Which Type of Beekeeping Suit Should I Choose

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

Beginner Beekeeping Suits

Entry level suits like our Apiarist Beekeeping Suit are normally cheapest type of beekeeper suit on the market, designed to prevent bees stings from getting in, and reducing the amount a bees stinger can penetrate your skin, 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 hood type veil, make these suits very affordable. These are great you are on a budget or just starting out and unsure if beekeeping is going to be a long-term pursuit.

The drawbacks, are that polycotton can be 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.      

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

Suits For Seasoned Beekeepers 

All Cotton Beekeeping Suits; like our Max Protect Beekeeping Suit, are a good step up. 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 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 do 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.

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

These suits have the ultimate veils, they come with two veils, one round and one fencing style, that have been designed to provide much more visibility than any regular beekeeping veils on the market, 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 wont go up in a ball of flames.

We have all been warned of the dangers of wearing your veil when lighting our smokers, as most veils are made of some fabric derived from oil. Any unexpected flame catching your veil can cause it to catch alight or ball up into a molten liquid that could damage your face. These veils won’t. It will burn if you put it over a blue flame for a long period of time, but it won’t catch fire, melt or give of 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 our beehives. Most veils use extra supports to prevent this from happening. On these veils our approach was not to fix by adding bits, but to make it better by using better fabrics. 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 unpack them. This will make them perfectly flat, improve your advisability and help them hold their shape.

You can see me just do that, iron this hood veil on full heat on this YouTube Video; this video starts at 3:58.

Although all these benefit are great:

  • 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  

Better fabrics and materials are more expensive, plus the additional complexity to making these suits design increases the 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, a commercial beekeeper that needs to attend to your bees on a regular basis or a prolonged amount of time. Or, if you are just like me and you prefer something better then an entry level suit, that will give me a light 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 bee and wasp stings, by creating a layer of fabrics so thick that a bees stinger cant reach your skin. The easiest way to do this would be to make a beekeeper suit that is similar a diving suit made of neoprene. But his would make it too hot to wear, especially on hot summer days. 

To solve this issue, these types of suits are made of three layers of mesh. This necessary part of the design added even more benefits. Using mesh made 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, and we wanted to do it with protection from Africanized bees and equally aggressive as yellow jacket wasps as its main aim.

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. This smaller hole restricts the reach of a bees or wasps abdomen and stinger even further.

As with all beekeeping suit, including ventilated suits, the a bees and wasps stinger can get through all the layers of fabric. Even Kevlar wont 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, in not ventilation, but to make the suits fabric very 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 fibres.

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 ad 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 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 that the outer layer.

We choose to use a tighter weave of fabric to increase the suits durability and reduce wear cause by constant movements. Making it equally as strong mesh as first (outer) layer of fabric. 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 tall the three layers move independently allowing the suit to move with your body, we had to doubled stitched these layers together making to ensure the suit is string, robust and works as an impenetrable sealed shell for your protection.

In summary, these suits drawbacks

  • 3 layer of fabrics makes these suits expensive
  • Need to be hand-washed to extend to life of the suit
  • Can be cold to wear in cooler climates
  • Can get snagged on loose tree and hedge branches
The benefits of ventilated suits:
  • Layered fabrics that create 5 mm gap between you and the bee
  • Totally stops bees and wasps stinging you
  • Very comfortable to wear in hot cellmates and on hot summer days 
  • Very strong metal YKK zips with secure Velcro seals
  • 2 veils with high 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 bee sting 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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