When I got into bees almost 4 years ago I was totally against working them without the veil and gloves. I thought it was a crazy idea and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do that. It scared me. Bees sting. Well last week I went through and cleaned up my entire hive with out the veil or gloves, and it was. . . awesome. But getting there has taken time and has been an important journey for me as a bee keeper. I would not suggest just any bee keeper start working their hives without gear; as matter of fact, I will not be getting rid of my bee suit. Sometimes the bees are agitated or you make a mistake when you are in the hive and piss them off. When that happens it is good to have a backup plan because you cannot just leave a hive open, and it truly sucks to get stung.
The first hive that I built was a top bar, and I populated it with package. I remember getting
that package and the unnerving feeling I had towards shaking all of those bees into the hive. I had read many times about how they are unlikely to sting and all that, but come on, they are stinging insects, you have got to be real dense if that doesn’t make you second guess your decisions. So of course I geared up, sprayed down with sugar water and dumped in the bees. After a while I started to get braver and would mess around a little here and there without gear, but that typically ended up in me getting stung. I didn’t quite understand the proper way to move around bees. I would move too fast, and not pay close enough attention. As the second year rolled around I upped the amount of hives I had, and I figured out the proper way to move. I haven’t actually been stung since that first year. I have had stingers caught up in my gloves and clothes though. Learning the bees and how to move, as well as them learning you takes time. Had I tried to work my bees without protection earlier it would have most likely ended poorly.
So why even bother to work your bees without the gloves and veil? Well, its comfortable. The more comfortable I am the more efficient I can move through the hive. The less I disturb the hive the better. I basically want to get in and out as quickly as I can so that the bees can get back to work. When wearing a veil you have to readjust it often, and are looking though the mesh which obscures your view. Most importantly for those who wear glasses or need reading glasses to look at the frames, if they fog or get dirty you are just out of luck. Of course you could wear gloves without a veil, and that would protect your fingers. The problem with gloves is that it’s like having sausage fingers, and you loose a lot of dexterity. It’s hard to feel what your fingers are touching, and you are more likely to smash bees. Going bare handed has been a great experience since it has taught me to move very carefully, and not having the bulky gloves makes dropping a frame far less likely. All around I hear the bees swirling and buzzing, landing on me, crawling on my head and hands, but I am careful not to hurt them, and they accept my presence. They don’t want to sting me and sacrifice their life if I mean them no harm, so I am careful, and they are cautiously inquisitive. It’s a relationship of respect, and call me crunchy, but it makes me feel close to nature and my bees.