Best Ventilated Bee Protection Suits for Sale in 2020

Most beekeepers like to get up close and observe their honey bees while tending to the hives. But without a sting proof bee suit, you’re taking a significant risk every time you crack open the hive. But an appropriate and breathable beekeeper outfit can offer protection against bee stings while keeping you comfortable and mobile. 

If you don’t have time to read our entire article, then just click here for the best-ventilated beekeeping suit.

Here are our top five choices for ventilated bee protection suits:

  1. Ultra Breeze Beekeeping Jacket
  2. Humble Bee 430-L Ventilated Beekeeping Suit
  3. Natural Apiary All-in-One Beekeeping Suit
  4. Forest Beekeeping Ventilated Jacket

Why Wear a Bee Protection Suit?

Experienced beekeepers may feel comfortable handling bees without protective gear, but it’s not always the wisest choice. Here’s why you need to suit up while beekeeping.

Bee Sting Risks

Whenever you disturb a bee hive, you risk agitating the bees and inviting them to sting. While it’s less likely that you’ll encounter the queen bee while checking a hive, an abundance of worker bees poses a hazard. 

Worker bees are all females and have barbed stingers. The stingers are modified egg-laying appendages, which the infertile workers don’t need since the queen lays all the eggs in the hive. A worker honey bee’s sole purpose is to gather nectar, pollinate plants, and defend the hive (Source: PBS). Drones, male bees, do not have stingers, making them less of a risk.

A worker bee is programmed to sting and give her life for the colony’s protection. Not only that but once one bee stings, the release of the venom signals to other bees to attack, too. One bee sting can quickly turn into multiple stings.  

Beekeepers may become accustomed to bee stings while handling their hives, but for some people, a bee sting can mean a life-threatening allergic reaction. Multiple bee stings can kill someone who has an allergy and goes into anaphylactic shock. 

Ultimately, a ventilated bee protection suit is a small investment compared to the potential for injury from multiple bee stings. Many suits also utilize thicker fabric that can physically prevent bees from sticking you with their stinger.

Worker Bee Loss

When a worker bee stings you, she will most likely die. That’s because her purpose in stinging is to protect the colony, and one small dose of venom isn’t enough to stop most “attackers.” Therefore, the bee’s anatomy dictates that the stinger and its muscles have to remain with the victim. 

Once a bee tries to fly away from the sting site, that motion will pull her stinger and part of her internal organs out with it. The bee’s abdomen, digestive tract, muscles, and nerves rip from her body, most often killing the bee (Source: Wonderopolis).

Unfortunately, the more bees that sting you while you tend to the hive, the fewer are left to produce honey and maintain life in the colony. It’s unlikely that you’ll lose enough bees in one stinging event to decimate the colony, but over time, the loss of worker bees can add up. 

There is also the potential for you to injure the bees if one stings you. Often, our gut reaction is to drop whatever we’re holding, swipe at the injury site, or flee. You may drop a frame full of bees (and honey), step on bees that are walking on the ground, or squish bees as they fly around you. None of these are ideal when bee protection and health are your goals.

Keeping Bees Calm

Though bees can see color enough to choose their “favorite” for nectar, those preferences can also mean trouble for beekeepers. Bees have remarkable eyesight and have a broader range of color vision than humans, so they prefer colors like purple, violet, and blue (Source: Bee Culture).

Bees also associate darker-colored objects with danger, since bears, skunks, and raccoons are all dark-colored and tend to raid beehives. While wearing white is no guarantee that bees won’t want to sting you, it’s a better tactic than wearing dark colors and looming over your hives. This way, you can keep bees most calm and prevent them from starting a danger alarm within the hive.

Controversy Over Beekeeping Suits

While many beekeepers swear by bee protection suits, many others criticize the use of specialized equipment for handling bees. Plenty of videos exist online that show “bee whisperers” approaching hives without fear or stings.

Depending on the stock of your bees, you may be able to approach them without specialized gear and fear of receiving a sting. After all, some breeds of bees are calmer and less likely to become agitated when you visit the hive. However, beginner beekeepers may want to avoid this tactic, at least until they become familiar with their bees.

Also, remember that bees are animals, and are therefore unpredictable. While many bees are calmer in the evening and when temperatures hover around 70 degrees, that’s no guarantee that you won’t set off a frenzy when opening the hive.

Some critics of beekeeping garb also suggest that the color white won’t do anything to convince bees that you’re not a threat. With bees’ excellent eyesight, they argue, there’s no reason for bees to mistake a human for a bear or other animal. At the same time, wearing bright colors won’t convince bees that you are a flower or plant.

Overall, no evidence suggests wearing a beekeeping suit is a bad idea. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter, the fact is that wearing long sleeves, long pants, and a face and neck covering can at least reduce the chances of getting stung. 

Purchasing a beekeeping outfit covers all these bases and offers the added benefit of making any bees that land on you more visible, so you’re less likely to harm them or be stung.

Benefits of Ventilated Beekeeping Suits

In contrast with historic beekeeping suits, today’s versions are decidedly less bulky and infinitely more comfortable. Particularly ventilated suits, which allow you to breathe fresh air and maintain visibility while accessing your bees’ hives. 

Rather than wearing a heavy headpiece, you can don a breathable ventilated beekeeping outfit that has face protection included. Mesh panels let the breeze through but also maintain your line of sight into the hives. 

Ventilated suits are also desirable for warmer climates or seasonal use when a standard suit is too warm to work in comfortably. Talking with other beekeepers or visitors is also easier when you’re not wearing a fully-enclosed beekeeping hat.

History of Beekeeping Suits

Beekeeping is an ancient art that dates back thousands of years, but today’s methods are anything but primitive. With the advent of tools and machines for hive maintenance and honey extraction, beekeepers are becoming more advanced than ever. Beekeeping suits have received updates over the years, too, making them more efficient than ever.

Beekeeping History

Originally, people stole honey from wild honey bee nests when they realized how tasty and nutritious the sticky substance was. But later, humans began providing artificial cavities for bees to make their homes in, making it convenient to source honey (Source: Annual Reviews).

Even in 2450 BCE, Egyptians had already developed the art of apiculture, creating horizontal hives for their bees and extracting honey and beeswax. Both honey and wax were desirable commodities, creating a high demand for not only bees but also knowledgeable beekeepers. 

In modern times, honey production has reached staggering levels. Honey production operations in the United States with five or more hives produced a total of 148 million pounds of honey in 2017 (Source: USDA). 

According to the USDA, there were over 2.67 million colonies producing honey in the United States in 2017. Even with hundreds of hives per beekeeper, that’s an impressive market for honey bees and honey.

Early Beekeeping Suits

Originally, people stole honey from wild honey bee nests when they realized how tasty and nutritious the sticky substance was. But later, humans began providing artificial cavities for bees to make their homes in, making it convenient to source honey (Source: Annual Reviews).

Even in 2450 BCE, Egyptians had already developed the art of apiculture, creating horizontal hives for their bees and extracting honey and beeswax. Both honey and wax were desirable commodities, creating a high demand for not only bees but also knowledgeable beekeepers. 

In modern times, honey production has reached staggering levels. Honey production operations in the United States with five or more hives produced a total of 148 million pounds of honey in 2017 (Source: USDA). 

According to the USDA, there were over 2.67 million colonies producing honey in the United States in 2017. Even with hundreds of hives per beekeeper, that’s an impressive market for honey bees and honey.

What to Look for in Ventilated Bee Protection Suits

Color

We’ve already established that dark colors are a no-no when approaching your bees. And although white is the most common beekeeping suit color, other light colors are also acceptable. Think beige, tan, or cream-colored suits- all are ideal for keeping bees visible while also discouraging them from attacking. 

Often, children’s bee suits come in colorful styles and schemes. While there’s no evidence to suggest that this is dangerous, most beekeepers avoid colorful suits for themselves due to bees’ powerful and perceptive vision. 

Choosing lighter-colored suits for children may help relieve concerns about attracting agitated bees. Children may also be more easily spooked than adults when bees hover near or land on them. Therefore, making it easy to spot and gently brush off bees by wearing light-colored clothing can help protect both children and honey bees.

Fit

Sizing can vary across brands and styles of beekeeping suits, so take note of your measurements and compare sizing carefully. You will likely want to be able to wear your beekeeper outfit over the top of regular clothing, so be sure to account for that when taking down measurements.

At the same time, make sure your beekeeping clothing isn’t too loose or baggy. Any folds or gaps in the fabric can create space for bees to enter and become trapped. That could mean more stings for beekeepers.

If you can try on a beekeeping suit before ordering, do so. Practice making the movements that you make while checking your hives. Walk, bend, stoop, crouch, and note how the suit fits and where any vulnerabilities are. 

Finally, regarding fit, be prepared to pay a little more for a sized suit rather than a one-size version. This way, you’ll feel more comfortable and have less excess fabric getting in the way of your beekeeping. Temperature is also a concern, especially if you are checking your bees in midday heat or warmer seasons. 

Material

While you shouldn’t expect that a beekeeping suit will prevent all stings, most fabrics are thick enough to at least discourage bees from stinging. At the very least, the fabric provides a barrier that may be slippery enough that a honey bee’s barb cannot stick into it. 

At the same time, you also want to avoid thicker fabric that might become too hot in warmer weather. Overheating while wearing your beekeeping suit is not only uncomfortable, but it’s unsafe. If you become overheated and faint, for example, you can harm not only yourself but also your bees if you squish them or drop a frame or hive.

For headgear, look for mesh or screen material that prevents bees from entering. Ventilated beekeeping suits also feature ventilation panels to keep you cool, but these need mesh or another covering to keep bees from coming in with the breeze.

Features

Other features in ventilated beekeeping suits include elastic, reinforced panels, zipper closures, and pockets. Consider which of these features are valuable for you and whether you are willing to pay more for additional features.

Elastic can make for a more comfortable fit, especially in unisex or one-size suits. Elastic in the ankles, wrists, and other locations can also keep bees out more effectively than open cuffs. If you opt for an upper-body only suit, elastic can help create a barrier that prevents bees from entering.

Reinforced panels can prevent tearing or excessive wear in the knee, elbow, and other areas. At the same time, reinforced paneling can also mean a potentially heavier suit and thicker fabric, so weigh the benefits on those features.

Zipper closures are helpful for getting suits on and off with ease, especially when putting on and removing your headgear. 

Best Ventilated Bee Protection Suits in 2018

Considering the above criteria for ventilated bee protection suits, here are our top five picks for 2018. 

Humble Bee’s ventilated suit uses a cotton-synthetic blend to keep beekeepers cool and protect against stings. The breathable ventilation panels span the back of the suit and panels on the arms and chest allow for further air circulation.

In addition to the elastic waist and elastic wrist and ankle areas, thumb and foot hold help keep the suit in place as you work. A removable veil helps make putting on and taking off the suit easier, plus helps with storing the suit in the provided carrying case. The veil itself has a mesh screen around its perimeter, ensuring visibility across 360 degrees.

A wide range of sizes correlates with height, accommodating wearers from 4’11” to 6’6” tall. However, a chest measurement chart also helps wearers to select the size that will fit them best. Plus, the ultimate luxury- pockets- help you store necessities without carrying extras.

Pros:

  • Sizing from XX-Small to XXX-Large
  • Pockets
  • Cushioned kneepads
  • Carrying case
  • Elastic waist, ankles, and wrists
  • Removable veil

Cons:

  • Sizing mainly by height, meaning not all users will find a comfortable fit

With its color selection and elastic fit adjustments, Natural Apiary’s All-in-One beekeeping suit tops our list. Sizes range from X-Small to XXXL, based mostly on height, but an elasticized waist and elastic in the ankles and wrists helps ensure it stays put.

While the removable veil does not feature all-around mesh, its front and side mesh panels allow for airflow and visibility. Both hip and chest pockets add to the convenience with secured flip-top openings. You’ll also find a reinforced collar for additional neck protection. 

The material is a cotton-polyester blend, so it’s lightweight, though you can’t enjoy a cross-breeze through your suit- there are nobody ventilation panels. 

The color options include a neutral white and variations like khaki, sand, and even camouflage and pink, and sizing can accommodate a range of heights and body types. Zipper closures at the leg openings help with the fit, even when wearing work boots or other bulky footwear.

Pros:

  • Multiple color options
  • Pockets
  • Elastic wrist and ankle openings
  • Detachable veil

Cons:

  • Fabric panels partially block side view through the mesh
  • Lacks body ventilation panels

If you prefer to wear separate suit pieces or just jeans or work pants on the bottom, Forest Beekeeping’s ventilated jacket is the ideal gear. The lightweight vented jacket allows for plenty of airflows, and the mesh veil provides protection without blocking ventilation. 

The front of the veil is a fiberglass screen, ideal for blocking bee attacks. However, there are fabric panels that may block peripheral vision. Three front pockets provide storage space and Velcro closures, with double stitching for durability.

There’s elastic at the wrists and waist, plus thumb straps to help keep the sleeves in place whether you put gloves on or need to reach and stretch. 

In contrast with full-body suits, Forest Beekeeping’s jacket gives you the ability to slip on a lightweight covering for quick hive checks, making the rounds less of a chore. The breathable fabric helps keep you cool but maintains protection against stings, which is helpful for hotter climates where wearing a full-body suit is uncomfortable and impractical. 

Pros:

  • Elastic wrists and waist
  • Double-layered hood and adjustable Velcro strap
  • Fiberglass face screen
  • Detachable veil

Cons:

  • Limited size range
  • Fabric panels create peripheral blinds spots

Multiple layers of mesh keep Ultra Breeze’s jacket lightweight while also forming a substantial barrier against stinging honey bees. The hood is detachable, and the entire jacket is breathable and lightweight. Pockets are a welcome feature, but the lack of closure and the slickness of the mesh keeps wearers from fully utilizing them.

Elastic wrists and an elastic waist help with fit, though there are no thumb loops to secure the sleeves further. In contrast with the body of the jacket, the veil uses a darker mesh for the frontal portion, and a stripe of fabric creates significant blind spots almost directly in front of the wearer. 

However, for warmer climates or beekeepers who are easily overheated, you can’t beat a full-mesh jacket for protection and comfort while tending bees.

Pros:

  • Ventilated throughout
  • Three layers of mesh fabric
  • Multiple pockets
  • Detachable hood
  • X Small to X Large sizing

Cons:

  • No pocket closures
  • No elastic thumb loops
  • Potential “blind spots”

Conclusion

Because beekeepers tend their hives all over the world and in a range of environmental conditions, each one’s needs will vary. However, for those looking for a cooler beekeeping suit than solid-fabric ones, a ventilated suit is the obvious choice. 

Based on our research, the best sting proof bee protection suit with ventilation is the Humble Bee 430-L. It’s a full-coverage suit with reinforced panels at high-stress areas that also incorporates breathable mesh into not just the veil, but also the back, arms, and chest of the suit. The expansive sizing range also helps ensure that every beekeeper will find the right fit for comfortable and safe beekeeping.

Brand new to beekeeping? Check out our other beekeeper gear reviews below and become a pro with your apiary: