Most times I prefer to do beekeeping “Au Naturel”, meaning, on good days, especially during the hot summer days, I will avoid beekeeping jackets and gloves and wear only a beekeeping veil, jeans and a T-shirt. But the bees don’t always cooperate.. and so at a very minimum you have to resort to some hand protection and maybe a beekeeping jacket, depending on what you are doing and how defensive the ladies are.
If the girls don’t allow me to do the hive inspections with my bare hands, then I resort to nitrile gloves, preferably 9mm or even 10mm. These are readily available at Harbor Freight and Tractor Supply.
Are nitrile gloves good for beekeeping?
This is a question I get at all beekeeping classes – why I wear them and what level of protection they provide against bee stings.
Do they protect from bee stings?
Technically, the nitrile gloves do not protect from stings. They are thin and the bees can sting through them, however because of the the material the bees usually rarely attempt to sting them. Bees sting leather, defensive bees will readily sting leather gloves over and over. The stinger does not usually make it through to the skin, but the stinger remains lodged in the glove and the attack pheromone is released that puts even more bees on alert, causing even more stings.
Bees do not normally attempt to sting nitrile gloves and I am usually only stung when I accidentally press my finger directly onto a bee or squish one between the hive tool and my hand. Bees understand leather, they recognize it as skin and therefore something they can sting. Nitrile is something foreign to them. They don’t seem to know that they can sting it.
Nitrile gloves keep hands cleaner and bees cleaner! You can change nitrile gloves often to keep from cross-contaminating hives.
Dexterity & Sensitivity
Nitrile gloves allow for much freer movement. Easier to handle the bees because you can feel everything through your gloves.
The worst part about nitrile gloves for me is that they do not breathe like leather gloves do. All the sweat has no where to go and it pools up inside your gloves. On a hot day, you may end up wearing a balloon of your own sweat around your hands. It’s very unpleasant, but you get used to it.