Nothing Between You and Your Bees?

By Camilla Bee, Editor

If you’re like many beekeepers, practically nothing comes between you and your bees. You’ve been late to family gatherings, missed your favorite team’s playoff games, cut vacations short because something needed doing in the beeyard.

However, there are a few things that should come between you and your bees, like protective clothing. Granted, not everyone feels that way. At Kelley’s annual Field Day in early June, I was involved in discussions about whether a beekeeper even needs to wear protective clothing. There was more than one beekeeper insisting that if you listened and observed your hives appropriately, you could discern danger and avoid getting into it or get away before things go stingingly awry.

If you’re one of those beekeepers, more power to you. This article is for the rest of us, who use protective clothing.

We recently caught up with Stephanie Slayton, head of the sewing department at Kelley’s, to learn more about Kelley’s comprehensive line of “bee-wear.” (Or should that be “bee-ware?”)

Stephanie first emphasized that they want suggestions! After all, we wearers are the ultimate “field testers” of products. If we have thoughts and ideas about what should be changed, or even how things could be improved, please let them know. Stephanie noted we don’t have to have the solution. The creative sewing team is full of options and ideas; but they need to know about opportunities to make improvements. For example, a customer recently stopped in and showed why he feels there’s a vulnerable spot in a certain type of veil. “We figured out a way to make it better and will do that going forward,” said Stephanie. “We love it when customers help us make our products better.”

Like most folks at Kelley’s, most of the seamstresses are also beekeepers. In fact, all work teams at Kelley’s have their own hive on company property, so any employee who isn’t a beekeeper now can be. Stephanie had never kept bees before “the sewing hive” but loves it, and hopes to get hives of her own at home for next year. “Working first-hand with bees helps us make our clothing more effective,” she added. “We take extra caution in making sure our seams are bee-proof.”

Quality is key in everything Kelley’s produces, which is why so many of the bee-ware items are 100% made or finished by Kelley’s. Stephanie shared that veils, arguably the most critical piece of protective clothing, are all made “from scratch.” They cut the screens, the bottoms, the tops, the Velcro, and make sure each piece comes together with no gaps or weak spots. While they’ve made hundreds of thousands of veils at Kelley’s, they are also always undergoing enhancements.

“Thanks to a customer’s suggestion,” said the upbeat Stephanie, temporarily putting down her scissors, “we’ve switched from cotton tape to vinyl tape. Over time the screen would poke through the cotton, but not any more.”

While some parts of Kelley’s operations are seasonal (like package bees), the Sewing Department works year-round. By the time this goes to press they should be through the seasonal backlog and started stitching on next year’s protective gear. The five seamstresses love sewing. “Most of us even go home at night and sew,” laughed Stephanie.

Sewing day after day, year around, could get tedious. But, with such a vast product line, it doesn’t. And, there are always the “very fun” product development projects. Stephanie proudly talked about helping design the queen muffs Kelley’s offers, and the upgraded leggings that feature several advancements, like nylon instead of cotton making it tougher for bees to get a grip.

While innovation is fun, so is custom work. Kelley’s will tailor suits, repair clothing, and retrofit coveralls—like with the double-pull zippers to take advantage of hood advancements—for a modest labor charge. To take advantage of this very reasonable, professional service, contact Sales at 1-800-233-2899.

Stephanie and her team take pride in the comprehensive clothing line they produce. They also take pride in their “bestsellers,” products that customers use and highly recommend. these include the round drawstring veils, the hat-veil combination, and the gaining-in-popularity goatskin gloves with long, nylon sleeves.

Want (almost) nothing to come between you and your bees? Kelley’s has you covered.

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