How Much Protective Clothing Should I Wear While Working Bees?

| 2/4/2011 4:56:43 PM

No one likes to get stung. It hurts. By the way, the likelihood of dying from a bee sting is about as likely as dying by a lightning strike , according to the US National Safety Council:

Odds of dying from lightning: 1 in 81,949
Odds of dying from a bee/wasp sting: 1 in 72,494 


Even though bee stings aren't as deadly as some might think, it still hurts and you'll turn red, itch and swell up. This is a close up of the venom sack of the honey bee. It looks larger than it is. The stinger is only 1.5mm in length. Yet, as small at it is no one wants to be stung. Most of us have been stung by a honey bee whether we work bees or not. Wearing protective clothing can prevent most stings. The first defense against being stung is to always use a smoker! Blowing cool smoke into a hive and onto the bees prior to working them is your best protection. I can work most bees without any protective clothing if I smoke them first, but the same is not true if I don't smoke them!

The second defense against being stung is to keep gentle bees. There is no reason to keep a hive that is very defensive. Re-queen a hive that is mean with a more gentle queen and in 30 days the eggs that she lays will emerge and be much more gentle. Near the end of this year's bee season, I re-queened all of my hives and because we are queen producers and raise gentle queen stock, I worked my bees this with limited protection as my bees had no aggressive tendencies.

But let's say you don't want to worry about re-queening and you just want to wear some protective gear to keep from being stung. Sometimes, especially when removing hives from homes, more protection is necessary. We always recommend you wear a hat and veil which is a very wise investment. No one wants to get stung on the face or head. Most beekeepers use the plastic pith helmet with a veil.

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