Beekeeper Gloves

Gloves: some beekeepers use them, some don’t.  I do not like to be stung.  I wear gloves. It is said that if you work well, bees will not sting you.  I always wonder if the people who say this have those sweet Italian bees and live in areas where storms don’t come though on a near daily basis.  It’s nice here in northwest Washington, it’s just not very dry, and I now know the meaning of occluded front (one miserable weather front following close on the heels of another).

What follows is a tale of the gloves I have known and, well, tolerated, I don’t love any of them.

Old leather beekeeping glove

it has a "life" of its own

I started out with the standard issue beekeeper gloves.  This is one that I found at the bottom of an older bee bag. They were thick.  No bee could sting me.  On the other hand, I couldn’t feel a thing, which made manipulating frames very hard.

Close shot beekeeper glove on the hand of Karen Bean, Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washignton

good, but still has issues

Then I discovered these gloves.  They are goatskin, I think.  The glove is thin enough to allow me to work easily and still not get stung.  But you can see that they still don’t meld with my hands.  The down side is that they are thin and wear out.  I go though about 3 of these a year.  Happily they are not that expensive.  I get them though Buckoo Gloves.

Painters' nitrile glove, used for beekeeping

useful when painting too

If I’m working with mating nucs my Buckoo gloves are still too thick.  Bare hands are the best, but sometimes the bees get a little jumpy, especially when a storm is brewing, and, as I said, I don’t like to be stung.   Then I turn to these nitrile gloves.  I just learned about them this year.  My first encounter was from another beekeeper in our queen-rearing group, but his were very thin and ripped.  I’m very financially conservative (ok call it cheap), and I like things to last a while.  Then one day at the paint section of a box store I discovered these very fashionable blue nitrile gloves: painter’s nitrile gloves.  They work really well, and you can reuse them for quite a while before they do finally rip. Plus they’re quite nice when you’re painting the new honey storage area too.  On the downside, here’s my computer’s dictionary’s definition of nitrile: an organic compound containing a cyanide group (just puts you at ease, doesn’t it?)

Every glove has its downside.  The mesh of all the beekeepers gloves drives me mad.  At least once a week a bee will suddenly realize that my skin is available to be stung though the mesh.  I keep telling myself it’s probably very good for my wrists: no arthritis there.  And my lovely painters nitrile gloves are short, so the bees get me in the same place.   This year I’m getting some gloves without mesh from Buckoo Gloves – they tell me they’re longer.  I just figure I will look totally chic in elbow-length gloves.  Who says beekeeping isn’t fashionable?

I would love to work without gloves all the time, but it’s not going to happen.  I’ll get stung.  My friend, Pat Ray (4th generation beekeeper, all around good guy, and someone who will work bees in a short sleeve shirt) once said to me that people should just wear what makes them comfortable while working with bees because as long as you are comfortable you will handle the bees gently.   I couldn’t put it better.

Do you have gloves that work well for you?  Share – we can all use new knowledge.


About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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11 Responses to Beekeeper Gloves

  1. I read the article and am curious, can the bees sting through the nitrile gloves? We have light pig skin gloves with sleeves to the elbow. They work ok but I like the idea of a lighter glove. I’m not a fan of being stung either and so I wondered about the other ones you mentioned.

    • They can sting through the nitrile, but they don’t seem to want to even land on them, usually (make me wonder why). I tested the little-to-no stinging with one of my really touchy hives. I survived unstung, but I didn’t go very deep. Pigskin sounds good, where did you get them?

  2. Gary says:

    Hi We use surgical gloves, which similar to the nitrile you mentioned, these help reduce the propolis stains all over your hands.

    We have been picking up swarms this season and some of them are a little more aggressive, so on those hives I use the thick leather type. Which I don’t like as you can’t handle the frames as well. So I usually do all the heavy lifting with the leather ones and then move onto the Nitrile like ones.

    You are correct about the Nitrile ones being very small, I have bees crawling up my sleeve which is painful if you don’t notice them. Need some kind of elastic wrist guards.

    See ya…Gary
    New Zealand

    • Hi Gary – how wonderful to hear from New Zealand – a place I’m bound and determined to visit one day. Surgical gloves. I never thought of that. So I just did a google search and found a place here (CMC Government Supply – go figure) that has ones that are 12″ long. I’ve gotta try those… Thank you for the idea. Karen

  3. Michelle says:

    Well as I work in a medical facility I think i will do try a few different kinds and see how I fair. I like the idea of not getting propolis on my leather gloves. I will let you know how things fair this spring.


  4. peter wilson says:

    Hi to all those seeking a solution to the bitten wrists syndrome! We supply a couple of thicker types of nitrile gloves than your illustrated painters gloves or surgical gloves, and they both have long cuffs to protect the wrist. One of them we developed for dairy farmers, so they will withstand rugged conditions. You can find details on our website –
    – and we can send samples in the size you need for a trial. Beekeepers seem to be a fast growing part of our customer base, I’m glad to say.

  5. mr kherl says:

    you are right cow use for hard working like labor gloves . bur for bees I think sheep leather is comfortable . but so many parties demand bee gloves in cow . I don’t know why ? maybe thy don’t know about leather qualities ..

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