Safety Equipment and Tools
Beekeeping safety gear
Safety gear and specialized equipment is available to the beekeeper. To what degree is completely a choice. However, there is a “suggestive minimum.” We will discuss these items here.
Safety gear is essential, not only for a new beekeeper, but even the seasoned professional (most anyway) would rather not open himself or herself up to a sting on the face. Because of this, special clothing has been designed to aid the beekeeper in reducing, or even eliminating (potentially) the likelihood of being stung.
New beekeepers should have at a minimum, the following items in their possession before handling bees.
Veil, veiled jacket, or veiled suit…
The veil protects the face and comes in round, and square options. The “hat” can be like a hunters hat, a cowboy hat, a ladies garden hat, or the veil can resemble a fencer’s mask. There are even many variations to those listed.
The veiled jacket works the same as the veil protecting the face, but also provides added protection around the shoulders, arms, back, and chest areas. This is probably the most chosen garment.
The “bee suit” is the full, over-all, style that offers the most protection, but of course is more expensive than the previous types of veiled protection. Again, there are many different types and styles available, and even different colors.
There are even children’s versions of the bee suit.
Next on the list of protective clothing are gloves.
Gloves protect the hands from stings. However, there are drawbacks to wearing leather gloves. It can make it difficult to handle frames and all but impossible to handle a queen (if necessary). Some seasoned beekeepers (and even new ones) don’t even wear gloves. Whether you chose to wear them or not, it is always a good idea to have a pair on-hand, just in case.
An alternative to the leather glove is a latex or non-latex derivative of the surgical glove. These afford protection from stings (use at least a 5mil thickness glove), and you have more control manipulating your hive. These are what I use when I don’t want to work my hives bare-handed. They are disposable, but I just turn them inside out after use to let them dry, and reuse them until I tear one, then I replace it. A box of 100 can be purchased for under $10 at places like Harbor Freight Tools.
Finally, for protective clothing, it is suggested to wear boots and at least jeans if no full suit is worn. You can even tie, tape, or rubber-band your pants cuffs to keep a bee from entering a place that will make you perform the “funky-dance.” As it is a rarity, it does happen, I have heard the stories.
Smokers are a beekeeper’s friend. Using smoke lets the bees know you are present and to be prepared. It can also calm the bees or move them from an area. But don’t over use the smoke. It does disorient the bees.
Hive tools. The metal hive tool, or the “J” hive tool. Either or both should be on-hand. This tool is used to separate boxes, lift frames, scrape propolis or comb, and whatever else it may be needed for.
From here, other tools and equipment is pretty much optional, and there are lots and lots of items available including handling equipment, honey extraction, queen rearing, and more. We won’t go into all that right now because each of those topics can be an entire write-up. But you can Google “beekeeping equipment” or specific topics like “Extracting honey” and you can read all day long.
Next up…. Preparing for your first hive…