As far as your beekeeping safety equipment goes, your suit, gloves, and jackets are probably the most important. It makes sense that you would want to look after them to the best of your ability, not only to protect yourself against potential stings but to make them last for as long as possible.
Most beekeeping suits and jackets are machine washable, except for the veil portion, which is in danger of getting bent or snagged by the main body’s zippers and closures. This is why it is important to purchase a suit that comes with a detachable veil. You have to follow cleaning instructions step-by-step to wash your beekeeping suit correctly.
At the end of the day, you spend a fair amount of money on your beekeeping suit. Let’s delve into the topic of how you can efficiently clean your beekeeping suit without ruining it!
How Do You Wash A Beekeeping Suit?
It will benefit both you and your gear if you make it a habit to wash your beekeeping suit regularly while always following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Apart from your suit getting dirty, it can also collect stings, and any released pheromones from these can make the other bees agitated.
Now, following are some steps in intensive detail covering exactly how to wash your beekeeping suit without ruining it.
- Make 100% sure all the pockets inside of your suit are empty.
Empty all the pockets, including the debris that gets caught down in the corners of pockets. Think soil, leaves, twigs, etc. The last thing you need is a pebble or twig destroying the internals of your suit and washing machine!
Ensure that all other obvious things are also removed, such as tissues, cloths, scraps of paper or notebooks, knives, and any other small pieces of equipment you might normally store away in a pocket while you are attending your bees.
- Remove the veil.
Next, you will need to remove the veil from the main body of your beekeeping suit. The veil should always be hand washed in order to prolong its useful life. Ake sure that you wash it gently and only with a small amount of detergent to avoid any potential tearing in the veil.
Another advantage you will reap from gently washing your veil is that the black color of your veil will not fade. When the color of your veil fades, it will get increasingly more difficult to see through. Once you have washed your veil as well as you can, make sure that you rinse it thoroughly and put it out to dry. Never put your veil in a tumble dryer.
- Pre-treat any stains.
Any and all stains on your beekeeping suit have to be pre-treated before you can wash your suit in your washing machine. Propolis stains will never completely disappear, but they can be reduced by using a laundry detergent.
It is a good idea to use an all-natural detergent for your suit, as natural detergents do not contain any harmful artificial chemicals that could shorten the lifespan of your suit. Wax can be scraped off, and then you can pour very hot water through your suit from the back of the fabric. It would be best to do this outside where the wax can dispense without going down the drain, with the possibility of clogging it.
If you have grass stains or soil and dirt stains, a good pre-treater combined with a pre-soak-in will do the trick. Any other type of stain can be rubbed with a pre-treater and pre-soaked before washing in the machine.
- Do up all the zippers.
Next, it would definitely be a smart idea to zip up any and all zippers on the suit, and if it is necessary, you can use a couple of safety pins on the main zipper at the front (top and bottom) to ensure that the zipper will remain closed during the washing cycle in your machine.
- Loosen the cord tighteners.
Make sure that you loosen any cord tighteners on your suit. The reason for this is that tightened cords may stretch and lose their elasticity, making them useless after washing your suit only a few times.
- Place your suit in your washing machine and wash as per the care instructions shown on the garment.
The next crucial step is to put your suit in the washing machine and dial in the appropriate garment care instruction settings, but always using the hottest water temperature setting you can use as per the garment instructions.
Never wash your beekeeping suit with any other type of clothing. This is to avoid the transference of any remaining stains or possible traces of bee venom. Never use fabric conditioner, and ensure to use small amounts of detergent.
It is also good to take note that any detergents or soap used should not have fragrances. Do not use bleach or any fabric softeners. If you do need a rinsing aid, you could use plain white vinegar.
- Hang your suit to dry.
Please do not tumble dry your suit once the washing cycle has been completed, as it will probably shrink. Instead, it would be a good idea to hang your suit up to dry, preferably in the shade, making sure that you reopen all the zippers to aid in quick drying.
Ensure that your suit is completely dry before bringing it in and storing it away. The last thing you as a beekeeper would want is for your suit to start becoming moldy!
When it comes to other beekeeping equipment, such as your gloves, it would be best to hand wash in cold water and hang to dry in the shade. Also, do not tumble dry or use bleach.
How To Wash Your Beekeeping Veil Correctly
It is just as important to wash and take good care of your veil as it is for your bee suit. Any good beekeeper should know how to wash their veil correctly to prevent damage and fading.
- Pre-soak your veil using an Oxy-clean type of product, if needed.
- Add small amounts of detergent to a sink or tub and allow your veil to soak for 15-20 minutes.
- Gently swish the water through the fabric and netting, and be sure to gently scrub the hatband with a soft brush to remove soil, sweat, or stains.
- Rinse your veil in clear water several times until all soap is rinsed.
- Hang your veil outside to air dry, never in direct sun.
How To Remove Propolis The Best And Most Efficient Way Possible
Bees collect propolis from tree buds and plants to use as a type of sealant for the smaller gaps in their beehive. Propolis is a dark brown resin that is quite sticky and tends to stain clothing and other materials that it comes in contact with.
Many beekeepers collect propolis from their hives and sell it commercially because it has proven health benefits. When propolis is consumed, it works as a natural antibiotic and immune system supporter.
Beekeepers will suffer clothing stains that might seem impossible to remove, such as propolis stains. However, you will be grateful to know that there are methods to remove the propolis stains from your bee suit!
Use the scraper to remove as much propolis as possible. Use a damp cloth to remove the propolis resin from the scraper, and if it is needed, a small knife to assist you. Soak the cloth in steaming hot water for 20 minutes. Remove the cloth and scrape it again. More propolis will be removed the second time.
Create a paste using the dry laundry powder and the all-purpose liquid cleaner. The ratio should be as close as possible to 3:1. Apply the paste to the stained propolis cloth and rub it into the material of your bee suit. Then soak in hot water for 20 minutes.
Rinse the cloth in hot water to remove the paste and any other additional propolis. Reapply the paste and let it sit for approximately one hour. Be careful not to soak it. Wash your beekeeping suit in hot water again and spray it with an additional all-purpose cleaner.
You can then add laundry detergent to the wash again and rinse it after washing. The propolis stains should be gone, but if not, repeat this process.
Why Should You Wash Your Bee Suit?
It is important to wash your beekeeping suit for a number of reasons. Firstly, it would be a great idea to wash your suit regularly, because a smelly garment stiff with accumulated sweat is an unappealing start to a day of beekeeping work. And, in hot weather, the fabric will become less breathable, making already bad conditions feel worse!
Secondly, the beekeeping suit’s fabric will be prematurely damaged, caused by grime build-up within the fibers.
And lastly, and this might be the most important reason, your bee suit will accumulate bee alarm and sting pheromones from previous days’ work over time. These pheromones are nearly impossible to notice for humans, but it remains a potent, and disturbing smell to bees.
Simply airing out your suit may help disperse these chemicals, but washing your suit is even better and will protect the fibers within your garment, making it much more pleasant to wear at the same time!
How Often Should You Wash Your Beekeeping Suit?
This is a question most beekeepers ask themselves. It could be a hassle to wash your beekeeping suit after each hive inspection, and washing your beekeeping suit too much will shorten its lifespan.
You can wash your bee suit whenever it gets dirty or soaked with sweat. It is also a good idea to wash it after you have had a particularly contentious day with your bees when lots of sting pheromones have marked the fabrics!
Don’t believe the old tale that washing your bee suit will rile the bees up. This is simply just not true, and that being said, just avoid using highly scented washing products. Highly fragrant chemical odors can provoke bees and can make them attack you!
How To Keep Your Bee Suit Working Effectively
When it is time to tend to your beehives, it is also time to check your overall beekeeping equipment. Aside from ensuring that you have the best hive equipment possible, it is also important that you own all the appropriate safety gear, which will assist in making your beekeeping season a profitable, fun, and safe one!
Yes, your beekeeping suit will drastically reduce your chances of getting stung during honey harvesting, but sometimes, even the friendliest hive can become unsettled. So, whenever you are checking your brood frames, harvesting some honey, or just having fun in the sun with your stinger friends, it is a good practice always to wear your protective clothing!
Beekeeping suits, jackets, and gloves are valuable pieces of safety equipment. If you maintain them well enough and treat them with care and respect, they can offer you long-lasting and functional sting prevention.
How To Care For Your Beekeeping Suit (Aftercare)
It is, however, important to remember that your protective gear is not indestructible, so I thought I’d share a couple of pointers on how to care for your suit to make sure it stays durable and will provide you with the best possible ongoing protection!
- Inspect your suit often. I would recommend that you inspect your safety gear every single time you go and suit up. Be sure to check for weaknesses in the seams, tears, rips, holes, or any other areas that show signs of weakness.
Bees are very clever creatures, and when it comes to finding small spaces to crawl through, they will find them with ease. This is also why I would pay particular attention to my veil when inspecting my gear.
- Check for bee-sized gaps. Once you have your gear on, check closely for any gaps or spaces that a bee could easily squeeze through. And ensure that your zippers are completely zipped up! Your veil is designed to sit forward and away from your face. Make sure that your skin is never touching your veil, as bees can sting through the fabric. More about that later!
- Store your suit correctly. When you are not using your beekeeping suit or any beekeeping gear for that matter, you have to store it correctly. It would be best to hang your suit up and avoid any contact with sharp objects. Do not store it under heavy items and try to keep it as far as possible from any fabric-eating insects.
- Cleaning your veil, suit, and gloves correctly. As mentioned earlier in the article, if you do feel like your beekeeping gear needs a clean, be sure to follow the washing instructions carefully.
Will You Get Stung Through Your Beekeeping Suit?
Beekeepers will still get stung by their bees even if they take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves from being stung. Sometimes, a clever bee will make its way through a gap in your suit or protective clothing and deliver a sting. This is also why it is important to check your gear and repair any damages as quickly as possible.
Fun fact: bees are attracted to the blood flow around your knees and ankles and will try to sting you in that spot if they can. Make 100% sure of the protection you have around these areas because if there is a tiny gap, the bees will find it, and sting you!
All bee stings are dangerous, and you never know how you might react to a sting. In the case of bee stings, it is more important to know the correct prevention than cure. Studies show that the average adult person can tolerate up to approximately 1000 stings, but 500 stings can be fatal to an older person or child.
Some people may react badly to a sting and get an allergic reaction or go into anaphylactic shock, which could be fatal. Most humans luckily have no serious reaction to a sting at all! The only problem is that you will never know how you react until you get stung.
An average beehive can hold 10 000 bees or more, so the chances are very high that you will get stung by more than one bee at a time if you disturb or aggravate them. The golden rule I live by is to stay away from bees unless you are a beekeeper and know what you are doing!
Natural Cleaning Solutions
Sometimes, we beekeepers get stubborn dirt and debris that could be next to impossible to get out. After trying the above cleaning process, you may have some stains left on your suit. If your cleaners don’t seem to do the trick, you can retreat your suit and other protective clothing with natural but suitable cleaners.
Hydrogen peroxide is a great option to use as a cleaning medium. Some beekeepers don’t like to work with it because they are afraid it might harm their bees. There is no research done on this, but it doesn’t harm my bees, at least.
You can also use white vinegar and lemon juice. Both can do wonders to remove ground-in dirt and tougher stains. White vinegar is so good that it is often recommended as an all-purpose cleaner.
All you have to remember is to put your treated gear in the sun after using lemon juice or vinegar. This is because the sun’s energy will interact with the vinegar or lemon juice and act as a sanitizer and leave your suit or other equipment fresh and clean!
The Importance Of Hygiene
When it comes to beekeeping, hygiene is one of the key factors. It prevents the spread of pests and diseases. Dirty bee suits and tools are a high risk for spreading infections between each colony and apiary.
Leaving exposed wax, honey, or feed will also increase health risks. Let’s take a look at some additional steps you can take to increase hive hygiene, other than frequently cleaning your suit:
- Controlling pests and diseases. Many beekeepers move their hives for pollination contracts and to follow honey flows. The movement of hives, as well as the drifting and robbing contracts of honey bees, means that the spread of diseases can be difficult to contain or prevent. Thus, it is best to leave your hives where they are, in a controlled and comfortable environment.
- Purchase clean hives and equipment. Only purchase second-hand hives and equipment from beekeepers who regularly check for established and exotic pests and diseases. If possible, examine the colony and hive parts before purchase to ensure they meet the required standard and are disease and pest-free.
It is also a good idea to isolate newly purchased hives for up to 6 months until you are sure that they are healthy and disease-free. Always sterilize or irradiate second-hand beekeeping equipment before use!
- Clean your apiary and equipment frequently. Clean smokers, hive tools, and other beekeeping equipment if you have reason to suspect pests or diseases. Always clean extracting machines, drums, or containers before and after use. Also, ensure your honey containers are cleaned inside and out and dried and sealed before use.
- Dispose of any waste material effectively. Make sure that any honey spills, exposed combs, and wax are destroyed or covered to prevent robbing by honey bees. Maintain good hygiene around your hives and remove beeswax scraps, old combs, and dead colonies, which can harbor diseases and pests.
- Implement a health program. Obtain accurate and up-to-date information and understand the risks for each hive. Develop appropriate measures for pests and diseases and record all treatment details.
Beekeeping can be a messy but rewarding business if done correctly. Every time you go into a hive, your hands get covered in several things like propolis, wax, dirt, and all sorts of debris. You are left with a dirty and sticky mess and the obvious need to clean your beekeeping suit, veil, gloves, and other crucial equipment.
It can be a stressful activity to clean your beekeeping suit, but with the correct information, you will have a clean and comfy suit regularly, and your bees will thank you for it!