A bee suit to make beekeeping a breeze
I’m about to tell you why I love my new Swienty Breeze bee suit. But first, before I delve into the nitty gritty details, I want to give you a little bit of information on why we need a bee suit for beekeeping in the first place.
Bee’s will be bee’s
Bees can be grumpy little creatures, especially when someone is attempting to take their honey. Who can blame them? They have worked hard for it, but let’s be fair. We beekeepers have meticulously plotted, toiled and sweated in helping them to go gather as much of the liquid gold stuff as possible. It seems we love the glorious honey as much as they do.
All season long we have lovingly carried out our inspections. We have checked to make sure our royal highness is laying. We ensure she has enough room to lay as many eggs as she can muster. We worry when that dreadful storm hits and rush to our apiaries the next day to make sure they are safe and unscathed. We make sure our colonies are healthy and disease free. A strong workforce is a productive workforce after all. We dote on them like they are our own offspring sometimes. We carry out our beekeeping duties with pride so surely we are entitled to think they should share some of their honey with us. Well, unfortunately the bees do not always see it that way. Evolution has gifted them with a very handy little deterrent in the form of a sting and boy, they’re happy to use it. A single bee can pack a powerful punch as every beekeeper at some point will find out.
Most of us can remember our very first sting from the hive with an almost sadistic fondness. Newbies may even wear the welt from the sting as a little badge of honour for a few days, showing anyone that cares to see it. We have proudly passed the initiation test which is part and parcel of being a proper beekeeper. But being stung excessively by a bunch of rowdy bees each time you do an inspection will soon take the fun out of your hobby, and FAST. The main barrier between your skin and a very painful bee sting is your bee suit. It is therefore one of the most important purchases you make in your beekeeping career. With a lot of things in life you get what you pay for, and a bee suit is no exception.
Why I chose the Swienty Breeze bee suit
A bee suits’ most basic purpose is to protect your full body from stings. Knowing you will not suffer multiple stings whilst looking through the combs will give you confidence which in turn will help keep you remain calm. And with beekeeping, calmness is a very good thing indeed.
Your main priority when buying a bee suit is its ability to protect you and for it to be comfortable. Let me tell you one of my many mistakes when I first began my hobby. Beekeeping is a predominantly summer activity, and a traditional summer’s day is not all rain rain rain like they’d have you believe. In my very first season hoisting up and down the combs, I found myself getting hot, incredibly hot! So much so that I ditched my ill fitting, boil in the bag all in one bee suit for a smock and veil (a hooded, veiled jacket without the trousers). At first I revelled in the freedom. It was cooler, less restrictive and quicker to put on. Unfortunately for me, the jeans I was wearing on my lower half that day offered no protection at all. I could handle sting after sting on my legs but I was just hoping and praying the bees would not hit the bullseye. I was always on edge. It became a common occurrence of feeling an adventurous bee scaling the skin on my back, where she had found an opening as I was crouched over.
Enough is enough!!
One last painful close encounter saw me going back to my restrictive full bee suit. A bee had somehow managed to find herself inside my hood’s veil! I valiantly tried to ignore her buzzing but every time she crawled over my ears and lips I literally winced, waiting for the inevitable shooting pain of a sting. I walked a short distance from the throng of activity of the apiary and when the buzzing of the hives were a distant hum, I slowly unzipped my hood, with the intention of setting her free. So far so good, I had managed to remove my veil, all she had to do was flap her wings and buzz off. But she didn’t. Instead, I felt an almighty zap on the back of my head, something comparable to an electric zap. OUCH!!! Enough was enough, I was done with a smock. I once more had to put up with the stifling heat of a bee suit, just to ensure I had the extra protection it provided. Also, by wearing a full bee suit, I could guarantee I’d be wearing less propolis on my jeans, which once on is very hard to get off.
Window shopping for a new bee suit
When I heard Swienty, the very reputable bee equipment supplier based in Denmark, was releasing a new suit, it piqued my interest. The Breeze bee suit looked like the answer to my prayers. Swienty market this bee suit as being lightweight, well ventilated and designed to be more comfortable in warm weather. Bring it on!
The arrival and unboxing
After arranging delivery, the Breeze bee suit arrived promptly and well packaged. The box itself looked very compact and quite pleasing to the eye, with the Swienty logo proudly printed on the side in red.
I eagerly opened the box to find the sand coloured bee suit neatly folded and packaged in its own veiled hood. The capability for the whole suit to fold neatly into a small package is great in my opinion. It gives me the option of stowing it away in a corner of my bee van until I get to my apiary, without it getting damaged in transit.
The hood and veil
As I pulled the breeze bee suit out of the box, my fingers pushed against the veil in the hood. I was pleasantly surprised at how firm the veil material was. This was a stark contrast to the very thin veil material of my old bee suit. In fact, my old bee suit one was so thin that I once had to patch up a hole with insulating tape after lightly snagging it on an overhanging branch of a tree. I can’t see that happening with this one. Swienty say it is also flame proof so that should prevent any little mishaps with your hot smoker when packing away.
The first time I tried my new bee suit on, I straight away noticed the good visibility I had when looking out through the veil. Another thing I like is the nice distance of the veil material from the face. I think what helps is the hood’s fixed position as it rests on the shoulders. This prevents the hood from wobbling about and the constant need of adjustment. On this protective suit, the rear of your head will be sting proof too, with Swienty choosing to use double layered fabric.
Prior to this suit I’d always wear a baseball cap for head protection, while using the cap’s protruding peak to keep the safe space of veil from face. If anytime your veil is touching your face a bee can sting you, and it probably will if it’s not your lucky day.
Just like most other bee suits, the hooded veil can be removed completely by simply unzipping. The zips and a reassuring amount of velcro ensure bees cannot enter the veil and ruin your day during your inspections.
What makes the Swienty Breeze suit breezy?
The material! It’s full of holes, but trust me, that’s a good thing. If you look at the Swienty bee suit material close up, you will see a clever three layer composition. Two of those layers are a ventilated fabric and the other one is a thick mesh layer. If I put my hand inside the sleeve I can see it from the outside of these layers.
This guarantees a refreshing flow of air to your body as you work, promising to keep you cooler and more comfortable. As I walked around, I could feel the ventilation working, this will be a godsend when things warm up as the beekeeping season progresses. The airy nature of this suit is no way a compromise on protection though. The clever three layer fabric design eliminates the danger of stings, mainly by the space it creates between each of the layers of the fabric. The space from layer one to layer three is greater than the total length of a bee sting. It is a very well thought out concept indeed.
Fit, comfort and convenience
Being quite tall at almost 6’ 3’ with an athletic build, I opted for the XXL Swienty Breeze bee suit. I made the effort of using the sizing guide tables on their website and I suggest you do the same before purchasing. Fiddling about with the tape measure and sizing up the different parts of my anatomy paid off. After trying on the suit for the first time I found it fitted perfectly. I could bend over, twist around and crouch down without fear of restriction or strangulation.
The suit feels light and airy when worn. With each movement of the body you can feel a breeze of surrounding air flowing through the fabric. It almost reminded me of those expensive running trainers you can buy that direct a flow of air through your foot with each stride.
Zipping into the suit felt assured, Swienty use durable YKK zippers that are unlikely to fail in the field. Zipping up and down the front of the suit felt smooth. The round zip handles are easy to grip onto if wearing beekeeping gloves for added convenience.
One point of entry for the bees into any bee suit is through the cuff on the sleeve. This potential problem is prevented by being adjustable with the velcro strips. And like all good bee suits you have the elasticated thumb strap to stop the cuff riding up your arm.
The other main entry point is through the ankles. This again is covered, the ankles are elasticated but with the added benefit of zippers. The added zips when open, allow bigger feet to slide easily into the lower part of the suit.
There is also an elasticated waistband which helps to keep the suit fitting on your body as it should. Around this area on the front, there is more reinforced fabric, this helps prevent wear and tear on the suit when lifting honey supers.
Throughout the beekeeping season you will be using smaller bits of equipment like a queen catcher, a queen marking pen, small notebook and in case of allergic reactions, possibly an EpiPen. All of these things are easy to lose as I have found out over the years. The Swienty Breeze bee suit comes equipped with plenty of pocket space to keep your possessions accounted for. On the chest of the suit there are two large pockets. One has a zipper and the other has velcro.
Added to this, there are two side pockets with zippers, one with a carabiner for keys. For our most important hand tool of all, the hive tool, there is a reinforced pocket. Last but not least, there is a back pocket on the suit, this again is fitted with a zipper. Having so much storage space makes the jobs around the apiary so much easier as you know what you need is always on hand. It is a good move by Swienty to fit zips to most of the pockets. It’s no use having a pocket if things can escape from pockets, and a zip will put a stop to that happening.
Another handy little feature I liked is the little strap on the back of the bee suit which allows you to hang it up. This gives you two options of storing your suit when it’s not in use, the other being able to stow the suit in it’s own veiled hat.
Build quality, materials and durability
Although the material feels light, it also feels very strong. Swienty claim the suit will last for many years and I have no reason to disbelieve them. There are reinforced patches sewn onto the knees and elbows of the suit to fend off the wear and tear. Details like this add to Swienty’s claim of durability in my opinion.
The ventilated material on the Swienty Breeze bee suit is 100% polyester but the reinforced material such as on the pockets and back of the hat are 65% polyester and 35% cotton. Swienty do say that the Breeze bee suit can be machine washed with the veil removed, but I will probably continue to wash mine by hand. I’m not too bothered about the propolis stains that will soon gather, it all adds to the character after all.
After going through every nook and cranny of the suit with a keen eye, looking at all the details, I can honestly not find any faults with it. The only minor criticism I could mention would be the slightly wonky stitching on one of the knee pads. It is only a minor blemish on an otherwise perfect suit.
When developing this suit, Swienty have been very mindful about sustainability. This suit has been CE Certified. In plain English, it basically means that the suit has been designed and manufactured to be safe to the wearer, safe to the bees and safe to the environment. This is ensured by not using potentially harmful chemicals or elements such as cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium or any type of endocrine disruptors in the making of the suit.
To sum things up on the Swienty Breeze bee suit
A full bee suit is not for everyone. Some people wear just a face veil, some people just a smock. But for any beginner, I’d always recommend a bee suit. You will get so much more enjoyment from your new hobby if you wear one. With so many cheap ones online it can be tempting to choose a cheap one. DON’T! Instead, buy a decent, good quality suit that will last and last. If you choose one from a good supplier you will not be sucked into making a false economy. Every good beekeeper needs to make a few important investments to get started. A Swienty Breeze bee suit should be one of them.