Rubber Bee Gloves

The standard issue goat skin bee gloves can get sweaty. Here’s a photo of my hand after beekeeping in 20°C heat (68°F) for about half an hour — and it usually gets a lot sweatier than this:

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Long Cuff Neoprene GlovesI recently experimented with using heavy duty rubber gloves, slightly thicker than dish washing gloves. They don’t breathe at all but provide a better feel than goat coat skin. NOTE: Gloves that don’t have long cuffs and therefore don’t provide wrist protection aren’t so great. Blue medical examination gloves, the kind dentists use, are even thinner than dish washing gloves. The bees can easily sting through them and they offer no wrist protection. I’ve gone barehanded at times, too, but only when I’m not digging too deep into a hive.

August 02/14: I’ve been using heavy duty rubber gloves for about two months now and I haven’t had any problems with them other than the fact that my hands get instantly sweaty and the sweat accumulates in the fingers of the gloves after about an hour. For hygienic reasons, they should be soaked in soapy water after every use, then hung up to dry. I’d buy a few pairs. The bees, when determined, can sting through them. I got stung today for the first time. It wasn’t a deep sting but a surprising sting nonetheless. I wouldn’t use rubber gloves with defensive bees or during any kind of beekeeping that could rile up the bees. But for everyday maintenance and poking around, the heavy duty rubber gloves are the gloves for me. They’re more tactile, and even though they’re sweaty, I don’t get nearly as hot wearing them as I do with goat skin gloves. I’m not trying to advertise a specific brand of rubber gloves, but the ones I bought from a big box hardware store are described as “Long Cuff Neoprene Gloves.”

AUGUST 28, 2015: I can’t remember the last time I used my goat skin gloves. I use a variety of rubber gloves instead. Regular dishwashing gloves are fine. They don’t have to be heavy duty (though that doesn’t hurt). The bees can still sting through them, but that’s rare and the stinger never gets in too deep, so it’s not a problem. The gloves are always wet with sweat on the inside, but they flip inside-out when I take them off and dry quickly when hung up. I blow them up like balloons to inflate the fingers if they’re crumpled up. There’s a good chance I’ll never buy goat skin or leather bee gloves again.

A curious note: I get more SPAM comments for this post than anything I’ve written on Mud Songs. The comments are clearly written by real people too — people trying to sell me their brand of rubber gloves. There’s probably a group of rubber glove manufacturers who think, “If we could break into the beekeeping market, we’d be rich!” That’s fine with me. Send me a box of rubber gloves with long cuffs (some large gloves for my big man hands and small gloves for my partner’s hands). I’ll use them in my beekeeping for a full year and write-up an honest review of them when I’m done. I have no problem promoting a product that has been helpful in my beekeeping.

4 thoughts on “Rubber Bee Gloves

  1. It depends on how mean your bees are whether the medical style latex gloves are useful or not. I like to wear them because they keep propolis off my hands without affecting my dexterity. I’ve been stung through them before as you say, but mostly when I’ve accidentally squashed a poor bee.

  2. The medical style gloves are best for dexterity, but when I tried them, I got stung right through the glove once, the gloves tore open another time, and the wrist portion was so short, I could never get full coverage. Three strikes and I was out. However, I was dealing with mean bees every time. I probably got what was coming to me.

  3. Hi, I have been a beekeeper with 8 hives now a couple months and bought those awful cow hide canvas sleeved gloves for my kids ages 6,8,10,12,13 and myself. We used them once! I found great latex gloves called “Grease Monkey. They are 15 mil and wash and reuse really well. They also extend past the wrist and well over the elastics on the bee siuts we use. We sweat like crazy but can feel the bees and frames really well and no stings for any of us. Princess Auto sells them here in BC.

  4. These days I buy nothing-fancy thick dish washing gloves from the grocery store and they’re fine. Even regular somewhat thin gloves are okay, though I don’t think any gloves are sting-proof.

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