Which Type of Beekeeping Suit Should I Choose

by James Bailey on August 29, 2017
All beekeeping suits have one primary aim, and that is to create a complete enclosed environment to protect you, by preventing bees, wasps or hornets from getting in and having unimpeded access to your skin. That is why it is important for a good quality suit should use high good quality fasteners, like genuine YKK zippers and genuine Velcro hook and loop fasteners.
beekeeping suit and bee jacket in apiary with bees

Beginner Beekeeping Suits

Entry level suits like our Apiarist Beekeeping Suit are normally the cheapest type of beekeeper suit on the market, a simple design to prevent bees stings from getting in, and preventing bees from stinging you, when worn on top of other clothing i.e. a pair of jeans and a long sleeve polo top.

Being made of polycotton, and fitted with one hooded veil, make these suits very affordable. These are great if you are on a budget or just starting out or unsure if beekeeping is going to be a long-term pursuit.

The drawbacks, are that polycotton can become uncomfortable to wear in hot weather, though they are made of a slighter lighter fabric to help compensate this. You will need to wear underclothing to stop stings, and you only have one veil.

On the plus, polycotton is very durable and easy to clean, so this suit should last a long time, providing you take care of it. Even if you eventually buy a more expensive suit, these suits will remain a fond favorite as they are perfect for doing all those grubby jobs, like harvesting and gardening around your apiary.    

Own It Bee Safe Bee You

All beekeeper suits should be designed to prevent bee stings, if your suit does not do this well, then you to need a better suit.  

Suits For Seasoned Beekeepers 

All Cotton Beekeeping Suits, like our Max Protect Beekeeping Suit, are a good improvement on the "beginner" beekeeping suits. Being made of pure cotton, makes them more breathable and more comfortable than ploycotton suits. Because of this they can be made slightly thicker without making the suits to hot to wear on warm summer days.

This thinker fabric makes it harder for bees to sting through the suit and reduces the severity of any stings that might get through. This is because the stinger can’t sting your skin as deeply, reducing the amount and depth of venom put into your body.

These cotton Max Protect suits have metal YKK zippers and additional Velcro seals. Adding these extra strengthened fasteners makes this type of suit more durable and less likely to fail under vigorous or regular use. This helps stop the more determined bee trying to gain excess into the suit.

These suits have the ultimate veils and come with two, one round and one fencing style. They have been designed to provide much more visibility than any regular beekeeping veils, plus they are the only beekeeping veil that are non-flammable. These are important distinctions from all other hooded veils, because a key aspect to safety is being able to see everything clearly, what you and your bees are doing without any hindrance; and knowing that when you are close to naked fire that you protective clothing won't go up in a ball of flames.

Beekeeper are all warned of the dangers of wearing their veil when lighting thier bee smokers, as most veils are made of some fabric derived from oil. Any unexpected flame catching your veil could cause it to catch alight or ball up into a molten liquid that could burn your face. These veils won’t. It will eventually burn if you put it over a blue flame for a prolonged period of time, but it won’t catch fire, melt or give off black toxic fumes.

Finally, these veil are very ridged. A commonality with most hooded veils is that they can collapse onto your face when working on your beehives. Most veils use extra supports to prevent this from happening. On these veils our approach was not create a fix by adding plastic stick, but to make the veil better by using a better meshed fabric. As this veil can take the heat, we recommend with our Max Protect and Zephyors Protect suits to iron the front and side parts of veils mesh, once you've unpack it. This will make them perfectly flat, improve your visibility and help them hold a better shape.

On this YouTube video you can see how to iron this hood veil; this video starts at 3:58.

Although all these great features result in some very useful benefits:

  • Thicker fabric for better sting protection from bees and wasps
  • Soft, cool and comfortable to wear.
  • Recyclable and biodegradable
  • Two high visibility non-flammable veils to protect your face
  • Stronger zippers and Fasteners  

These higher quality materials are more expensive, plus the additional complexity need to make these suits, increases labor costs. 

For me this is my go to suit, now that I have been a beekeeper for some years.

This suit is great if you are a keen backyard beekeeper with more than on hive, or a commercial beekeeper that needs to attend to your bees on a regular basis or for a prolonged amount of time. If like me, you just prefer something better then an entry level suit, then this suit will give you give much  more comfort and protection. 

Ventilated Beekeeping Suits

Our Zephyros Protect beekeeping suits are a 3 layer ventilated beekeeping suit. This kind of suit was first designed by EC Green, 1937 (patent 2.074.390), further developed by other beekeepers i.e. Bill Samples from Ultra Breeze. These types of beekeeping suits are primary designed to stop bees and wasps stings, by using multiple layers of fabric to create a suit thinker then the length of a bees stinger. The easiest way to do this would be to make a beekeeper suit out of neoprene, similar a diving suit. But his would make the suit to hot to wear, especially on hot summer days. 

To solve this issue, these types of suits are made of three layers of meshed fabric. This necessary part of the design adds even more benefits. Using mesh makes these suits incredibly light to wear despite the 3 layers, and because air can now flow through the suit easily they actually keeping you cooler and fresh in hot weather (or very cold in cooler climates).

The Zephyros Protect was our take on this design, with our aim to protect against the killer Africanized bee and equally aggressive as yellow jacket wasp.

In keeping with the original ventilated suit design, the holes on the outer mash layer are large enough to allow air flow through freely, but smaller than standard ventilated suits. These smaller holes further restricts the reach of a bees or wasps abdomen and stinger.

As with all beekeeping suits, a bees or wasps stinger can get through all the layers of fabric. Even Kevlar won't stop a bees stinger, as the stinger is so sharp is will just go through the woven gaps. The whole aim of these ventilated suits, is not ventilation, but to make the suits thick.  

We also took the step to ensure that the surface of the outer fabric was smooth and tangle free. To prevent the legs of bees from getting caught in any loose fibers.

Bees Stinger

This is why the second layer is super important. As a bee’s stinger only protrudes 1.5 - 3mm, this layer need to be thick, flexible and light. These suits second layer gives a gap of 5 mm, ensuring that a bees or wasps’ stinger can’t reach your skin, and therefore can’t sting you. The fabric mesh that the Zephyros Protect suits uses was purposely chosen to be soft, flexible and light to make these suit as comfortable to wear as possible. The hole size on this second layer is also very important, because if the holes are too large this could lead to possibility to thickness of the gap being compromised through movement. If the hole is too small there wouldn’t be sufficient airflow to keep prevent you from over heating. After testing lots of different fabrics, we think we have got this balance just right.

The third layer, being the inner layer is where a lot of ventilated suits let themselves down, by using a weak fabrics with larger holes than what is used on the outer layer.

We choose to use a tighter weave of fabric on on both the outer and inner layer to increase the suits durability and reduce wear cause by constant movement. We did this because the majority of the wear & tear of the suit is from the suit rubbing on your under clothing. Again, we used the smaller holes to maintain the integrity of the 5 mm bee gap.

Because all the three layers move independently allowing the suit to move and bend with your body, we used doubled stitching on all the seems and joins making to ensure the suit remain strong, robust, working as an impenetrable sealed shell for your protection.

In summary, these suits drawbacks

  • These suit use three times the amount of fabric as other bee suits, making them more expensive
  • They need to be hand-washed help extend the life of the suit
  • They can be cold to wear in cooler climates
  • They can get snagged on loose tree and hedge branches
Stop Getting Stung, Bee Safe Bee Pain Free

The benefits of ventilated suits:

  • Layered fabrics create a 5 mm gap between you and the bee
  • They totally stop bees and wasps from stinging you
  • Very comfortable to wear in hot cellmates and on hot summer days 
  • Very metal YKK zips with Velcro seals make the suits very secure
  • Comes with two veils (1 round + 1 hooded) with visibility and non-flammable veil mesh, as detailed above with the Max Protect suit

This type of suit is perfect if live in a warm climate, and/or your bees are aggressive. If you can afford that little bit extra, then this the best suit for sting free protection.

I personal use all three suits. I use the Apiarist bee suit when I do all the messy jobs, like harvesting and tidying up around my apiary. I use the Max Protect beekeeping suit for all my regularly checks and the Zephyros beekeeping suit on extremely hot days, and finally my smock for random inspections and non-intrusive checks.

James Bailey - Natural Apiary, Beekeeper.

Updated 17 Jan 2020
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