightest against your body (kind of like the saying that your clothes are sticking to you when you sweat).

Regular clothes– These are also far from sting proof. I have been stung even through fire resistant clothes (read that as thick) and jeans.

Now, do not let me scare you from keeping bees; that is most definitely not what I’m trying to do. In fact, I am just trying to help equip you with tools to keep you from being stung. Here’s the bottom line- if you get the bees mad they are more likely to sting you. The key to that is taking your time and using a smoker. It is also not banging the hive and when you do open it up make sure to not just ‘crack’ the top, but hold it while you pry it up the dampen the loud cracking noise. The last defense is if you do have a gentle hive breed only those bees and not the other hives.

There are people out there that do not wear any protective gear. I have seen some even keep bees with their shirts off. This to me, although it may save you a little time, is completely nuts. Yes, you are going to sweat more, and it is going to take you a little more time to suit up properly, but believe me it’s worth it.

I used to suit up and not wear straps around the cuffs of my suit and boots a couple of years ago. And yes, each time I did this it saved me 30 whole seconds, but after the third time of being stung in my ankles I had had enough. Sting me once shame on you, sting me twice shame on me, sting me three times and here comes the extremely swollen ankles. So all being said, here is what you need to know to avoid being stung

-take your time

-approach the hive from the side or back (never the front)

-smoke the bees before you open the hive

-when ‘cracking’ apart the hive pieces try to dampen the loud sound by putting one hand on the piece when you pry

-don’t be in a hurry

-wear your gear correctly

-take the time to check your gear

-wear boot straps and long sleeves and pants under your gear

-breed only the most gentle of your bees

-realize when you sweat and bend that part or your suit closest to your skin is vulnerable so keep that away from the bees

– if your bees get aggressive smoke the hive and air and back away from the hive until they settle down

-don’t wear red or smell/eat bananas before you go near the hive

-if you smell bananas it is the bees alarm pheromone and they are not happy

-if you look inside the hive and all the bees are looking back at you in many rows it’s time to smoke them again

-and most importantly as you gain experience you will know when the bees are least likely to sting

-the bees most aggressive time of the year is late fall when the flow is starting to stop and they are tryng their hardest to stock up for winter

-the bees least aggressive time (besides when it is very cold) is when there is a very good honey flow on

So save yourself some stings!