Why Are Beekeeping Suits White?

In a conversation with my friend who started beekeeping this summer, I had a conversation about the beekeeping suit. He asked me a very interesting question. “Why are all beekeeping suits mostly white?”. White is cool, but its popularity in beekeeper clothing has nothing to do with cute fashion trends.

Why Are Beekeeping Suits White?

Beekeepers’ suits are white because in order to protect their honey and beehives, bees have evolved to protect themselves from a variety of animals that crave honey. These animals often have dark fur; therefore, bees are more likely to attack people wearing dark clothing.

We beekeepers are pragmatic people, so everything related to the craft must have functional meaning. There’s actually a lot more to beekeeping clothing and bee protection than many of us realize.

Two Main Reasons To Wear A White Beekeeping Suit

Even if you tend to wear white, maybe you should listen. Let’s start with the first and most common reason:

1. Bees Are Less Aggressive With White

Bees have had plenty of time to evolve and adapt to survive in many different environments. To do this, they must understand who their natural enemies in the wild are. The idea is to predict and identify predators for survival. The natural enemies of bees are:

  • Bear,
  • Skunk,
  • Raccoon etc.

The most striking thing about these animals is that they all have dark fur. It is believed that bees began to associate dark colors with their natural enemies. Anything with a dark hue is their match.

Because of this, dark or black clothing is more irritating to bees than most people can handle. This is especially important when you plan to work with beehives. Also, embroidering dark lettering on the back of a t-shirt or hoodie can draw unwanted attention from bees and cause too many stings!

When you work with bees, you really want to keep a low profile. That’s it for a white suit. Bees almost never had the opportunity to experience an attack from white predators because white is not common in nature, at least not in their natural habitat. Hopefully the bees won’t be worried about the white bears attacking their hive anytime soon.

On the other hand, bees are not so gullible. They know something happens when humans get close to their hives, even if you’re just checking broods and food stores, or looking for signs of disease. By wearing white, you are not disguising the reality of what you are doing to the precious honey you have worked so hard to collect.

White clothes won’t make you 100% invisible or stop you from being restless. So, as a precaution, always be careful how you handle bees and hives.

2. Sunscreen

Every beekeeper I know has accepted his fate: working long hours under the scorching sun. Wearing a full-body beekeeping suit can help you take your heat understanding to a whole new level. In some parts of the world where temperatures can get very hot, beekeepers usually don’t even wear suits.

White is the best reflective “color” you can wear. Anyone who’s tried working in the sun for a long time will tell you that dark clothing is definitely not an option.

White suit also keeps you cooler in the sun because lighter colors absorb less heat from the sun.

3. Dyes

Bees have a keen sense of smell. Some experienced beekeepers believe that the main reason bees dislike dark clothes is because of the smell of the dyes used to dye them.

One thing that really bothers me is why some suits have black mesh on the front if black is the worst color choice for wearing. The answer is a little unsatisfactory: black doesn’t reflect sunlight into the eyes. Safety seems to be a balancing act when it comes to beekeeping clothing.

Do Bees See Color Like We Do?

You’d be surprised at some interesting similarities between human and bee eyes. They also have many differences. But first, how exactly do we see color?

Interestingly, color perception is based on how strongly a given pigment absorbs and reflects light. When light hits a specific object, part of the light is reflected and part of the light is absorbed. Reflected light is the color we see.

1. Bees See Color Like Humans

Scientists have been fascinated by the vision of bees and have studied it for years. Bees have a wider range of color perception than humans. One of their hidden benefits is that they can actually see ultraviolet light that we can’t see.

Being able to see UV light is a significant advantage when collecting nectar. Did you know that the nectar reserves of some flowers can only be harvested by animals that see ultraviolet light? Bees are great for this type of work.

2. Bees Distinguish Colors Much Faster Than Humans

The ability of bees to see colors is the best in the world, five times faster than us. They can identify flowers very quickly.

Humans can see the spectral range of 700 to 400 nanometers, and bees can see the spectral range of 600 to 300 nanometers. The spectral region between 400 and 300 is ultraviolet light. If the bees aren’t exposed to UV light for a long time, they stop collecting nectar, stay in the hive and essentially starve to death.

Even at high speeds, bees can see flowers in stunning detail. In fact, people believe that flying allows them to see well. They can see three dimensions very well and judge depth and distance, and they can also see polarized light, which they use as a navigation system for positioning.

What Color Do Bees Like?

Scientists believe that the colors most attractive to bees are purple, blue and violet. Bees are trichromatic, just like humans. That’s exactly what it means: Bees and humans’ color perception of the world around them is based on the combination (or variation) of the three primary colors.

As we’ve just established, bees can see ultraviolet light that we can’t see, so they have slightly different vision than humans. While our perception is based on a combination of blue, red and green, bees use a combination of green, blue and ultraviolet to perceive.

You’ll notice an interesting thing here, which is why bees don’t see red. However, you can distinguish some variants of red, such as yellow and orange.

Do Only Dark Colors Make Bees Aggressive?

While the hands-on experience of many beekeepers shows that black clothing, accessories, and even embroidery can make bees particularly grumpy, there are many other things that can make them respond more positively to you. Other factors that can cause bees to be more aggressive than usual include:

  • Seasons;
  • The stages of the colony’s life cycle;
  • Weather;
  • Rob bees;
  • Daytime;
  • Strong fragrances, body odors, deodorants, alcohol, clothes washed with strong-smelling detergents and fabric softeners, etc.;
  • The smell of crushed bees or stings;
  • Outdoor temperature;
  • The Queen’s condition or her absence; and
  • The overall health of the colony.

By keeping all of these in mind, you can take the right precautions and manage your hives when conditions are favorable enough to reduce stings and dead bees.

Does The White Bee Suit Offer The Best Protection?

Bees don’t like dark clothing, accessories or materials. Lingering odors, strong odors, and sweaty clothes can also make them worse, so make sure you wash and clean your suits and clothing properly.

Be especially careful if you’ve been stung or have crushed a bee, as this can leave bee pheromones on your suit, which will alert other bees and signal them to attack you to protect yourself.

  • Clothing in white or light shades and shades made from plant materials such as cotton are the preferred types of clothing around bees.
  • Dark or woolen clothing is not recommended.
  • All dark accessories like watches, boots, and gloves should also be removed.

That being said, it’s important to understand that following all the advice listed here doesn’t mean bees will never try to sting you. You just have to get used to it. I have it, and so will you.

I hope I’ve shed light on why beekeepers wear white and gave you a deeper understanding of how bees see us, beekeepers.

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