What to look for in a good pair of bee gloves

When I’m doing a hive inspection or just poking my nose in a beehive for the fun of it, I prefer to go gloveless. But there are times when the bees just will not allow for that.

It is during these times that you must have a quality pair of gloves that bees cannot sting through or crawl up inside of, for a sneak attack. I’m going to show you the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of beekeeping gloves.

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two pairs of beekeeping gloves
Here’s a couple pair of nice gloves. Leather, ventilated ones on the left and canvas ones on the right. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Beekeeping gloves are not to be overlooked when considering something that is going to fit well, offer ventilation, grip and keep your knuckles sting free. You haven’t lived until you’ve been stung between the fingers or underneath the fingernail and scream like a girl. I know I have!

Elements of a great pair (of gloves)

Element #1

Leather. I have seen 3 types of leather available for gloves: cow hide, goat skin and pig skin. I mostly see the first two and not so much the pig anymore so forget I mentioned it. Let’s replace it with canvas gloves.

Cow hide is going to offer the best sting protection because it’s thicker. Unfortunately, this is also its weakness- lack of dexterity when trying to delicately handle something like a frame of brood with the queen on it.

ventilated pair of beekeeping gloves
I just got these cow hide, ventilated gloves with reinforced gauntlet (the part below the thumb that rests on the wrist). FYI, Dadant accepts beeswax as trade for products. That’s how I got these gloves. Call them for current trade value. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Goat skin. This offers better dexterity when finer motor skills are needed. Unfortunately, this is also its weakness- it’s thinner than cow hide and stingers can eventually work themselves down through the leather, and into your own leather.

Canvas. This is the most comfortable glove I have ever worn. My canvas gloves are my favorite ones. They are completely made of cotton with an elastic band in the end of the cuff. Unfortunately, the bees hate them and they offer absolutely no protection against stingers. I don’t know why they even make them. I recommend these if you have calm beehives or you’re doing something else completely non-bee related.

canvas beekeeping gloves
These canvas gloves are great…for anything other than beekeeping.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Element #2

The cuff and/or sleeve. This part of the glove can be shorter or longer. Usually the shorter ones still cover a good portion of the forearm. The longer ones are usually able to reach just over the elbow.

Whether you go with a longer or shorter sleeve, the best quality is going to be a pair made with canvas with a Kevlar stitching. Ventilated or not, it’s up to your preference.

pair of ventilated beekeeping gloves
Notice how long these gloves are, clear up over my elbows. And I have long arms, I’m 6’4″ tall. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Element #3

Elastic band. Gloves aren’t any good if they can’t keep the bees from stinging you. The elastic band at the end of the sleeve keeps the little buggers from crawling up your sleeve and into the ‘no-zone.’

elastic cuff on beekeeping gloves
See how this canvas sleeve tapers to the narrow elastic band? That’s what makes it nice and snug around your arm so that you suffer less and enjoy your bees more.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

I bought a budget pair of gloves once. They were great, until the elastic on the left sleeve wore out. To go-with-the-flow, I put my gloves on before my jacket and the jacket sleeve’s elastic band closes off would-be intruders.

I have noticed that there are gloves with a gauntlet and gloves without a gauntlet. The ones without tend to separate at the stitch, whereas the ones with a gauntlet do not.

Element #4

Quality stitching. There’s nothing worse than having a new pair of gloves give out on you when you need them the most. A stitch can tear or loosen in one of the fingers or thumb, creating a perfect target for stingers which are drawn to it like a magnet.

Now I don’t know how you can tell if a glove has good stitching when purchasing from the internet. The only way to know is trial and error when an item description has few details. But I do know that Mann Lake advertises their standard gloves as having Kevlar threading.

stitching of beekeeping gloves
Notice the reinforced stitching on the left-hand gauntlet and the same on the right-hand cuff at the mesh ventilation. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Recap & Recommendations

Element #1– Choose your leather: Cow hide offers better protection but less movement. Goat skin offers better movement but stingers can work their way through the leather over time.

Element #2– Choose long or medium length gloves. Canvas sleeves protect better and last longer. Ventilation is great but optional.

Element #3– Elastic bands are hit or miss. The elastic will last longer on higher priced gloves. If elastic is not important to you then wear your gloves under your jacket and rely on your jacket sleeves to keep the bees out.

Element #4– Choose a quality stitching. Again, higher priced gloves will offer the best thread durability, especially if it’s Kevlar threading.

Recommendations

I am going to offer a link here directly to Dadant’s website (of which I am not an affiliate). I have a great pair of ventilated gloves from them that are very durable and of top quality. Make sure to get the correct size!

beekeeping gloves
These are the ones from Dadant mentioned above. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

While Amazon.com does not currently carry any beekeeping gloves made by Mann Lake, I did find some pretty tough looking gloves from Humble Bee. They are reinforced, ventilated cuffs which is the part of the glove that needs it the most. I really think they have a good thing going.

Click below to read more about these gloves. They come in 7 different sizes and also have a sizing chart so that you know which ones are right for you.

What I do not recommend

I am not going to even list budget gloves here. They simply are not worth it. I have had gloves fail me when I was in the apiary and I don’t want you to suffer the same experience. I felt like I had wasted my time, effort and hard-earned money.

Note: Do not buy gloves if they do not have a gauntlet. Without that, it’s just a matter of time (short time) before the thread begins to loosen between the leather and the sleeve, simply from pulling them on when you’re ready to work.


So again, I recommend giving Humble Bee gloves a try. I’ve linked them below again for your convenience.

Your thoughts…

Have you bought gloves in the past that really impressed you? Please share about them in the comments below. And if you have any questions, perhaps I left out some details, please ask away and let me know.

Thanks again for joining me today and remember until next time,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire

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