Gloves or Gloveless Beekeeping?

You will discover as you embark on your beekeeping adventure that beekeeping, like any craft, has some strongly opinionated "purist" attitudes amongst some of the people who take part in it. One of the most common points of contention surrounds wearing gloves, or not while tending your bees. 

Firstly, I want to take the opportunity to say there is absolutely no shame if you are not comfortable tending your hives without gloves. And no matter what some people may tell you, you are still a bonafied beekeeper even if you wear gloves.

gloveless beekeeping with bare hands

One of the benefits of going gloveless while working your beehives is that you get better dexterity. Sometimes the goatskin beekeeping gloves can be a little bulky and can give you trouble as you try to manipulate frames in the colony. Not wearing gloves also gives you a better feel for what you are touching in the colony, and generally will result in less crushed bees while you do your inspections. This is because you can feel the bees when you reach into the colony and will avoid inadvertently crushing them.

I always recommend to new beekeepers to try to start out keeping bees with gloves first. The reason being is that when you are just getting used to handling bees things can be a bit awkward at first. You are likely going to drop a frame or two, or bang something on the hive sending angering vibrations through the colony that will get the bees a little defensive and stingy. 

As you become comfortable moving through a colony and handling the components, I then suggest you start wearing thinner gloves like nitrile. The bees can still sting through the nitrile gloves, but not as readily. Since these gloves are skin tight you get the benefits of dexterity and more sensation of what you are handling as you work the colony. But at the same time, you have the mental safety net of feeling protected with a thin layer of gloves on your hands.

Once you are totally comfortable working your bees with nitrile gloves, then you can graduate to completely gloveless beekeeping. If you're working your bees at a good rate that doesnt upset the colony and you do it on warm, fair weather days between 11am and 4pm when most foragers are out working, you should be just fine. When you work gloveless you definitely get more of a sense of how your actions are affecting the colony because you can feel the bees.

All that aside, if you never feel comfortable working without gloves don't sweat it.  You are still a great beekeeper. I even work with gloves most times, although when I work my smaller colonies, like nucs, I tend to not wear gloves.  

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