Beekeeper Gloves

Gloves: some beekeepers use them, some don’t.  I do not like to be stung.  I wear gloves. It is said that if you work well, bees will not sting you.  I always wonder if the people who say this have those sweet Italian bees and live in areas where storms don’t come though on a near daily basis.  It’s nice here in northwest Washington, it’s just not very dry, and I now know the meaning of occluded front (one miserable weather front following close on the heels of another).

What follows is a tale of the gloves I have known and, well, tolerated, I don’t love any of them.

Old leather beekeeping glove
it has a “life” of its own

I started out with the standard issue beekeeper gloves.  This is one that I found at the bottom of an older bee bag. They were thick.  No bee could sting me.  On the other hand, I couldn’t feel a thing, which made manipulating frames very hard.

Close shot beekeeper glove on the hand of Karen Bean, Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washignton
good, but still has issues

Then I discovered these gloves.  They are goatskin, I think.  The glove is thin enough to allow me to work easily and still not get stung.  But you can see that they still don’t meld with my hands.  The down side is that they are thin and wear out.  I go though about 3 of these a year.  Happily they are not that expensive.  I get them though Buckoo Gloves.

Painters' nitrile glove, used for beekeeping
useful when painting too

If I’m working with mating nucs my Buckoo gloves are still too thick.  Bare hands are the best, but sometimes the bees get a little jumpy, especially when a storm is brewing, and, as I said, I don’t like to be stung.   Then I turn to these nitrile gloves.  I just learned about them this year.  My first encounter was from another beekeeper in our queen-rearing group, but his were very thin and ripped.  I’m very financially conservative (ok call it cheap), and I like things to last a while.  Then one day at the paint section of a box store I discovered these very fashionable blue nitrile gloves: painter’s nitrile gloves.  They work really well, and you can reuse them for quite a while before they do finally rip. Plus they’re quite nice when you’re painting the new honey storage area too.  On the downside, here’s my computer’s dictionary’s definition of nitrile: an organic compound containing a cyanide group (just puts you at ease, doesn’t it?)

Every glove has its downside.  The mesh of all the beekeepers gloves drives me mad.  At least once a week a bee will suddenly realize that my skin is available to be stung though the mesh.  I keep telling myself it’s probably very good for my wrists: no arthritis there.  And my lovely painters nitrile gloves are short, so the bees get me in the same place.   This year I’m getting some gloves without mesh from Buckoo Gloves – they tell me they’re longer.  I just figure I will look totally chic in elbow-length gloves.  Who says beekeeping isn’t fashionable?

I would love to work without gloves all the time, but it’s not going to happen.  I’ll get stung.  My friend, Pat Ray (4th generation beekeeper, all around good guy, and someone who will work bees in a short sleeve shirt) once said to me that people should just wear what makes them comfortable while working with bees because as long as you are comfortable you will handle the bees gently.   I couldn’t put it better.

Do you have gloves that work well for you?  Share – we can all use new knowledge.

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