Suitable for bees

Standing at night looking up at the stars far away from town or city and light pollution I see the milky way. I look through binoculars and suddenly, I nearly drop my goggles as a dot streaks across the sky – a flying saucer? I am sure it must have been a satellite and later another one glided with apparently lazily ease across space.  Gliding effortlessly and lazily… it’s all relative. What’s 7,000 km or 36,000 km per hour among friends in the grand scheme of things? International Space Station Facts and Figures

I’m suffering for buyers’ guilt. I’ve just bought another bee suit. This one is bright yellow… and looking at the stars a ridiculous thought makes me wonder if I’ll be seen by the satellites as I do my rounds. This fluorescent yellow dot of beekeeping will be seen from space in competition with the great wall of China!

Bees suits are essential PPE but the one trouble I have with Bee suits is their hoods. They have a plastic netting and I’ve yet to discover a way to prevent them from splitting.  Once they start to split the slits seem to mushroom before my eyes as I examine the veil, and the more I sew up the holes the more I find. Hopefully I’ve remembered to do this BEFORE I visit my bees. I often wonder how I’ve escaped without more bees paying my nose a visit and stinging my face.

Slits in mesh of bee hood = bee opportunity!

Another issue I have with bee suits is that I have found that the teeth of each hood zip is unique for that hood and suit. It’s amazing what you learn as a beekeeper.   Zippers have different gauges. How to measure the zipper gauge correctly

There are true stories of fledging young beekeepers using their mother’s wedding veil as a bee hood. I admire their genius and tenacity and wonder if I’d be better off with a low-tech solution instead of an expensive replacement. 

There are a variety of bee keeping suits, but the principle is the same: KEEP BEES OUT

Experience has taught me some things to watch for when buying a suit after all a 4mm gap is all a bee needs. It seems a bit trial and error with bees so you can get away with mistakes for a while but when you get an angry lot of bees welling up from an open hive, bombarding and dive bombing you can be sure that the numbers are in their favour. One will find its way in (usually within 2 minutes) and soon angry sisters follow the trail and will merrily join the first dancing in front of your eyes INSIDE your hood.  You too will start dancing then. It’s fun to watch.

Suiting and booting

  • Check hood for damage – before leaving home.
  • Zip ends need to overlap.
  • Flaps need to cover zip ends.
  • Watch for the spaces between the velcro on the flap and the hood. Often there’s a gap.
  • Add duct tape to your arsenal to secure a flap that has gaps.  When you get enough stings on the neck area you won’t be shy about adding this extra protection over the flap/zip ends.
  • Double check that zips are fully up.

I have approached opened hives with my hood up at half-mast with zips open.  I was distracted trying to get the (stubborn) smoker started, finding the hive tool and what I needed to bring with me that I forgot to do the final check to make sure all zips were fully up and flaps fully down.  The bees were very obliging and gave me a reminder so that I had to hastily retreat to lick my wounds.  Can’t blame the bees. They are being good and defending their hive from this monster so-called beekeeper.

  • Tuck socks in pants legs – bees walk upwards and would love to alight on your shoe and tickle your ankle.
  • Wear wellies if you can. Bees seem to love going for ankles.

Bees walk up

I’ve often had bees accompany me in my car on my trip home from an apiary. I don’t get (so) afraid of having a hundred bees in the car anymore. As the bees are away from their home hive they calm down. As I drive forward, most of the bees congregate on the back window. A hatch back is handy and I’ll stop the car a 100m up the road, open the boot and let them out. Some do fly about and find a side window and without fail will crawl upwards on the pane of glass. If I haven’t opened the window I will and off they fly back to their hive.

I’ve had a wasp in the car occasionally. They behave very differently; they’ll fly everywhere in the car zip-zap demented and won’t settle. If they do find a window, wasps won’t climb upwards.  I think wasps are stupid… I’d let them out if they’d just settle.

Some types of bee suit

I couldn’t recommend one bee suit over another, you really need to try them on first if you can and talk to other beekeepers in your area to find out what’s available locally and what is their experience. I have a full suit, a spare suit for visitors (aka conscripted helpers) and a hat and a jacket. The latter two are for quick visits when I’m not doing too much poking into the hives.

Photos of different types of suits below.

I would not recommend the last suit 🙂

This bee might need more than a 4mm gap.


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