combined with a veil offer as much protection asmost bee suits—with a lot less expense. Indeed,given the right approach, the veil, the shirt, andeven the pants are not strictly necessary. It has beenwell established that stinging insects are muchless likely to sting light-colored, smooth-texturedclothing than clothing that is dark and rough, suchas wool, which may too closely resemble the furof a bear or other predator, thus making the beesunruly. As a result, in choosing what to wear, light-colored cotton clothing is the preferred attire whenyou are dressing for a day at the apiary.The one exception to my bias against bee suits isfound in the unique design of the coveralls sold byGolden Bee Products of Metairie, Louisiana (see theresources section). This suit comes complete with abuilt-in veil and is made of two loosely woven lay-ers of fabric that sandwich a third layer. This centerlayer is a nylon mesh that acts as a spacer betweenthe inner and outer layers of fabric. The three looselayers result in a suit that is too thick for a bee tosting through due to the space within the nylonmesh. Nor does the suit even offer many placesthat a bee is capable of stinging. The large numberof little holes in the outer fabric creates a suit witha minimal amount of fibers that are woven tightlyenough to allow a honey bee to embed a stinger; thestinger has nothing to catch on. The only areas thatare vulnerable to being stung are the pocket areas,which, out of necessity, are made of fabric com-posed of tightly woven fibers. This airy design alsoprovides plenty of ventilation, which makes thesuit a lot more comfortable to wear in hot, humidweather than conventional suits made of cotton.No matter what you wear, if you work regularlywith honey bees, sooner or later you are going to getstung. Accepting this fact of life and learning howto deal with it are essential prerequisites for anyapiculturist-to-be. The anatomy of a bee’s stingerconsists of a venom sac and muscles attached toa shaft, which is composed of two barbed lancetslying side by side, with a hollow opening downthe middle that acts as the poison canal. When thestinger is embedded in flesh, the attached muscles
or attic space. Like the errant swarm or colony ofbees taken from a tree, the quality of removed beescan vary. At least with bee removal, if you chargefor your services there is the consolation of mon-etary gain should the bees you take home prove tobe less than hoped for.
· DealiNG wiTh ·The busiNess eND oFThe worker bee
Among the myriad things the honey bee teachesus is the value of strength in numbers. Whereas asingle honey bee may prove merely irritating andbothersome, dozens of bees present a formidableand intimidating front that can be enough to driveoff predators many times their size. Thus, the honeybee earns respect. Conventionally this respectexpresses itself by way of a full-body bee suit thatincludes a veil and covers every part of the fleshexcept the hands and feet, which are protected bythick gloves and sturdy shoes. While such an outfitmay provide a certain level of emotional security,its physical protection all too often proves tenu-ous, as at least one bee always seems to eventuallyfind an opening in which to deliver a sting, eitheraround the cuffs, at an ankle, through a rippedseam, or through pinched material that is pressedtightly against the skin—usually in the crook of abent elbow or knee. As a result, the beekeeper hasnumerous opportunities to learn to both accept andconquer the fear that shadows every move withinthe apiary. Although unseen, this fear is like aconstant summons to the beekeeper, calling uponthe inner strength and resolve that each of us pos-sesses, bringing it forward with the confidence andcalming knowledge that we can handle whatevercrisis might take place, including the occasionalshattering pain that stands in our path, like a sheetof glass that we must pass through as its soundechoes among the hives.The beekeeping supply companies are not goingto appreciate me for this, but from my perspec-tive a pair of old trousers and a long-sleeved shirt