So, you’ve got into beekeeping, and you’ve got your hands on a smoker, hive tool, or whatever other tools you want to try out and you’re eagerly approaching your first hive. Each keeper is keen to find what gifts their bees have been working on. Before you step foot near a hive, there is one vital step to take: to wrap your body in some protective clothing. But what should you use, a beekeeping suit or jacket?
When selecting a beekeeping suit or jacket, it comes down to personal preferences. A suit will provide you with much more protection. However, it’ll lack mobility. Because of this reason, you may want to opt-in for a jacket depending on how comfortable you are with bees.
Beekeepers are different from the average person. Most laymen feel that honeybees’ sole purpose in life is to sting and will take every chance they get to do so. The great news is, beekeepers understand all the tricks of the trade and how bees behave.
When we chose to become beekeepers, the first thing we bought was our ‘Bee Uniform.’ They have been worth every penny we spent. They give us peace of mind, confidence and we’ve got away with very few stings. You will need to buy either a bee jacket or suit, and yes, we’ve seen the videos of people wearing no gear at all handling bees. But they are either seasoned professionals or keep specific breeds of bee.
To understand the concept behind beekeeping suits and jackets, I suggest you read the below. Here we explore both the pros and cons of wearing one another and answer some helpful to know questions.
Pros and Cons of a Beekeeping suit
First, let’s talk about the beekeeping suit. The beekeeping suit was first introduced in the 16th century, and it’s been a superior piece of protection clothing within the industry ever since. Today’s bee industry still uses this as it offers the most amount of protection bee-related clothing can provide. Here are the pros and cons of a beekeeping suit:
- They cover the entire body – Complete body protection is a priority for most beekeepers, especially when starting out. You are getting to know your bees and their personality, even knowledgeable beekeepers can make mistakes and misjudge their bee’s temperament on an occasional day.
- It is challenging to take on and off – As the suit provides complete body protection, it can be a bit challenging to put on and get out of one. Practice helps, and it gets easier with time.
- Some don’t come with a veil attached – Not all suits come with hoods, but manufacturers are catching up with that and are designing suits with hoods built-in.
- Difficult to move around in – Because of the full coverage a Bee suit provides, they tend to be inflexible. Always check the sizing and ensure the fit is always a little baggy. Not only does it make your suit easier to walk around in, but it helps against the risk of stings.
- Peripheral vision – Suits that come with veils are usually of the hooded variety, which is the best for protection but can get in the way of your peripheral vision if they’re not fitted properly.
As you can see, although a beekeeping suit offers excellent protection, there are some flaws around the design. Needless to say, it’s still a superb piece of protective clothing. But how does this compare with a beekeeping jacket?
Pros and Cons of a Beekeeping jacket
Before we conclude our final words, let’s explore the pros and cons based on a beekeeping jacket. It goes without saying that the beekeeping jacket is much nicer looking than a suit. But, if you’re someone looking for protection, then a jacket may not be something you want.
- Taking on and off is more effortless – Of course, throwing a jacket on it is a lot simpler than climbing into a whole bodysuit. It’s great for quick jobs that don’t require too much bee handling.
- Comes with a hood – Most, if not all, bee jackets come with a hood built-in. In that sense, it’s most cost-effective.
- Easy to move around in – Of course, having your lower body in a pair of jeans makes bending and movement much more flexible, which is great for short or non-intrusive jobs around your hive.
- Good peripheral vision – Typically, beekeeping jackets come with a round hood that allows you a much better field of vision and ventilation.
- Only protects the upper body – Unfortunately, the cost of being more economical and easier to handle is at the cost of protection.
Which do we prefer?
In truth, it depends on what we’re doing. As new starters to beekeeping, we most definitely prefer the entire suit. You don’t know your hive’s personality, they’re just getting to know you and used to your handling, and if they’ve just been moved from another location, they can be a tad grumpy. The suit gives you and your bees extra confidence, and it’s well known in the community that bees like the color white, so a full white suit is less threatening to new bees. But the suit is bulkier, hot, and inflexible, which is a decent payoff for the level of protection.
Once we got to know our hives and had worked around them for a while, we found the jacket much more manageable for quick or distance jobs around our hives. They’re cooler and easier to move around in and great to throw on for temporary jobs. We’d still recommend the entire suit for direct handling, though.
Is a bee jacket enough?
For the experienced beekeeper with established hives, a bee jacket is usually enough for them, but even they will admit that they’ve paid the price for overconfidence and been stung. But they’ll take the payoff for the mobility.
As a new beekeeper, we’d say no. The beekeeper jacket on its own is not enough. You’ll make more mistakes because you’re learning, and mistakes usually mean stings. The extra protection a full bee suit offers is much better, as it adds an extra layer of confidence which in itself will minimize the number of mistakes you’ll make because you won’t be afraid of being stung.
Can you get stung through a bee suit?
Absolutely, if your suit sits snug against your skin, you may very well get stung, but if your suit has a loose fit it’s unlikely. We’ve been stung through heavy-duty Levi’s, so even heavy fabrics like jeans are not sting-proof.
What should children wear?
If you’ve got kids that are interested in beekeeping with you, then a full bodysuit is a must. It’s a brilliant opportunity to get kids involved with the wonders of bees and nature. A full bee suit will keep them confident and safe around your hives so they can really soak up the joys of beekeeping
After reading the above, you should now be aware of the pros and cons of beekeeping suits and jackets. Both pieces of protective clothing are ideal for their own purposes, but either one is required as a bare minimum as a beekeeper.