Have you ever wondered why beekeepers wear suit white colors? Is it to see bees when they land on them, is it to make them cooler in the summer or just a fashion style?
The answer is quite simple. Bees have always been endangered as many predators want to eat their delicious honey. Bees have evolved to drive away predators with stings. Predators that robbed bees over time were mostly animals, usually dark in color. That is why bees start to cultivate a hostile mood towards dark colors. White color is less noticeable by bees. This is why beekeepers wear white suits that are less noticeable by bees. Bees pay less attention to white color, they are much calmer and not disturb them so much. Therefore, it is also important that we are clean and wash up when we go to bees. We do not use deodorants, perfumes, detergents and must not stink of sweet. We need to go to the bees calm and hydrated. When we are inspecting the bee colony, we can spray our hands and suit with apple vinegar or clove essential oil. This scent makes the bee calmer.
Traditionally, beekeeping clothes are made of cotton cloth. Recently, however, manufacturers have been producing suits from several layers of the net, which are much airier. Suits with such ventilation can be handy in hot summer months. We need to be aware that the beekeepers’ suit does not offer complete protection since bees can still sting over a suit.
Now let’s look at what colors bees can see. Bees see light waves that people see from reddish yellow to ultraviolet colors, which we no longer perceive. Their field of vision ends on the infrared side of yellow, so they do not see red. Bees are likely to see red in black.
Bees see more colors in the ultraviolet range, but they see fewer colors in the infrared area, so the bees don’t see red. This is how the bees like the shades of purple and blue. With this spectrum, bees help find flowers where this spectrum is most dense. If there is a lack of ultraviolet light, bees lose interest in pasturing. Unless they are hungry and there is no other pasture.
If we want to be a beekeeper or walk near beehives, beekeeping protection equipment is necessary. These are special dresses made from 100% cotton with a hat, they are easy to clean, they can also be in the washing machine, but we have to remove the veil.
How is made beekeeper suit
Beekeeping suit is made in such a way that bees can’t get under the suit. Around our hands and ankles is rubber which is thigh around our skin. Normally every beekeeper puts gloves, oversleeves, and socks over the suit. Beekeeping suit, you can get in different size numbers. There are suits for children and adults.
Beekeeping suit usually has a detachable hat so that you can separate the hat from the dress, and there is a net on the hat, which is made of a material that will give you excellent visibility through it. The net is made with a double ring, which has the task of keeping the net away from the face. If the suit has a zipper around the neck it is crucial that the zipper is protected by a cloth. Because bees can get inside of the suit at a place where the start and end of the zipper meet. Every beekeeper also needs pockets on the suit. Pockets make the suit more practical to use. Beekeepers usually need a marker pen, hive tool, brushes, queen catcher and so on.
Beekeeping protection equipment comes in various ways: a beekeeping suit with a hat and veil, a bee jacket with a hat and veil and only a bee hat with a veil. All tips of protection suits are designed to work with bees and have their own advantages, but is your choice to decide which one.
What can make bees hostile towards the beekeeper?
Most people are afraid of bees and their stings. Honey bees never sting from malice. They only use their weapons when they feel threatened. In nature, this can happen when the bee is squeezed or stepped on. Quite differently, is in the vicinity of the bee’s hive. Bees do not tolerate any intruder who comes there most often to rob them of sweet honey or larva cells. These include mainly wild bees, wasps, flies, bears, ants and also humans.
Bees are very sensitive to odors; they are strongly irritated by the sweat odor, farm odor, various perfumes, etc. If one bee stings, it is the smell of the venom that prompts the other to sting. That’s why we always approach bees clean, washable, but we never use different scents. We also pay attention to the appropriate clothing, because the bees do not tolerate certain synthetic materials (synthetics). Beginner beekeepers will have some more problems at inspecting the hive, mainly because of fear of bees. However, fear is not excluded even with an experienced beekeeper if he has a poor experience with a particular hive. Fear causes sweat and odor which triggers an attack mode in bees. If we will work calmly, relaxed and with a lot of confidence with bees, the bees will also be calm. A scared and nervous beekeeper will transfer his characteristics to bees and their reaction will be appropriate.
It is much easier to work with bees if we choose the right time. The easiest way to work is when most grazing bees are outside the hive. During the day, early morning and late afternoon are best. Around noon, in the worst heat, we only see bees in the hive. Good theoretical knowledge of bees and practical experience allow us to recognize the happenings in the hive by observing the bees on the hive’s entrance.
With every intervention in the hive, we destroy the natural balance in it. Therefore, reckless interventions are in no way of benefit to either bees or beekeepers.
Always follow a principle, do no harm! Before we start inspecting hives we must take the following steps.
- We need to have all the necessary tools nearby: a stand, hive tool, brush, smoker or water spray, and on…
- Wear a protective suit. If it is necessary to use repellents such as clove essential oil or apple vinegar.
- Observe the hive entrance. From viewing entrances we can learn a lot of bees: their health stats if there is pasture, robbing and so on.
- Bees are hostile if there is low air pressure or rainy weather nearby. When you get close to the bee stand, bees will begin to “bump” you, they are agitated.
- Lower vibrations as much as possible, they upset them.
It is no heroic act to let a large number of bees sting into one day. The smart beekeeper protects himself from stings and hives do not even open when the bees are hostile. It is necessary to protect yourself with appropriate clothing, gloves and a suitable cover with a veil. An experienced beekeeper observes and listens to his bees. When he opens the hive, he immediately hears the sound of the bees and adjusts the work to it. The inspection of the hive may also be postponed if the bees show a hostile attitude.
Every time we open hive bees get excited. They make a loud noise, raise their rear end, and the beekeeper can smell their venom. They usually start drinking honey. When they drink enough honey they are usually no longer hostile. However, this calming process takes too long, so only beekeepers with fewer hives can afford it.
We can use smoke and water to calm and sedative bees. If we use smoke products, we can use only natural products. Because smoke from these products doesn’t harm bees, honey, and the beekeeper. We use both moderately, otherwise, we can achieve the opposite effect.
How to wash a beekeeping suit.
Winter and early spring is a time to take care of beekeeping equipment. This is the time when beekeepers prepare for next season. They can repair hives, make new frames, research seals strategies and so on. It is also time when we take care of our suit, gloves, and a veil. Even so, we must check our protection gear every time we put it on. Bees are very clever in finding a crack in our suit.
When the beekeeping season is off it is time to wash our suit, veil, gloves, remove stains and patch holes in clothing. When we are washing beekeeping clothes it is crucial that it is handling non-allergic to bee venom. Because beekeeper can get a couple of hundred stings per season and some stings stay in a suit. When we are handling the suit, we can breathe this aerosol of venom and also sting on old stings. An allergic person can get a severe reaction. Here are some useful tips for taking care of beekeeping equipment:
- Remove veil and hood. Both of them have to wash by hand. I usually use marseille soap and brush to remove stains from the hood. Wash only with cold water and let it dry in air.
- Gloves. If we have pigskin or goatskin gloves. We can also use marseille soap and some apple vinegar to soften gloves. We can wash them only with cold water. When we finish washing, let them half-dry in shade. In the end, we must spray a mist of leather conditioner onto a cleaning rag and rub this into the leather gloves. As we take care of our skin we must take care of leather.
- Beekeeping suit I maintain in such a way that I brush all the stains with Marseille soap before I put it in the washer machine. I don’t use any detergent and softeners. I put in a washing machine with only apple vinegar. I put it around 200ml. Apple vinegar makes the suit soft and not admits any strong odor, that will make the bee hostile.
- Store all beekeeping protection equipment away from direct sunlight exposure. Store them in a dry closet away from any fabric eating insects.
- It is not recommended that you use bleach, detergent and any other synthetic material on beekeeping protection equipment.
In conclusion, the beekeeper wears a white suit/clothes because they are less visible by bees. Nevertheless, only white clothes will not protect you from stings. There are also other important factors to reduce bee stings. Such as our cleanliness, bee smoker, weather, air pressure, pasture and our movements. If we approach bees on a nice sunny day in clean clothes and with no fear of bees we can reduce stings. And remember that it is not heroic that you get stung by 100 bees or more. Because bees die when they sting you.