Ouch! Would be the reaction from anyone who has been stung by a bee, or even from anyone who imagines what it could be like to be on the receiving end of a bee sting! Many people have a phobia about getting stung by a bee because of the horror stories that they hear about killer bees and, of course, allergic reactions to bee stings.
Mention bees in any social situation, and you will certainly hear a few stories from various people on how they have been stung by a whole swarm of killer bees and how they nearly died! Over the top exaggerations, but unfortunately, this is the kind of reaction that many people have towards bees.
What they will often neglect to tell you is how they came to be stung by a bee in the first place. What they were doing at the time to provoke the bee into stinging them. Bees will rarely sting for the fun of it. One of their jobs is to protect the hive, so if you are too close, or interfering with the hive, be careful!
Protective clothing is generally worn by any beekeeper whilst collecting honey and caring for the beehives. Even though several layers are worn, a bee can sting through jeans and clothing quite easily! If the cloth is tight against your skin, a bee can sting you through a layer of clothing.
It stands to reason that if a bee can sting through a layer of denim jeans, it will be able to sting through any thin layers of everyday clothing. The more layers you are wearing, the less likelihood there is of you being stung.
Why Do Bees Sting?
Bees are gentle creatures. A bee’s sole purpose in life is to protect the hive and the queen, so if you are a direct threat to the hive in any way, they will attack the threat. If that happens to be you, you will be their target.
Having said that, bees are focused on the job in front of them and rarely attack unprovoked. Their job is to forage and gather nectar and pollen for the hive, so they have little interest in what people around them are doing.
Sadly, once a bee stings you, it dies, so it will try and avoid you at all costs unless you are a threat.
What Material Can Bees Sting Through?
The material that you are wearing is not the problem. Bees will try and sting through any kind of clothing that you are wearing, regardless of the material. The trick is to not let the clothing pull tight against your body – the baggier, the better, and the less chance you have of being stung!
Always wear thicker rather than thinner layers. The best material for layering is thick cotton and nylon type fabrics, although any garment which will cover you from head to toe is better than no garment at all! If you do have the choice, layer up with as many items of clothing that you can find.
If you are going to be working with bees, always cover-up. If you do not own protective clothing, then wear as many layers as you can. Even if you do get hot, keep your layers on until you are safely out of harm’s way.
What Do Beekeepers Wear?
If you are a professional beekeeper or even a hobbyist, you do have a better chance of not being stung if you wear thicker clothing and keep calm around the bees when working at their hives. Specialized basic personal protective clothing is recommended for any beekeeper:
- A beekeeper suit – this is made from thick cotton, nylon, or a special ventilated fabric. The suit or coveralls will cover you from wrist to ankles with a full zipper down the front and a zipper and velcro around the neck to attach the hat.
- If you do not enjoy a full suit, you can wear thick jeans on your bottom half and a specialized bee jacket on your top half. This jacket is also made from one of the materials listed above, with a zip-off hat. There are many styles available to the beekeeper, so you should find something that will suit you.
- The hat is made from thick cotton but does come in different styles to suit your coveralls. Each one is detachable and has a zipper and velcro all around, which attaches to the suit – make sure all the openings are velcroed tightly shut as you don’t want a bee to crawl its way into your suit or under your hat!
- The hat has a veil made from very thin, light netting all around, from the rim to the neck, with a zipper and also velcro all around to attach it to the suit or jacket. Always make sure to check for rips and tears before you wear it! Some of these hats are round with big brims, while others are dome-shaped with the netting zipping around the facepiece of the hat.
- Do not go anywhere near a beehive without gloves! Many styles are available, so purchase the best that you can, even if you wear a thinner pair underneath an outer pair. Your hands will be inside the hive, so you will be a target for the bees!
- Always wear boots! Make sure the legs of your pants are pulled down over the boots and strapped in place with duct tape – leg gaiters are great for covering up gaps to stop stray bees from climbing up the leg of your pants and giving you an unwelcome surprise!
Do Beekeepers Get Stung Through Their Protective Gear?
Yes, they do! Even though a beekeeper will take all precautions to protect themselves from being stung, sometimes a bold bee will make its way through a gap in your protective clothing and deliver a nasty sting! Always check your gear and repair any damages as quickly as possible.
Bees are attracted to the blood flow around your ankles and knees and will try and sting you in that spot if they can. Make doubly certain of the protection that you have around these areas – if there is a tiny gap anywhere, the bee will find it!
How Many Bee Stings Are Dangerous?
All bee stings are dangerous as you never know how you are going to react to a sting. In the case of bee stings, prevention is always better than cure.
Research shows that the average adult person can tolerate up to 1000 stings, but 500 stings may be fatal for a child or an older person. Some people may react badly to a sting and go into anaphylactic shock, which could be fatal, while others do not have any reaction to a sting at all! The problem, of course, is that you will not know how you will react until it happens to you!
An average beehive can hold 10 000 bees or more, so the chances are high that you may be stung by more than one bee at a time if you disturb them. The golden rule is, stay away from bees unless you are a beekeeper and know what you are doing!!
Beekeepers wear white suits and hats as bees are attracted to darker colors and will become aggressive and attack much quicker than what they would a white suit. Regardless of the color, if you provoke the bees, they will attack you! Always wear layers, wear jeans or protective clothing, and enjoy the bees from a distance! They are awesome insects to study, and they provide honey!