Posted January 24, 2022
by Hilary

Many new beekeepers wonder if it’s really necessary to wear a bee suit. They see other beekeepers online wearing minimal to no protective clothing and they aspire to be like them. As romantic as it looks, there is a reason bee suits exist. Read on to explore this topic with me.

Is It Safe to Work Bees Without A Bee Suit?

A bee suit is like a seat belt. It’s there to protect you from harm if the worst happens. There are entire generations of people who never wore their seatbelts and survived just like there are certainly beekeepers who have gone for decades without wearing a bee suit. Yet, those people were probably lucky. They were never in a situation where they actually needed their seatbelt/bee suit. 

With a seat belt, your life is protected during a crash. Every time you get into your car, you buckle up because the scary reality is that accidents happen and you cannot control the other drivers on the road. The same goes for beekeeping. Bees can are capable of serious harm and sometimes they are beyond our control. Accidents happen. Suiting up is like buckling up.

Beginners: A new driver is more likely to make a mistake. You’ll want a seatbelt on for sure on a ride with them. Full protective gear is especially important for new beekeepers. Newbees will also likely make mistakes along the way.

What Example Are We Setting?

If you are a beekeeper in the public’s eye, consider what message wearing or not wearing a suit sends a message to other people. I know that when I go to catch a swarm, I often draw a crowd of neighbors and kids. I wear my suit for my own safety as a rule, but when I am tempted to go without I think of the kids who might be watching. I don’t want them to get the false impression, that they, too, can mess with bees without a bee suit.

When accidents happen with bees and people, it turns into a big headline. Those stories harden the innate fear society has about the dangers of bees. Wearing a suit can keep you out of the headlines and make others think twice before approaching a hive unprotected.

The Glamour / Shame Complex

The motivation to go suitless is often about chasing an ideal. We are taken in by the allure. A beekeeper in everyday clothes looks romantically close to nature, like they in tune with the vibrations of the bees. The serene, suitless beekeeper seems less mortal than the rest of us. There’s mystique in the skill and grace it takes to work with bees unprotected, but does wearing a suit make you a less skilled beekeeper?

Some beekeepers like to boast about their ability to go without a suit and even go as far as implying that others are not good beekeepers because they wear a suit.  To me the qualities that make a good beekeeper are not related to whether or not a person suits up. Does wearing a seatbelt make you a worse driver?

When Experts Do it on Social Media

Wearing a bee suit is a personal choice. I am not here to judge those who prefer not to wear one. There are famous and viral videos that feature suitless beekeeping. Those amazing videos, like the ones by Erika Thompson of Texas Bee Works, are usually created by a professional beekeeper. Before the cameras roll, informed risk assessments likely takes place. When we see a video online, we only have a tiny curated part of the story. We do not have all the information about the situation. I have followed Erika’s work for a long time and am confident she is experienced enough to make her own saftey decisions.

In case there is any confusion, I want to state that I support Erika and her work. I went on the record on TikTok saying this in June of 2021.

I,  too,  have participated in the wonder and glamour on social media. I made a popular video in 2016 of my assistant and me doing a bare-handed swarm catch. This video was successful, in part, because it features us sticking our hands into a swarm of bees with our bare hands. It’s enchanting and magical. You can’t see, however, what went on behind the scenes. We are both wearing bee suits, for one. We also knew the bees in that small swarm very well. They were from client’s very gentle colony. Those conditions, combined with the semi-docile state of bees during swarming, led us to calculate our risk as low. Again, this assessment was possible because I am an experienced beekeeper.

My Favorite Bee Suits 

There are two suits on the market that I like to wear. For comfort and quality, I swear by The Ultra Breeze suit. It’s made of breathable mesh layers that keep you safe, but also a bit cooler in hot weather. If you want to look good in photos, it’s all about the veil shape. You want a round veil because it’s going to let in more light around your face and keep you from looking like Voldemort. I wore a Humble Bee Suit during the photoshoot for my book Queenspotting. Be sure to check out my blog posts on choosing a bee suit and wearing other protective gear because there’s a lot to consider.

Are There Times When You Don’t Need A Suit?

There are times when you might be tempted to go without a suit. Maybe you are only peeking in the top of the hive to refill the sugar water feeder. Maybe you are moving hives and the hive entrance has been closed with a screen. Just like with driving there are times when the risk is less, like driving on an empty country road or moving your car around the block. But the risk is never zero. Ultimately, it is your choice and not every situation is the same. I hope my seatbelt analogy will help you to make the right choice for you.  

My 2022 ONLINE Beekeeping Mentorship 

My 2022 Beekeeping Mentorship is about to kick off in Februrary. This year, I am doing 10 online classes paired with reading, quizzes and tasks. I’m also offering monthly office hours. These meetings will be unique space for us to have in-depth conversations about beekeeping – including topics like this one on suits.


  1. Eric

    There’s no one around for me to be glamorous for, my dislike of bee suits is because they are hot. When it’s 97 outside, putting on a suit raises the ‘feels like’ temperature to 187 degrees. That being said, wearing a suit has saved my life. One time I set them off, I don’t know how, but I ended up with 100s, if not 1000s, of stingers in my suit and a swarm of bees that followed me for half an hour after I left the area. Had I not been wearing my suit that day, and I almost didn’t, I would not be here today.


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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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