When we first started out, Lauchie and I were kind of obsessed with Paul Kelly. If you haven’t heard of him yet, Kelly is a researcher and apiary manager for the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre and he is kind of a rock star on the UoG Honey Bee Research Centre’s YouTube channel. We became playlist groupies pretty fast.

So, as we watched Kelly work his magic in video after video, we couldn’t help but notice that the guy does all his beekeeping in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Wait, what?!?! That can’t be right, can it? Aren’t honey bees, like, stingy and stuff? Why wouldn’t Kelly cover up while working with bees? Needless to say, we had questions.

As spring approached and we started to prepare our beekeeping shopping list, we kept circling back to the same question: how much protective do we really need? If beekeepers like Paul Kelly don’t cover up when they work with bees, do we really need to spend money on fancy protective equipment?

After much hemming and hawing, we bought jackets with veiled hoods and a set of thick beekeeping gloves. We thought, worst case, we just don’t use them.

So, was it a worthwhile purchase? In short, yes. If you work with bees, you need protective equipment, but, how much you need will come down to individual comfort.

During our first few trips to the apiary, Lauchie and I arrived fully suited up: Jackets, veiled hoods, long pants, boots, and gloves. Any spot where a bee could get close to the skin, we covered.

But, as we became more comfortable with the temperament of our hives, we started to dress according to the situation. If our bees appeared agitated during visits, we wore more gear. If the bees were lazy and happy, we wore less gear.  On especially hot days, Lauchie elected to wear a hat and veil, long pants and short sleeves. Me, I remained cautious and stayed covered up. After the first few trips, both of us stopped wearing gloves since the gloves made it hard to work with frames.

So how did this strategy work for us? Because I rarely wore gloves, my hands were vulnerable and I had a number of stings on my hands. Lauchie was stung a few times through his shirt because the fabric was thin. He also got stung in the leg after a bee traveled up a gaping pant leg. But, when we wore all of our protective gear, no stings.

So the moral of the story is, if you are concerned about stings, wear as much protective gear as you feel you need. Bee stings hurt. There’s no shame in taking precautions. Even if you are not worried about getting stung, at the very least, wear a veil to protect your eyes and face. A bee sting in the eye can blind you.


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