Protection is the main purpose for beekeeping jackets and suits: protection against being stung, as well as from stains and grime that would accumulate on your clothing while working around bees. Most beekeepers — especially new ones — wear a full beekeeping suit or a jacket along with other protective gear. Explore this guide to learn how to choose the right bee jacket or suit for you.

Is a beekeeping suit or jacket better?

Beekeepers have a choice between a full suit or a jacket paired with other protective clothing. As with choosing any beekeeping gear, you will be safest when you wear the clothing you’re most comfortable in. For some beekeepers, this may mean wearing as much protective gear as you can layer, while others stick with the basics, and nothing more.

Beginners may prefer a beekeeping suit

Beginners often prefer full suits because they offer more protection against stings, while experienced beekeepers — who are often less concerned with stings — like the coverage to protect their street clothes. Although beekeeping offers many benefits, fear of stings can take the fun out of it. If a suit makes it easier for you to go out and work with your bees, you will become a better beekeeper — and more quickly — because of it.

Beekeeping jackets are a convenient option

In time, you may find the simplicity of slipping on a jacket, without the rigamarole of donning a full suit, becomes more appealing and practical. Bee jackets are more convenient than full suits, but still offer excellent protection. Having a jacket on hand may mean you’ll seize more opportunities to make quick visits out to see your bees.

It’s important that your beekeeping jacket be long enough that when you bend over, the small of your back (above your waistband) is not exposed. Bees seem to have an uncanny ability to zero in on that vulnerability. You will be bending over, a lot, so if you’re tall or long-waisted, or wear low-riding pants, measure your back neck-to-waistband-of-pants length while bending over to make sure your jacket will fit correctly. Consider going up a size, if needed: When it comes to bee gear, loose and comfortable are more important than stylishness.

Keeping both a jacket and suit on-hand is ideal

Even if you prefer a beekeeping jacket, a full suit will always be useful: Visitors to your yard will appreciate the added protection, and it may be a better choice on days when your bees are feeling feisty or if you have to do extensive work in the hive. And you may choose to wear a ventilated suit over lightweight clothes, such as shorts and a tank top, during very warm weather.

What kind of pants do you wear with a bee jacket?

Most beekeepers simply wear jeans with their beekeeping jacket, but you must choose the right style for the best protection. Somewhat baggy or relaxed-fit jeans are suitable options for beekeeping pants. Tighter-fitting stretch jeans offer little protection from stings because the material is not thick enough. Instead, sting protection comes from jeans that are loose-fitting — if they’re loose enough, the jeans may get stung, but you won’t. If you do choose to wear jeans, khaki-colored or very faded blue ones are better choices than dark colors. Painters’ pants are an inexpensive, light-colored, and loose-fitting option.

Suits have elastic on the bottom of the legs to keep bees out, but bees may crawl up pant legs if you aren’t wearing a suit. To prevent this, use boot bands to cinch up the leg openings, or wear boots with the pants tucked in — which can also help prevent tick bites.

What’s the best type of fabric for hive jackets and suits? 

There are two categories of beekeeping suit fabric: three-layer, “ventilated” mesh-type materials or woven fabrics, either all-cotton or cotton blend.

Ventilated bee suits

Ventilated garments are made of two layers of mesh fabric sandwiched around a third, thicker, layer of mesh with wider holes. This prevents stings because the fabric is thicker than a stinger can penetrate. The ventilated fabric is designed to allow body heat and perspiration to dissipate through its open mesh layers, creating evaporative cooling. This works as long as there is even a small movement of air; if you keep bees in an area with long periods of windless, very humid days, it may not be the best choice.

Because of the nature of mesh fabric, the outer layer is also a bit more prone to snagging than woven fabric. With a little extra care, the ventilated suits and jackets will stand up to normal use and repeated launderings. We also offer partially-vented styles that have panels of the ventilated mesh along the side areas of the garments to allow for cooling. They have woven fabric at the stress points where there is more wear and tear.

Woven been suits

Woven fabric is another option for bee clothing. Woven cotton and cotton blend jackets and suits protect against bee stings because the material is too thick for the stinger to penetrate. While no suit or jacket will completely prevent stings, the thicker woven material provides adequate protection for day-to-day beekeeping tasks.

  • All-cotton Betterbee jackets and suits are sturdy, breathable, and will stand up to regular laundering. They start out feeling a bit stiffer than the blended fabrics — but, over time, they acquire the same comfortable softness and breathability of a well-loved canvas shirt.
  • Cotton-blend fabrics are lighter weight, and may be a bit cooler. Our premium line, B.J. Sheriff bee clothing, is made from a durable cotton-blend fabric.

Beekeeping safety tip: No matter which option you choose, be sure to properly zip up and close all the openings in your jacket or suit to prevent bees from getting inside.

Which style of bee veil works best for you?

The most critical area of sting protection is the face and eyes. Stings to the face are notorious for swelling up, and a sting in the eye may cause permanent harm. When choosing your protective clothing, determine which kind of beekeeping veil you prefer. This is strictly a personal preference — and one you may only be able to sort out after you’ve tried a few while working in your bee yard.

There are two common beekeeping veil types:

  • Round veils come with an attached fabric hat. The veiling hangs down from the outer edge of a wide brim, keeping the bees away from your head, neck, and shoulders all around. It’s like being inside a bee-free bubble.
  • English, or fencing style, veils are shaped like an upside-down U, with the veiling portion only on the front and sides of your head. The back area is solid fabric. Fencing-style veils can be tipped backward off your head during work breaks, and some people think they are a bit cooler without the hatband of a round veil.
A chilly bee warming herself on a cold day.

A chilly bee warming herself on a cold day.

Bee suits and jackets often come with a veil, and ours are fully removable for easy washing — so you can swap veil styles as you please. Each brand uses intricate systems of overlapping zippers and flap closures to attach veils to jackets or suits in order to close it up securely, so they’re not interchangeable between brands. Once you have your suit or jacket and your accompanying veil, choose beekeeping gloves that you’re comfortable wearing for even more protection.

Beekeeping gear lasts longer, is more pleasant to use, and keeps the bees calmer when washed regularly: Now that you’ve chosen your bee suit or jacket and learned how to wear it properly, check out our beekeeping clothing laundering instructions. For more safety information and hive tips, explore our Beginning Beekeeper Guide.