Last Updated on July 21, 2022 by Jeremy
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When you go online to read beekeeping advice, you are inundated with a million opinions on why you should (or shouldn't) wear a bee keeper suit.
Bee suits can be hot. Gloves can be bulky and make it hard to work. They're not 100% sting-proof. I could go on. Some people wear full-body suits, some only wear a veil and gloves, and others wear no protective gear at all.
I cannot advocate for anything less than a full bee suit.
While all of the concerns about bee keeper suits are indeed valid ones, the simple issue is that bees sting (yes, even docile colonies have bad days), and bee stings hurt. Stings in certain locations can hurt a lot, too. So to minimize your chances of getting stung, a bee suit is a must.
I was given a Humble Bee Suit as a gift when I started my own backyard apiary and wanted to share a bit more about it in this review!
- Disclosure: My body apparently has zero issues with bee stings, so please keep this in mind when reading. Some folks are outright allergic, and others experience minor-to-significant swelling when stung. Do not assume that a bee suit is going to change how you react to a sting. At best, a bee suit may lower the frequency at which you're stung and possibly reduce the time a stinger remains in your body for reasons we will discuss below. Your sensitivity to bee stings is not likely to change.
Why Aren't Bee Keeper Suits Sting Proof?
Before getting into the Humble Bee Suit review, I first wanted to take a moment to talk about sting resistance in suits as this is an important topic for any review.
To put it bluntly, bee suits are not sting-proof. They help minimize sting concerns simply because they are made of thick material, are baggy when you wear them, and higher quality suits are designed to seal off openings to prevent bees from squeezing into gaps (where they subsequently become trapped, get agitated, and sting you).
As such, if a bee tries to sting a baggy section, odds are good the stinger won't be close to your skin due to the thickness of the material and the gap from your body. If it does reach your skin, even through a thick layer of clothes underneath, the suit provides an extra barrier to minimize sting side effects.
I noticed this in one of my first uses where a bee stung me on my back while I was bending over (making the suit tight across my torso). I felt a very mild pinch, stood up, and the bee suit became baggy again- pulling the stinger out and away from my body all in a fraction of a second. We could not find the stinger, so we assumed that very little venom got into my body compared to if a stinger was lodged in my back for a minute or two. As such, my skin was hardly affected- but again note I am also not sensitive to stings in the slightest.
That being said, all those concerns mentioned at the start of this article are also true. But if being hot or having a bit of trouble with dexterity is what it takes to reduce the risk of being stung, particularly in very painful places like the face or fingers, I'll put on my suit every time without complaint.
Humble Bee Keeper Suit is Comfortable But With Some Issues
For the most part, Humble Bee suits check a number of boxes for me when working with my bees. My suit is immensely comfortable, rather baggy, has a number of pockets for every tool I need, and is designed quite nicely to form seals around my hands and feet.
The veil is zippered the entire way around and includes a velcro patch to seal over the tiny gap where the zipper pieces meet, and the hand and foot holes have a stretchable loop to hold the suit down over your thumb and heel respectively. This helps prevent the suit from riding up your limbs, but you do need to tuck the suit into your shoes all the same (better with high-top shoes or boots over conventional sneakers- the overlap there is not perfect and could be viewed as a risk for entry).
That being said, I've noticed a few issues after wearing this one for a while.
First, the leather in the gloves started cracking after my first use, and the resulting holes were large enough that a bee could enter. While still usable for other tasks like gardening, I retired them from any beekeeping activities and purchased a new pair without further issue. This was disappointing to say the least.
Second, the veil itself is not on a rigid frame. The “hat” element that sits on the top of your head sometimes struggles to stay snug, and whenever I bend over I find the back veil falling onto my neck. The latter happened once when the bees were not pleased with me entering the hive, and resulted in two stings on my neck- ouch!
To compensate for this I've taken to wearing a baseball cap backward underneath the veil as an attempt to help keep the frame a bit more rigid and force the netting off my neck when bending over. It isn't perfect, but better than nothing. If I were to repurchase a bee suit, I'd go for one that had a more rigid veil (like one of these) as I suspect they would hold their shape better.
Finally, other suits are marketed as being more “breathable” which could be a nice perk for those who live in extremely hot climates; however, I typically check my hive in 80 °F weather and find this one to be okay despite my being prone to sweat at even the slightest hint of heat. Could it be more breathable? Sure. Do I emerge from each inspection drenched in sweat? Yep. Am I bothered by this? Not really. I should also note that some beekeepers think breathable suits are thinner and less resistant to stings.
Overall, I enjoy my Humble Bee suit and have few issues with it other than the aforementioned veil and glove concerns. Yes, this suit is not sting-resistant (I really don't think any suit can be called that), but it does help minimize your risk due to its material and baggy nature. So while I can still say that I've been stung even when wearing this suit, I can safely say I know I would've been stung far more often had I not been wearing it at all.
So do yourself a favor and please wear a bee suit when working your hives!
In need of a bee suit for working with your bees? Click here to check out some options!