Walter T. Kelley on Beestings

These writings are interesting because they are decades old and some things have changed (Velcro® is no longer new on the market, there are new protective headwear options), and also because some things never change. Bees still sting, and even this man who loved honeybees highly recommends protective clothing!

This section generally focuses on bee basics, many of them excerpted from writings by the late Walter T. Kelley, our founder. Bee stings are, unfortunately, too often a component of beekeeping. We thought we’d share his thoughts on them, from the highly recommend publication: How To Keep Bees and Sell Honey by Walter T. Kelley. (Book of course available from Kelley’s!)

Immunity to Bee Stings


Your author as a boy had his eyes swollen shut several times and all stings created excessive swelling, usually making the swollen part feverish. In the course of time, however, immunity was built up so that now a mosquito bite is more serious than a bee sting except when the sting is on some tender part of the body, as near the eyes or on the nose.

The bee veil is next in importance to the smoker because one or two well-placed stings around the nose and eyes will send even experienced beekeepers on the run to cover. It is advisable to always wear a veil when working with the bees although it is possible when there are only one or two colonies in the yard to work them without a veil for months at a time without a single sting, however, the day will come when they are out of sorts for one reason or another and they will quickly convince you that a veil is cheap insurance.

Other thoughts on protective clothing from Walter T. Kelley:


CLOTHING: Do not wear dark colored or woolen clothing when working with the bees. Do not wear a felt hat as wool will infuriate the bees. A helmet is the best and cheapest style of hat to wear because it has stiffness that will support the bee veil. It is practically waterproof and most bee veils fit it snugly. In selecting your helmet be sure that the ventilation holes are too small for the bees to enter, otherwise you will have bees in your bonnet.

GLOVES: The beginner will want gloves for confidence but as the season advances and the weather gets warmer they will be discarded, however, in the early spring and late fall the bees are usually quite mean as they wish to keep their stores of honey so it is well to always have a pair of gloves handy.

Bees, like other insects, crawl as well as fly and inasmuch as the bee has a stinger it is necessary that the beekeeper provide himself with special equipment to keep the bees off his head and to prevent them from crawling up his sleeves and pants legs.

Many commercial beekeepers wear high top boots and tuck their trouser legs inside to keep the bees from crawling up inside the legs, but boots are now very costly and recently there has come on the market Velcro® leg straps … which can be quickly pulled over the bottom of the trouser legs and onto the top of the shoes. These work very well, but the trouser legs need to be long enough so that they are not pulled up and off the shoe tops during work.

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