A week ago we asked our followers on Facebook what topics they would like to read about on our blog. Our fan Brandon asked the following question:

“How can a beekeeper rob his bees without using a suit? And why would you risk it doing that?”

Good question Brandon.  While often we see beekeepers playing around without full protective gear there’s a very good reason to have it… at least most of the time.

So when should you wear what and can you ever get into your bees without a suit?

First, if you’re in a place where there’s a chance of Africanized bees I definitely wouldn’t get into my hive EVER without a suit.  While your bees may not have had a problem it’s always possible that your hive swarmed or superseded the queen and you could have a partially Africanized hive now.  Best not to find out the hard way.

If you’re not in such a place there are some times when you can poke at your hive without a full suit.

The only time I go out without any particular gear on is if I’m simply peeking into my hive.  Either I’m checking to see the levels of my sugar water or maybe seeing if my hive survived the winter.  On those occasions I’ll often just go out to the apiary without any particular gear.  That said, if I find that something needs to be done I’ll often put on more gear.

For a brief inspection, for example looking in to see how much of a honey super is filled, I’ll often simply put on long pants, a long sleeve shirt, my veil and gloves and peek inside.  I try to keep my pant legs mostly closed up as I’ve gotten more stings from walking on the grass and a bee flying up my pant leg than anything else so I try to make it so I’m not accidentally trapping a girl where she can’t get out.

For a full inspection or when I harvest honey or hive a bee package I will always use a full bee suit and make sure that everything is closed up as much as possible.

Why?  Because I’m tearing into a home and I’m more likely to upset the bees.  It just makes good sense to me to be protected.

Some beekeepers go without gloves because they can handle the frames better without them.  Certainly your choice but be prepared that you could get stuck on a hand holding a frame with the queen… you won’t want to drop it.

Finally, if you haven’t seen our Beyond The Basics DVD you might want to pick it up now.  In it you’ll hear the story of a beekeeper who went without his equipment and did actually lose an eye (don’t worry, no gory details) from a sting.  You’ll also hear about how going without gear could cause you to become allergic to bee stings.

Can you go without any beekeeping gear while harvesting honey?  Sure, just like you can walk across the freeway.  It’s just not a great idea!

So what do you think?  All gear all the time?

5 Responses to ““But You’ll Lose an Eye!” On Going Without A Beekeeping Veil and Suit”

  1. Netiva

    I just installed my first bees last Sat with only my veil and gloves as it was a warm 75 degree day.
    It got uncomfortable with the gloves so I removed one and was able to insert the queen all the way in the hive with a bare hand. The bees were too busy getting adjusted to care about me. Was I just lucky?
    Is it possible that hey got used to my pheromone after driving with me in the car for 3 hours? They have been nice to me all week since then:)



    I live in Central Arizona, and have yet to see a real Africanized bee. I am currently trying to get a hive I lost last year from it’s bee tree after a Wild Pig (Javelina)destroyed 2 hives. Thousands come to my back porch daily for the flowers and sugar water.

    Last year they were Italian, but now they seem to be changing into Cariolan. These are very gentle bees, but the fact that a new queen has superseeded the queen has me becoming a bit concerned. Today was the last chance for the girls to “belly up to the free lunch bar” at my home.

    I will also keep a close eye on these bees in case they do go African…this leads to fire dept and burning out the hive.

    My new hives are now surrounded by a 7 x 12 x 6′ chain link fencing surrounded by 3 levels of elec fencing (solar powered).

    Oh, sorry, “Yes, you were probably somewhat lucky. Remember to requeen each yr, and place a queen excluder at the bottom entrance and the top of the queen chambers.” Hopefully, that will keep unwanted queens far away from your beloved girls.

  3. Jessica

    Netiva, many bees are quite docile and certainly when they’ve been transported for a long time they are even more likely to be pretty tame. Not always of course, but it’s a bit like us after a long move… they want to settle in to home and relax! :-)


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