Personal Protective Equipment are the things apiarists wear when working with hives and bees. It reduces the likelihood of stinging contact when put on properly.
It also allows an Apiarist to work with less distraction. For example, bees may not be stinging or even aggressive but sometimes investigating flying behavior an cause them to create a distraction while the Apiarist is working.
Hats and veils are perhaps the most important and useful protective gear for apiarists. Some of the most sensitive areas one can be stung are on the head and face. It is often encouraged of apiarists that if nothing else, to wear a hat and veil.
While these are good protection, bear in mind that on even warm days, they can get you hot enough to sweat around the face. Bees are not fond of sweat, especially if it is dripping down on to them.
Gloves are used by many beekeepers to work with frames of comb. I personally will not use gloves and I do not recommend for apiarists and Apprentices working with BBE-Tech Apiary Services to wear gloves unless absolutely necessary. It is our experience that wearing gloves causes more distress in the hives and damage to combs, brood and queens than many other things.
Gloves generally make one's hands less sensitive to touch and increase the chance of squishing bees. A pheromone is released when bees are squished and colonies become distressed when too many are damaged. It is highly encouraged for everyone working in S.O.Bee Apiaries specifically and in BBE-Tech Apiary Services managed apiaries to get used to working without gloves.
Wearing bee suits and jackets can be very useful when working with feisty or aggressive, even hostile, bees and hives. We leave the decision to wear suits and jackets to the individual for their comfort. If wearing a suit or jacket keeps you more calm and in control, you will handle the bees and equipment more calmly and tend to incite aggressive behavior much less often.
Keep this in your thoughts about wearing suits and jackets though… These can become extremely hot in the Summer while working with bees. It is not unheard of for apiarists to find themselves overheated or even suffering heat sickness from getting too hot while wearing gear.
Also, if wearing suits and jackets, they should be washed fairly regularly to prevent alarm pheromone from accumulating on them and causing distress to colonies at pursuant visits instigating aggressive behavior sometimes immediately when it could easily have been prevented by having washed the gear in question prior to arriving at the apiary.
If suits or jackets are stung before the next visit to a hive, we recommend keeping a spray bottle of Febreeze unscented along with your regular kit. Spraying this on gear in between hive visits can minimize aggressive behavior caused by the presence of alarm pheromone introduced by one's gear.
It is the encouragement of BBE-Tech Apiary Services that all people working in our programs with bees and hives to wear protective footwear, notably boots of some sort.
Many people find wearing tall rubber boots or galoshes adequate. It is our recommendation to wear high steel-toed workboots when working with bees and in apiaries. This is to keep bees from crawling down into the foot area, becoming trapped and stinging in a sensitive location. It is also recommended because dropping heavy woodenware from hives can cause serious injuries to your feet.
Perhaps the best extra piece of PPE we can recommend is a strap or tie of some sort that can wrap around sleeves and pants legs. these prevent bees from crawling up legs and arms to again, get caught or stuck and sting the Apiarist in a sensitive spot that cannot be easily accessed immediately.