Are you interested in beekeeping but are worried about getting stung? Fortunately, there is a range of protective bee suits that will enable you to feel safe while learning the art of beekeeping. Those big white bee suits with veiled headgear certainly look impressive, but you may have wondered if a determined bee could string through a bee suit.
Bee stings through a bee suit can happen. Bee suits are bee-resistant, not bee-proof. However, getting stung through your bee suit is unlikely if you use a full-body bee suit. Not fully closing a zipper or tightening the wrist or ankle openings on the bee suit are more likely to result in a sting.
Don’t let the thought of being stung by a bee deter you from embarking on this rewarding hobby. There is a selection of fabulous bee suits available that offer excellent protection from stings, and there are also plenty of other things that you can keep in mind while working with your bees that will keep you (and them) safe throughout every encounter.
Are Bee Suits Sting Proof or Sting Resistant?
Bee experts agree that bee suits are bee resistant and not fully bee-proof. Bees have a way to find the smallest opening in your suit and sometimes get a sting in to remind you to be more vigilant.
As is human nature, we tend to forget the basics when doing tasks. Always make sure that all the openings into your suit are properly closed to avoid a bee from finding its way in and stinging you.
Most full-body bee suits only offer sting resistance and rely on you to wear adequate clothing under the suit to take up the space between the bee suit and the bee sting. Bee stingers are not long, so an adequate clothing covering will take up the space between the bee suit and your sensitive skin.
Learn more about the need for a full bee suit.
Bee suits work on the principle of keeping the bee away from your skin. Even if they poke a hole through the suit with their stinger, the odds of it making contact with your skin are minimal.
Bee suits are made from a cotton canvas material and fine mesh material that allows you to see out yet keep the bees at a safe distance from your face.
6 Basic Precautions To Take When Working With Bees
How do beekeepers avoid being stung?
Beekeepers will tell you that you will get stung from time to time, even when wearing a full-body bee suit.
Bees are great crawlers and will find the smallest opening possible to crawl through. Be it an unclosed zipper, the Velcro strap that secures the zipper, a small tear in the suit, or a sleeve or trouser leg that hasn’t been tucked into your sock properly.
1. Wear protective clothing
Bee suits that beekeepers wear have been developed over time to reduce the odds of being stung when working with bees.
Bee suits consist of head and face protection (veil with fine see-through screen), a jacket, trousers, and gloves. These are available as individual components or as a complete unit that incorporates all the components.
Some beekeepers use only selected suit parts, such as only the veil, to protect their face from stings. Some opt not to wear gloves as gloves reduce their ability to perform delicate tasks.
2. Use a smoker
A bee smoker is a vital piece of beekeeping equipment that helps calm the bees before you inspect the hive. The three main parts are the bellow, fire chamber, and nozzle. This device is basically a can with a nozzle on one end where smoke is pumped out from. The canister holds a chamber of smoldering sawdust that gives off smoke when the beekeeper pumps a small bellow manually.
The smoke is a non-toxic way of relaxing the bees by masking the pheromone used by bees to communicate with each other. Should a bee get injured or feel threatened, a pheromone is released, which alarms the other bees to the danger. Smoke masks this communication process, thereby preventing a panic chain reaction in the colony.
When beekeepers are stung, they often blow some smoke onto the sting to prevent the pheromone from spreading alarm to the rest of the colony.
3. Consider the weather
Bees are fair-weather creatures in terms of their moods. The best days to work with bees are clear sunny days. Opening the hive for inspection on cold rainy days is not advisable as you don’t want to get the inside of the hive wet.
Smokers are also used to puff smoke into the hive before the beekeeper opens the hive to alert the bees of the coming disturbance.
4. Place the hive in a good location
Placing the hive in a location with very little traffic, both human or animal will reduce the chances of being stung accidentally. A quiet, partially shaded area is ideal. Placing a hive in a high-traffic area is not a good idea.
5. Don’t obscure the flight path of the bees to the hive
Beehives have an opening that allows the bees to fly in and out of the hive. Obscuring this runway is not a good idea as the flight path of the bees is obstructed.
Working with bees can be a very relaxing activity. Blocking the flight path by standing in front of the doorway of the hive will increase the stress levels of the bees, causing them to sting and die unnecessarily.
6. Work calmly and don’t injure any bees
Bees are naturally curious creatures that will readily land on humans looking for food. When this happens, even when wearing a bee suit. It is never advisable to swat at a bee. Doing so triggers a defense reaction from the bee and may well lead to you being stung.
The best advice is to hold still until the bee realizes there’s no food available, and it will fly off.
When working with bees, beekeepers do their best never to inadvertently squash or harm a bee. It can sometimes be tricky given their high numbers in the average hive.
An injured bee gives off a pheromone that indicates danger to the rest of the hive. This may result in the whole colony going into high alert mode.
What To Do When You’re Stung By A Bee
Most bee stings are painful but don’t hold any long-lasting effects besides maybe being itchy for a day or so around the sting site for a day or two.
When a bee stings, a barbed sting and a small venom sack are pulled loose from the bee’s abdomen, this sting can be removed successfully by scraping it off using a credit card, knife, or something similar. Never attempt to grab the sting between your fingers, as this will result in you squeezing the venom sack attached to the stinger and forcing more venom into the wound, increasing the pain and itchiness.
If you are allergic to bees, take an antihistamine immediately and seek urgent medical attention.
What Are Bee Suits Made From?
Bee suits are generally made from heavy cotton material for the main body of the suit. The veil incorporates a hat and fine mesh netting that allows you to see through but keeps the bees out. The veil is designed such that the mesh remains well away from the face to avoid opportunistic stings.
Cotton fabric allows the suit to breathe and forms a good barrier against bee stings. Most beekeepers start out using a full one-piece suit for obvious reasons. Over time some may opt only to use a veil and a jacket and trousers like jeans, which are tucked into your socks.
Many even discard the use of gloves as they get to know bee habits better. Some beekeepers even work hives that they are familiar with without any form of protective clothing.
Bee suits, made of woven material, can still let through the occasional sting if the bee has sufficient time to work its stinger through the cloth. Wearing clothing under the suit will further reduce the odds of the stinger reaching your skin.
Does The Color Of The Bee Suit Make Any Difference?
You’ll notice that almost all bee suits are white or at least a light color. There are three main reasons that bee suits are white:
- Bees see in color. The color spectrum that they can see is larger than humans. White has been identified over time as a neutral color for bees. It is not a naturally threatening color towards bees and is also described as a color of no interest for bees.
- Lastly, the white color of the suit makes it easier to see if a bee has tagged along with you after leaving the hive. Nobody wants to carry off a bee inadvertently from the hive into the house or car. Even worse, inadvertently sitting on the poor bee.
How Does A Bee Sting?
Bees, of course, only sting when they feel threatened. Fortunately for humans, only the female honey bee can sting.
The main components of a bee’s stinging defense are two thin lancets, which we know as the stinger and then the venom sack. When a bee stings, the skin of the victim is penetrated by the two lancets.
These two needles are barbed and work their way into your skin with a sawing action. The first lancet is forced into the skin, and once lodged, the other half works its way into the skin. The action may repeat itself a few times until both lancets are securely embedded. The venom is then injected into the wound created by the lancets.
Unfortunately for the bee, mammals’ skins are too tough to allow the lancets from being dislodged again, and the only way for the bee to free itself is to tear the lancet out of its abdomen. And unfortunately, that causes the bee to die due to the damage caused to its abdomen.
In some cases, bees can survive after delivering a sting. Bees will, of course, sting any intruder that threatens themselves or the colony, and if this happens to be a soft-skinned worm or insect, the bee will be able to retract its sting lancets and will be unharmed after the attack.
Should A Bee Suit Be Loose Or Tight Fitting?
Bee suits are designed with user comfort and protection from bee stings in mind. A tight-fitting bee suit may look trendy, but it is best to choose a loose-fitting suit. Working with bees requires unrestricted movement as you’ll be bending and stretching a lot.
Wearing a loose suit will allow you to move unhindered. Suits also need to be closed at the wrists and ankles. If your suit is too small for you, the skin around these areas will be periodically exposed, leading to you being stung.
Even though they are usually white, bee suits have the potential of becoming very hot. On sweltering days you don’t want to be dripping with sweat inside the suit due to insufficient ventilation.
A loose-fitting suit will reduce the chances of a stray stinger coming into contact with your skin inside the suit. Having some room between the suit and your skin will be more comfortable for the beekeeper in the long run.
In Conclusion, Can A Bee Sting Through A Bee Suit?
Bees can sting through a bee suit. The lancets of the honey bee are very strong and can work their way through a bee suit, given sufficient time. In most cases, when a sting occurs, it is due to a bee that has managed to find a way into the suit.
Generally, beekeepers tend to become less worried about being stung over time. The fear of being stung subsides as you work more with your hives.
And while stings will always be uncomfortable, you get used to it, and the reward of sweet, delicious honey makes any temporary discomfort worthwhile.
Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project.