While I'm a crappy salesman and not a great promoter, I do get excited when I have a cool idea or have found a good solution in beekeeping equipment and want to share my experiences. I also don't like to sell anything that I don't like to use myself. So this brings me to the bee suits we have been selling.
Old version of bee suit with hard to see out of hood, you can see Michelle pulling the hood at an angel to be able to see out of it
Basically, we sold these suits because they are affordable and do a good job of protecting us from bee stings. They are also great for building confidence while around the bees, until we begin to get a feel for when our bees are agitated and when we should dawn our bee suits or when we know the bees are too busy to care and we can dance around the hive naked.
Because I don't usually wear a bee suit or costume, as I like to call them, I haven't really had much of a chance to see how they work and if they are the best choice for the money. Well the bee suits we sold were the best choice for the money, but for workability, I found that the head covering or veil hoodie had some issues for me.
Two summers ago I had a bee doctor call that involved three hives, all genetically started from the first initial swarm and they were defensive to say the least. All the hives were quite old, like three to five years old and we really needed to get in the hive and pull out some of the very dark brood comb. This is not a procedure the bees are going to be happy about. After checking out the bees vigilance with motion tests, I decided it would be best to put on a suit. Where is that suit? I dug through my car and pulled out a nearly spotless white bee suit. I think it is paramount that if you are a real beekeeper you've got to have a honey and propolis stained bee suit to be legit. Well, this was just not the case here, “I'll have to look like an amateur” I thought. This bee suit is the exact one that we sell. Here is what I found out.
First, I couldn't see into the dark hive. There was too much contrast from the bright hive exterior and the dark interior of the hive to see the comb clearly. The mesh sewn into the face of the hoodie is too small to see through effectively. Also, because there is no brim on the hood the sun reflects on the shinny black mesh and makes seeing even more difficult. And after a bit in the hot sun, I was sweating profusely and trying to wipe my face through the mesh. This was quite frustrating. I was thinking, “man this is why I don't wear a beekeeper costume !”
Old style veil does not provide enough shade from the sun and mesh is too small to see inside the hive clearly.
The bees were really getting agitated, as we were in the brood area taking out the old black brood comb. Suddenly, my helper yelped and said in surprise, “I just got stung through my veil” I saw the stinger firmly embedded. Oh crap, right in the lip too! He had been shifting his hood around with his free hand to try to see better and accidentally pressed the veil against his face in the process. I guess a bee took advantage of the exposed lip. As his lip began to swell, the lady whose hive we were working on and I started to giggle. Why? I don't know, it was just that my helper’s lip started to look like the lip of a duck. But wait!... ducks don't have lips! That made everything even funnier and by now, my helper was laughing also, so we were all breaking up in laughter right at the crux of our bee mission. Then to add to the chaos, a bee crawled into the little Velcro “sealed” hole in the front of the neck of MY suit. I guess I didn't know you are supposed to push this closed as a last resort. So now, I have a bee in my bonnet, oh my! ...my helper is slowly transforming into a duck and the Lady of the Hives is losing her composure in fits of laughter. Here we were, Bee Doctors to the rescue! Imagine if we both ran away arms flailing!
OK, back to the point. After that experience I decided to look at other options out there for “Bee Wear’. I settled on this new bee helmet and veil that was round, because it gave a full field of view rather then the square veil types that have material on both sides of one’s field of vision.
Here is the verdict. I used the new helmet and veil all last year and this is my sales pitch. The mesh is metal and has a big grid that gives you twice the visual clarity then your old “bee veil hoodie”.
You have to be careful not to fold up this veil, it will bend. There is a helmet, not that you will need one, for most part bees don't sting THAT hard. But the helmet provides a great shading around the face, is good for reflections on the screen and because of the shading and the holes in the helmet top, it provides a much cooler experience.
Add to that, the screen mesh goes all the way around the back of your neck ...now isn't that nice? A few spritzes of water on the back of your neck and you’re ready for the next hive. What is also nice, is that if the bees are pretty calm, you can just wear the veil and helmet and the ridged mesh keeps the veil from pressing against your face, so you don't get a lip sting.
Now here is the biggie. You know how you inevitably shove a piece of dripping honeycomb you want to taste while working your hive into your veil, leaving your open mouth disappointed ...well no more! With this veil and helmet your can sneak the honeycomb morsel in under the veil without having to unzip the hoodie and draw attention from your nest mates. “Hey Bill, what are you doing over there?”
Now, you don't have to get rid of your excellent jacket, just zip off the hoodie! What a tag line, right? Its happening all across the country. You won’t look like a spaceman anymore while working your hive. With the bee helmet you will not only look ‘cooler’, but you will be cooler!
First, make sure your jacket is fully zipped up! oh my!
Put the veil over the top of helmet with the plastic loop of the veil hanging down in front. Position the gold clips on the helmet into the screen mesh of the veil, so that the white rim of the veil meets the brim of the helmet. Later when you know the helmet fit works you can bend the gold tabs over to permanently to hold the veil in place.
Hold the bottom of the veil with both hands, swinging the veil and helmet over your head. The 2 strings at the back of the veil should be hanging down your back. Reach with both hands behind your back grabbing a string in each hand. Pull down on the two strings behind your back so that the veil goes over the collar of your bee jacket, then pull the strings underneath each arm and thread both strings together through the veil’s plastic loop which will be in the front, resting on your chest. With the strings now through the loop, pull down on them until the veil extends over the front of your bee jacket
Now, Pull the strings down and around your back, crossing the strings behind your back, then finally bring the strings forward under each arm again to your front body and tie the strings in a nice little bow. There you go! All ready to say hello to your bees!