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Barnsley Beekeepers Association
Bee keeping in Barnsley, South Yorkshire

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Keeping Bees - Clothing

Beekeepers wear special clothing to protect from being stung. Although a small proportion of beekeepers choose not to wear any protective clothing, most opt for some form of protective clothing of some kind.

The beginner should never contemplate keeping bees without wear protective clothing. In the early stages of the craft, it is important to build confidence. Knowing that you are unlikely to be stung allows you to concentrate your mind on the task in hand. No one like being stung......even for the hardy beekeeper who has been stung many times before, it hurts!

Some believe that by being repeatedly stung over a long period of time, you can build up a level of tolerance to bee venom to the point where no or little reaction (and pain) occur. This may work for some, but for others can lead to an increase in sensitivity and ultimately, allergy. Therefore, avoiding being stung is probably the safest (and most comfortable) option (more on stings).


Types of Protective Clothing

There is a wide choice of protective clothing available and from lost of different sources (from mainstream retailers like Thornes to ebay). Visiting a retail shop gives the opportunity to try clothing out for size, but you will pay more. Ebay and many of the online sellers will offer a wide choice at much lower prices, but you won’t be able to try anything before you buy. You pay your money, you take your choice!.

Face Protection

All sensible beekeepers should - at the very least - wear face protection. Receiving a sting to the face or anywhere on the head will be unpleasant however the eyes are particularly vulnerable as is the mouth and nose. Some kind of mesh veil held away from the face by the wide brim of hat is a typical method employed by beekeepers. At its simplest the veil is held over a hat and tucked under the collar of the shirt, jumper or jacket. The hat and veil is more typically built into other forms of protective clothing such as bee jackets or full bee suits. Beekeepers who use the simple veil tucked into the upper clothing only do so when they know they have very mild mannered bees as this method alone is anything but impregnable to bees.


Upper Body Protection

A bee jacket is used by many to provide protection to head, arms and upper body. The jacket (worn with gloves) is a good way of keeping bees out. A jacket typically has a hat and veil built in. Better jackets will allow the hat and veil to be unzipped (to uncover the head or remove the hat). Average bees (not particularly aggressive but not  totally docile) will be largely kept at bay by a bee jacket. Very active and aggressive bees will occasionally still find their way in (ruffles in the jacket or clothing may allow gaps between the elasticated waste band and the clothing beneath). Bee jackets can be worn with separate trousers, providing an additional layer to prevent bees stinging through ordinary trousers or jeans.


Full Body Protection

Best protection of all is given by a full length bee suit (worn with gloves and boots). They are the most expensive, but will help build confidence and almost rule out being stung if worn with adequate gloves and boots.


Gloves

Always  a matter for debate - to wear gloves or not. Some beekeepers advocate not wearing gloves. They believe that being more tactile allows the beekeeper to handle the bees gently and sensitively (and some simply don’t mind the stings). This is probably true to an extent as being clumsy with the frames tends to upset the bees. Some wear disposable laboratory type gloves to retain the tactile ability whilst keeping the hands free of propolis. For the beginner (and when handling any bees known to be anything other than gentle) it is best to wear gloves. Even gentle bees can sting (if accidentally trapped by the fingers for instance) so wearing gloves is recommended but it ultimately down to individual choice.

The best gloves to wear are typically those with elasticated gauntlets (arm protectors). Gloves are usually made of soft leather or PVC coated fabric.


Boots

It is often advisable to wear boots such as wellingtons or walking boots that allow the trousers to be tucked in. Bees have a tendency to “go for” the ankles, particularly when dark socks are worn. Also, crawling bees tend to go up rather than down, so covering the bottom of trouser legs is recommended. Ankle guards can also be purchased which simply pull over the shoe and trouser bottoms to stop any unwanted visitors from climbing up the inside of trousers (!).