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Dave Aky

NZBF Is protective gear necessary?

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So I am a few weeks into keeping bees and I have noticed that many beekeepers, particularly experienced keepers, don't wear protective gear. I have decided to start this way as so far I have had no problems. Can someone explain to me the pro's and con's of protective gear, and if my decision is a wise one? 

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If you can do your work on the hives without any gear, nice! you can be proud!

 

however, the day, when you need to do some work (eg treatment, or swarming prevention) while the ladies are not so happy WILL come!

That said, id rather have my protective gear ready and not need it than need it and not have it!

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How many stings have you had at one time?

And do you have any reaction?

 

I think as a beginner it’s a very good idea to wear full gear, as you may miss some of the subtle clues of the bees getting upset that a more experienced beekeeper might pick up on, you could end up being very badly hurt as stings don’t tend to come in ones.

It may even be enough to put you off bees, give you a very good scare, or you could have an allergic reaction.

 

I have been beekeeping for a while now and a lot of the time I will choose to wear a full beesuit.

 

The only time I don’t is when I know there is a very small chance of being stung.

I am pretty well completely immune to stings and about 5 minutes after a sting I’d be struggling to tell you where I was stung.

 

If I choose to work with no gear it’s because it’s hot and it makes me uncomfortable it’s not because I’m trying to be a hero.

 

Start without gloves, wait until you’ve copped a few stings.

Then start working without a veil.

 

If you go suitless, only do it on beautiful sunny days when the bees are on a honey flow, make sure you use plenty of smoke, and that you have an exit strategy should things get ugly.

Its also a sensible idea to invest in an epipen.

Edited by Daley
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I've had a wide range of sting reactions both minor and semi-major that seems random in as much as I never know what kind of reaction I'll get. I now kick for touch and wear suit and gloves to avoid the risk of making a complete richard of myself and to avoid causing other people a lot of trouble. I'm now rarely stung and my beekeeping has adapted around this handicap.

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Buy the gear. At least wear a veil . Stings on the head really hurt.

Things can go wrong, even if you are not a new beekeeper - you can drop things and annoy the bees, get a surprise sting in a sensitive place,  or it might just be they are feeling defensive. Some days they just are.

Personally, I wear a full suit and gloves. My smoker technique is not the best.

The bees prefer it if you are calm but after a few stings, when you've got the hive in bits and have to put everything back but they are still in attack mode, calmness can be elusive. You will be glad of the suit when they are pinging off your veil.
I was at a club day without any bee gear once and I got hammered by a grumpy hive even though  I was quite far away. When you get angry bees tangled in your hair and others pursue you as you try to leave, you will know why I suggested a minimum of a veil. 

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the simple thing is when things go wrong it may not be just a few stings, it can be a lot. that can get dangerous.

the guys give me a bit of stick for wearing the gear, but i've had so many things go wrong over the years i know how bad it can get.

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What do you do for a job @Dave Aky? Could you do it with one eye swollen shut or lips like Kim after a bad dose of collagen? Angry bees like faces. Sometimes their mood can turn on a dime. After that you still have to put the hive back together.

 

I started out just like you. A search here would turn up posts where I rave about how calm my bees are and the cautionary warnings I got from all those who'd seen it before. I've come full circle. These days I only routinely go without a veil around NUCs. When I'm showing visitors through a hive they'll all be in veils. I go without for several reasons: It reassures the visitors, It heightens my awareness of the bees' mood and because I've carefully picked a gentle hive in the middle of a nice day when the forragers are out. Essentially my going without a veil these days is a very deliberate and considered move. When I started out no gear was my default. 

 

Stings to the face are no fun. I don't react at all generally but my face will swell every time. Eyelids and lips are the worst. I'll have several days of explaining why I look like the elephant man. 

 

In summary going without gear is a great way to stay in tune with the bees, learn their language so to speak. But pick your battles. Some battles you just won't win and would be wise to avoid. Some days you don't have time for the lesson and just need to get it done quickly. Those days you need the gear.

 

Welcome to beekeeping ?

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At home I don't normally get the vail out, but I do know my bees and when to work them to avoid getting stung - but it can and will go wrong some times. At work or on other peoples hives I'll normally wear a suit, generally with the vail on. I normally go glove less but there are alway gloves in the truck for the days that they are needed or when you are working with someone not so gentle with the bees.

It can all go wrong:

DSC_0064.JPG.295d498ea1c0c66f5bfbdfec7fea398f.JPG

 

But is nice when it is good:

large.NZBees-01.png.ab235ff073021b036f36f3e5ee73ce56.png 

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there is a very good thread here on the forum about  the worst place you have been stung. Its worth a read before you decide to go without protection. 

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I always have my suit on but not necessarily my veil over my head.

I judge the mood of the bees and if I get a  sense  of insecurity from them I put my hood on.

Always check that there are no bees on your back on the wrong side of the hood .

I always have my gloves with me but I seldom wear them .

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I wore sneakers instead of gumboots with my suit last weekend. Nothing gets your attention quite like the feeling of two bees crawling up your calf, under your suit. 

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I had a bee inside my suit last weekend. 

She thought that crawling inside my ear was a good place to hide.

Not a pleasant experience

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18 hours ago, Dave Aky said:

I have noticed that many beekeepers, particularly experienced keepers, don't wear protective gear

I see you've have a few good answers...

 

I've been at it for almost 25 years, at various times teaching, commercial, and hobbyist, here and abroad. I know enough to know what my risk is. Here's a few things to consider.

 

  • Accidents happen. Honey bees have killed people. Never mind allergies, enough stings can cause cardio-respiratory failure, or several days later, kidney failure. The LD50 is estimated at 19 stings per kilo body weight. A sting on the eyeball sometimes leads to loss of sight in the eye. The risk to a business whose staff don't use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is highly significant. Your manager would need his head examined these days to let you. Lost-Time Injuries cost money.
  • Beekeeping (even hobby beekeeping) at times is dirty work. Propolis, bleach, acids, honey, cow pats and lots of other things ruin your clothes and squeeze into your shoes.
  • Cows lick you.
  • Sometimes you work at night; that's when you'll find out about stings.
  • Your significant other many not want to sleep with a kipper.
  • You frequently stumble or trip, and a box on the toes reminds you which bit of your PPE you have forgotten.
  • Hive lids are, funnily enough, really sharp.
  • Getting into a beekeeper's car or truck can be an unpleasant experience. The steering wheel and gear shift are sticky, the seat is 'icky, and you'd be surprised how many of his girls live in the vehicle.
  • You can't always choose when something has to be done, or give up when things get unpleasant. I have opened hives in a thunderstorm when the most dangerous thing was probably the umbrella my mate was holding.
  • Putting your venom-laden clothes into the family wash may be one of the things that increases the chance of family members becoming allergic.

 

Given time and a few stings, I encourage people to work without gloves, that's as far as I will go. I think it makes them more skillful, and in that way, they pose less of a risk to everyone else. It takes a long time to be able to read the bee's mood. As far as mood goes bees are not all the same. Nucs are always cruisy, hobby hives can be stroppy, but are usually small, and commercial units can reach attack-dog status. Most hobbyist never see the full range of possible bad behaviour, thankfully, but it makes them a bad judge of character. If it was so easy, beekeeping suits would have disappeared many years ago. They are around for a reason.

 

Sometimes you will see experienced beekeepers (me included) without some or all their PPE when they are just tinkering, or know something you don't. When they are taking their work seriously I think you'll find they are properly equipped. All the ones I know are anyway.

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19 hours ago, Daley said:

How many stings have you had at one time?

And do you have any reaction?

After getting my first hive almost 2 months ago, I always wore a full suit. My bees were always very quiet, so one sunny day I decided to go without the suit, and on removing the top board - got pinged on the nose... It didn't hurt at all, but 6 days of puffed up eyes... So now its full suit, with the gloves maybe coming off at some stage, after the hive is open, and I've judged their temperament.

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don't forget you can wear lighter gear. there is thinner suits and thinner gloves etc. by having something you tend to reduce the amount of stings and also their effect. eg they may sting through the cloth but not hit the skin or go through but be pulled out due to the movement of the cloth.

most things can be done with full gear on. there is a few tricks and its slower but it can be done. some of the real fine delicate things it doesn't take long to get gloves off etc to do it.

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4 minutes ago, tristan said:

some of the real fine delicate things it doesn't take long to get gloves off etc to do it.

What kind of thing would these be?

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11 minutes ago, PhilEvans said:

What kind of thing would these be?

like picking up queens

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Temperament in bees is both genetic and environmental. When they are on a good honey flow they can be very calm and on days like today which was beautiful but nothing much in flower they can be pretty grubley. When working I always wear full gear but when just mucking around with a few hives at home I normally just use a smoker. One grumpy carniolan cross in the apiary will also upset every other hive. Stronger hives tend to be more defensive. Working hives without gear is a skill that needs to be learnt and some people never seem to get it. It's hard to explain as it is just something you do after a while.

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2 minutes ago, john berry said:

Stronger hives tend to be more defensive.

This is precisely why beginners get lulled into a false sense of security. We all start (well most of us) with a swarm or a NUC. In other words a weak colony. First season seems a doddle. But if your varroa treatments work out and you get through your first winter strong...look out! They'll be ready for you this time :D

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17 hours ago, Rob Stockley said:

What do you do for a job @Dave Aky? Could you do it with one eye swollen shut or lips like Kim after a bad dose of collagen? Angry bees like faces. Sometimes their mood can turn on a dime. After that you still have to put the hive back together.

 

I started out just like you. A search here would turn up posts where I rave about how calm my bees are and the cautionary warnings I got from all those who'd seen it before. I've come full circle. These days I only routinely go without a veil around NUCs. When I'm showing visitors through a hive they'll all be in veils. I go without for several reasons: It reassures the visitors, It heightens my awareness of the bees' mood and because I've carefully picked a gentle hive in the middle of a nice day when the forragers are out. Essentially my going without a veil these days is a very deliberate and considered move. When I started out no gear was my default. 

 

Stings to the face are no fun. I don't react at all generally but my face will swell every time. Eyelids and lips are the worst. I'll have several days of explaining why I look like the elephant man. 

 

In summary going without gear is a great way to stay in tune with the bees, learn their language so to speak. But pick your battles. Some battles you just won't win and would be wise to avoid. Some days you don't have time for the lesson and just need to get it done quickly. Those days you need the gear.

 

Welcome to beekeeping ?

Thanks @Rob Stockley. That seems like really good advice. I actually added a second box to my hive today and as I cracked open the bottom box a big group appeared and started buzzing much worse that I have seen. I back tracked, out on my gear and then started again. I’m glad I got this advice before that otherwise it might have been much worse.

 

I also wonder if it was because the weather was quite bad today and I was doing it between showers. What do you guys think?

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6 hours ago, Dave Black said:

I see you've have a few good answers...

 

I've been at it for almost 25 years, at various times teaching, commercial, and hobbyist, here and abroad. I know enough to know what my risk is. Here's a few things to consider.

 

  • Accidents happen. Honey bees have killed people. Never mind allergies, enough stings can cause cardio-respiratory failure, or several days later, kidney failure. The LD50 is estimated at 19 stings per kilo body weight. A sting on the eyeball sometimes leads to loss of sight in the eye. The risk to a business whose staff don't use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is highly significant. Your manager would need his head examined these days to let you. Lost-Time Injuries cost money.
  • Beekeeping (even hobby beekeeping) at times is dirty work. Propolis, bleach, acids, honey, cow pats and lots of other things ruin your clothes and squeeze into your shoes.
  • Cows lick you.
  • Sometimes you work at night; that's when you'll find out about stings.
  • Your significant other many not want to sleep with a kipper.
  • You frequently stumble or trip, and a box on the toes reminds you which bit of your PPE you have forgotten.
  • Hive lids are, funnily enough, really sharp.
  • Getting into a beekeeper's car or truck can be an unpleasant experience. The steering wheel and gear shift are sticky, the seat is 'icky, and you'd be surprised how many of his girls live in the vehicle.
  • You can't always choose when something has to be done, or give up when things get unpleasant. I have opened hives in a thunderstorm when the most dangerous thing was probably the umbrella my mate was holding.
  • Putting your venom-laden clothes into the family wash may be one of the things that increases the chance of family members becoming allergic.

 

Given time and a few stings, I encourage people to work without gloves, that's as far as I will go. I think it makes them more skillful, and in that way, they pose less of a risk to everyone else. It takes a long time to be able to read the bee's mood. As far as mood goes bees are not all the same. Nucs are always cruisy, hobby hives can be stroppy, but are usually small, and commercial units can reach attack-dog status. Most hobbyist never see the full range of possible bad behaviour, thankfully, but it makes them a bad judge of character. If it was so easy, beekeeping suits would have disappeared many years ago. They are around for a reason.

 

Sometimes you will see experienced beekeepers (me included) without some or all their PPE when they are just tinkering, or know something you don't. When they are taking their work seriously I think you'll find they are properly equipped. All the ones I know are anyway.

Great thoughts there @Dave Black  I appreciate you taking the time to share. I will take that into account. It’s a case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ so now I do :)

 

I am interested to know more about the washing point you made. I have a little boy and I am very concious that he has not been stung yet. How else can I protect him. Wash gear separately I assume? Anything else?

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I am going to buy an epipen. Any advice on where from? Also, my main concern is my 2 year old. I understand there are adult and junior ones. What is the difference? 

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Wore my bee gloves for the first time in ages tonight.

Not for bees but for catching a wild cat that we trapped in the house.

Ideal for that .

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1 minute ago, Dave Aky said:

I am going to buy an epipen. Any advice on where from? Also, my main concern is my 2 year old. I understand there are adult and junior ones. What is the difference? 

I  have never had young children while I have been actively bee keeping .

I would have been anxious about them too.

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I’d assume any pharmacy. Dosage requirements depend on weight so that’s why there are 2 products. Talking to a pharmacist would seem a good idea, or look up the medsafe documentation that all NZ drugs have.

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