Beekeeping is well-known for the rather extravagant protective suits that must be worn. But exactly why are beekeepers suits white?
While they are essential for the job they perform, there’s no denying that beekeeper suits look a little bit silly. Offering full-body coverage, these suits can look like something out of sci-fi, rather than something that someone would wear to work.
Of course, though, most people wouldn’t want to get very close to a hive without one.
Beekeeper suits are instantly recognisable, with their oversized head and white colouring being easy to spot.
The other design choices that come with beekeeper suits make a lot of sense, but many people will be left scratching their heads when asked about their colour.
The Big Beekeeper Suit Debate
Before getting too deep into this topic, it makes sense to cover the debate that surrounds this area.
While science shows that each of the benefits of white beekeeper suits holds true, many people argue that different traits are more important than others.
Some beekeepers will even go without wearing a suit at all. This topic may not be one worthy of controversy, it’s worth keeping in mind that different people have different ideas.
In the UK, average summer temperatures range from around 19 to 22 °C. While this may not sound too hot to those who live in other parts of the world, spending all day outside in a full-body suit can get quite uncomfortable in weather like this.
You can probably remember from physics class that black materials absorb more light than white ones.
This means that a darker beekeeper suit would heat up much faster than the traditional white ones that are used. This is one of the key reasons that most beekeepers will use white or light coloured suits for their work.
Tracking Bees & Avoiding Removal
There can be as many as 40,000 bees inside a British beehive during summer. While this is a staggering number, beekeepers don’t want to lose any of their bees unnecessarily, and this makes it important that they are visible on clothing.
White provides a good contrast to the black and yellow colours of a bee’s body.
This makes a white suit perfect for avoiding bee loss, while also making it easier to avoid being stung while removing a suit.
This is particularly useful when two beekeepers are working with one another, as it will be very easy for the keepers to see bees on one another.
Making Bees Less Aggressive
This reason for beekeeper suits being coloured white is possibly the most compelling, and it all comes down to evolution.
The predators that most commonly eat bees are usually dark in colouration.
This means that bees are genetically hard-wired to see large dark moving objects as threats, making them more aggressive when they are approached by a human wearing a dark suit.
Wearing a white suit can help to keep the bees in a hive nice and calm, reducing the chances that the keep will be stung and making it easier to keep themselves safe when they are dealing with large colonies.
This means that, in some ways, you can thank bears for the colours used for modern beekeeping suits.
Bears will happily tear through beehives, and the bears that most commonly do this are black and dark brown in colouration; essentially the opposite of white.
While it may not be a surprise, bees don’t have anywhere near as detailed vision as humans do.
A lot of the information a bee receives from its eyes comes in the forms of colours, basic shapes, and the disruption of light. This means that bees rely heavily on colours to navigate the world and determine which things are good or bad for them.
Bees love ultra-violet light more than anything else, with many yellows reflecting a lot of light in this spectrum.
When it comes to visible light, bees prefer purples and blues, though they will also be attracted to other naturally occurring bright colours.
This can be seen if you go out wearing a bright purple t-shirt. Bees are far more likely to hang around you or even land on you, and this is because they think you’re a big flower.
Fortunately, though, bees don’t care about white. They aren’t attracted to it, making it a great choice for beekeeper outfits.
A Touch Of Tradition
Beekeeping is a very old pastime, with people doing this work for thousands of years. While some aspects of this job have moved with the times, others simply haven’t, and beekeeping suits are part of this.
This means that one of the main reasons that modern beekeeping suits are made from white canvas is because they always have been. But why would they want to?
Scenes of beekeepers working on their hives simply wouldn’t be the same if a different colour was being used.
Choosing The Right Beekeeper Suit
A good suit is one of the first things you will need to buy if you decide to get into the hobby of beekeeping.
Not only do you need to make sure that your suit is white, but you also need to include all of the right elements to avoid getting stung when working with your bees.
A full-body suit, set of thick leather gloves, and a fencing mask will all be essential when you first start.
Alongside this, it can also be worth looking at footwear that will make it possible to tuck your trousers in and create a loose seal. Wellies are ideal for this, providing an affordable option that will also be great for outdoor work.
You don’t need to spend much on your suit to get a good option, but it will be worth shopping around and doing your research. No matter how much sellers promise a suit will protect from stings, it’s likely that your bees will be strong enough to punch right through.
As you can see, the colour of a beekeeper’s suit is very important.
People working in this field or doing it as a hobby rely on their suits to keep them safe, but they also serve some additional benefits that people often ignore. It’s well worth taking the time to learn about areas like this if you ever decide to take up beekeeping.