Some beekeepers wear as much protective gear as possible to reduce the number of stings they receive. Others wear very little protection and do not worry about stings. This is your choice. However, as a new beekeeper, you may want to start by wearing a full coverall and gloves. As you become more skillful and confident, wear less and take the gloves off. The amount of protection varies with the activity being done and with the temperament of the bees.
A veil should be worn at all times to avoid stings on the face that are painful and dangerous, especially near the eye, in the nose and in the ears.
Types of veils: Folding and round veils are made of wire mesh that fit over a helmet worn on the head and are secured in place with drawstrings tied around the waist. An Alexander-type veil requires no helmet, usually attaching to the head with an elastic band. The lightweight “tulle” veil is made of fine nylon mesh that is worn with a helmet or other hat. There are also veils made with combinations of cloth, nylon or wire mesh that zip onto a coverall.
Helmets are usually adjustable to head size. They are made of metal, plastic or a “breathable” tight-weave mesh. Helmets support veils that fit over them and provide space that keeps the veil away from the face.
Clothing and Bee Suits
Choose loose-fitting, long pants and a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt with a smooth finish. Khaki or chambray material works well for the shirt and khaki or faded jeans work fine as pants. Avoid textured materials and animal-origin materials like wool, fur or feathers, because the odor may cause defensive behavior. Wear boots that come over the ankle. It is quite a sensation to feel a bee crawling up your leg under your pants. Secure the bottom of the pants over the boots and the sleeve cuffs over the wrist with straps, tape or rubber bands to prevent bees from entering.
Although most experienced beekeepers do not wear them most of the time, gloves can be valuable for the beginner to start with. Most stings a beekeeper will receive are on the hands when picking up frames covered with bees. Bees can sting through gloves, even ones made from leather. Gloves are made of cloth, leather or plastic and often have a gauntlet base that extends almost to the elbow, usually ending with an elastic band. Choose a pair of gloves that fit well, otherwise they will be so awkward that clumsy movements may increase stinging.
Skinner, Parkman, Studer, and Williams. 2004. Beekeeping in Tennessee. University of Tennessee Extension PB1745. 43p.