Call me vain but I do not like pain. Bees are beautiful and admirable creatures that are quite serious about defending their territory.
Even with docile bee races, you always run the risk of getting stung whenever you invade the hive, despite the fact that you may be doing it for their own good.
The good news is that keeping yourself protected is as easy as investing in and using the proper equipment.
Here, we’ll be getting more specific and discussing how you can protect your hands and forearms using a pair of good beekeeping gloves.
Bees are a vital asset to have for sure, but you are even more valuable to your apiculture operation and it’s important to keep your body sting free with a pair of beekeeping gloves to ensure you remain as productive as possible.
This is especially true if you are a beginner.
Sure, there’s a lot of buzz about going gloveless if you are a “real” beekeeper.
Getting stung doesn’t authenticate you so be sure, there’s no shame in having the best gloves for keeping bees.
3 Characteristics of Good Beekeeping Gloves
Whereas we oversize the suit, the gloves we use for beekeeping need a snug fit.
In order to get through your activities in the hive, especially when handling bees, you need to be gentle.
That becomes difficult when you’re dealing with beekeeping gloves are that are a size or two too big.
A pair of beekeeping gloves that don’t fit well make it easier to squash bees and increase your clumsiness.
You need beekeeping gloves that will stay put as you work.
This is important as your apiary grows because you’ll have to spend more time working.
Depending on the material used to make the gloves, they will either need to have an extended sleeve to the elbow or be elastic in nature to ensure that it hugs the wrist to keep it in place.
Fortunately, even without elastic, good old duct tape can help secure your gloves in the right place.
Ideally, what you’re looking for is the complete absence of stings on your hands and arms.
The presence of gloves doesn’t keep the bees from trying.
Thicker beekeeping gloves provide the best protection in this case.
A bee sting will get stuck in the glove but it won’t penetrate far enough to get to the skin. As a result, you go about your business sting-free.
More experienced beekeepers favor thinner gloves because they have learned how to handle the bees without causing much excitement on the part of the ladies.
When the bees are calm, the threat of getting stung is reduced which allows them to work comfortably with thin gloves or even no gloves at all.
The 3 Best Types of Beekeeping Gloves That Keep You Stingfree and Dexterous
Below are the most recommended and common beekeeping gloves among beginner and experienced beekeepers alike.
This review comes from personal experience so we kept the two most important factors when deciding what beekeeping gloves to get: The ability to offer maximum sting protection and dexterity.
Here are our favorite and best type of gloves to use when beekeeping.
1. Leather Beekeeping Gloves
Most of the beekeeping gloves available in the market are made out of leather.
Cowhide tends to be thicker and more resistant to bee stings, but that also reduces your dexterity and makes it more difficult to work with the bees.
Having a thicker layer makes it harder to feel the bees and keeps you from accidentally crushing them.
Goatskin is a little thinner and offers a better fit while still thick enough to keep most stings away from the skin.
The advantage of using leather gloves for keeping bees is that it breaths because it’s a natural material. It’s also absorbent so your hands won’t be sloshing around in a pool of your own sweat on a hot day.
There are lots of leather made gloves in the market so you will be spoiled for choice.
Some examples of leather gloves that you can choose from are:
- VIVO Bee – V103 Leather Beekeeping Gloves with Sleeves
- Yosoo Soft & Durable Goatskin Beekeeping Gloves with Vented Sleeves
- Kinglake Goatskin Beekeeping Gloves with Vented Sleeves
- HLPB Premium One Pair Beekeeping Protective Gloves with Vented Long Sleeves 4.33
- ü Zamango 1 Pair Goatskin Beekeeper Beekeeping Protective Gloves with Vented Long Sleeves White
These are affordable options that have a similar design.
The area around the hand is made of leather with a lighter more flexible fabric, such as cotton or khaki extending from the wrist to the elbow, or close to it.
At the end of the sleeve, there’s a bit of elastic that holds the glove in place and helps to keep the bees out.
The price is quite reasonable and if treated well, they can give you years of good service.
Each brand may differ slightly from the other but they have more similarities than differences.
2. Ventilated and Cuff Protected Beekeeping Gloves
I know, I know, it sounds like a marketing gimmick but these gloves are useful. Ask anyone who gets sweaty palms at the thought of warm weather.
Beekeeping is only in season when the weather warms up so trust that you’ll be getting toasty in a bee suit and gloves in the summer as you harvest or keep tabs on your colonies.
Working with wet palms can be quite uncomfortable and difficult so if you can stretch your purse strings a little, these added features will be helpful in the hot months.
In addition to ventilation, some of these gloves offer extra protection around the cuff area. Why is this important?
When I was very new to beekeeping, I attempted to handle a colony of African bees that were particularly aggressive.
Short of an iron suit of armor, I was fully covered yet I got quite a number of stings.
I noticed at some point there were about 10 bees on the inner part of my wrist and with all of them concentrated on one spot, I got a healthy dose of venom right on the pulse. The aftermath was not pretty.
Even though I had been stung before, this felt particularly painful because of how sensitive that area is.
I’m calmer and gentler with my bees now so, fortunately, I haven’t had a repeat episode, but if I could go back in time, I would grab myself a pair of these types of gloves.
Some examples of these types of beekeeping gloves include:
- Natural Apiary Cowhide Beekeeping gloves (sting proof cuffs with extra long elastic gauntlets)
- Humble Bee Beekeeping gloves with ventilated cuffs
- Natural Apiary Cowhide Beekeeping gloves (Ventilated sleeves, sting proof cuffs, and extra long elastic gauntlets)
- Forest Beekeeping Premium Goatskin Leather Gloves with Vented sleeves
In order to get the most out of your new beekeeping gloves, it is important that you get the right fit.
Where possible, try to buy the gloves locally so that you can try them on before you buy so you can ensure they fit good.
If you purchase them online, make use of their hand chart to avoid losing time returning gloves are that are either too large or too small, though they are rarely too small.
3. Synthetic Rubber Gloves for Beekeeping (AKA Nitrile Gloves)
As you progress as a beekeeper and research suitable hand-ware, you will undoubtedly come across strategies to wean yourself off gloves for beekeeping altogether.
They begin with the first type of gloves that we have covered, which are considerably thick.
You then ‘graduate’ to thin gloves such as nitrile gloves which come highly recommended among beekeepers and for good reasons.
I must admit, these are surprisingly effective, despite the miniature thickness of the material.
It’s not completely clear why the bees don’t sting as often through this synthesized rubber, but the running guess is that bees don’t recognize it as skin so they don’t try to sting through it.
That isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get stung, because many have.
Because these gloves are thin, they allow you to carry out delicate tasks such as handling the queen.
If you consider the added dexterity and reduced ambition of the bees toward stinging you, these gloves are definitely worth a try.
Nitrile gloves like these are used mainly in the medical profession but are also popular among beekeepers too.
They are thicker than your regular latex gloves but offer your hands the same freedom to allow surgeon like precision (pardon the pun).
Dishwashing gloves fall in this category and are quite popular.
They are more durable than their medically used counterparts and therefore cheaper in the long run.
Unlike the leather gloves, they do not have elastic and they are not absorbent.
As a result, you may have to either tuck them into a long-sleeved jacket or tape them to the sleeves of your suit.
You’ll also need to get used to the clammy feeling of working with sweaty palms. This synthetic rubber does not breath but you will eventually get used to it.
Nitrile gloves are disposable which denies them any green points from the environment.
Even so, many beekeepers who switch from leather gloves to nitrile gloves, hardly ever switch back to their previous gloves.
There are nitrile gloves that have longer sleeves and cover the wrist sufficiently.
Despite being disposable gloves, you can wash them and get multiple uses out of them.
Benefits of using Nitrile Gloves for Beekeeping
Apart from the ease with which you can handle the beekeeping equipment while you’re wearing these gloves, they are easy to clean.
Dealing with wax and honey can cause an accumulation of goop.
Fortunately, because the synthetic rubber doesn’t absorb water, they are very easy to wash, dry, and reuse.
It’s even possible to wash the gloves as you move from one hive to the other.
That minimizes the risk of spreading diseases and vectors within your apiary.
Try to do that with leather gloves and you’ll have a soggy, clumsy exoskeleton that inhibits your progress.
There are several nitrile glove options to choose from, and most will provide you with a box full of gloves. Those that are highly recommended are:
- Kimberly Clarke Safety 50602 Safeskin Nitrile-Xtra 12” Length Exam Gloves
- Halyard Health Safeskin Nitrile 12 inch extra long cuff model
How to Clean Your New Pair of Beekeeping Gloves (And Why You Should Care)
How about we start with why you need to keep your beekeeping gloves clean.
Aside from the stiffness derived from accumulated propolis, wax and honey, stings left on the gloves from previous hive encounters leave a lingering pheromone which paints a bulls-eye on your hands.
The longer you continue to use the gloves, the more sting-happy the girls may appear to be so it’s important to give them a good clean once in a while.
Nitrile type gloves are as easy to clean as your hands. Some soapy water is all it takes to get them clean.
Leather gloves for beekeeping are a little more complicated. As a natural fabric, you need to be careful not to wear out the material.
Experienced beekeepers prefer to use solvents that dissolve the accumulated propolis, helping to separate the dirt without damaging the leather.
An example of this is a mineral oil laxative FGMO which dissolves the propolis and keeps the leather soft and malleable.
Another option is to put the gloves in the wash.
Propolis can be difficult to deal with and it will stick to the side of the wash, or attach itself to other pieces of clothing.
You’ll need to be careful about mixing your gloves with other garments. That could be a recipe for disaster.
There are those that use chlorine water, but being a bleaching agent, it will shorten the lifespan of your gloves.
Whatever treatment you choose should allow you to maximize the usefulness of your beekeeping gloves for as long as possible.
Wrapping Up Gloves for Beekeeping
I find it interesting that beekeepers with decades of experience do not dissuade other beekeepers from using gloves.
In fact, they encourage it and will wear gloves themselves from time to time.
Those with a couple of years of experience seem to be the ones who push the idea that using gloves is tantamount to animal cruelty.
Your hands are very important tools and they deserve to be free from strings and protected.
What works for one beekeeper may not work for you.
If one beekeeper swears that ventilated gloves are the only type worth wearing, yet your purse strings just won’t stretch that far, try a different type of glove. Just go through some online product reviews.
Here’s the truth about reviews for beekeeping gloves: one person wants to kiss the manufacturer, another wants to use the same product to fuel a bonfire.
As long as the gloves fit well, and there are no gaps that will allow the bees into gloves, then they are good for keeping bees and you will be fine.
As you familiarize yourself with the bees and the various tasks you will be undertaking in the hive, your ability to handle the bees will improve and they will be calmer during your inspections. So for now, wear your gloves proudly.