The truth of the matter is that a great many professional beekeepers go without gloves. There is actually a good reason for this. Dexterity and comfort are seen by many to be top priorities. The beekeeper could find him/herself performing all sorts of tricky and fiddly tasks, from carefully removing frames to marking the queen bee at the start of the season. When it comes to these jobs, gloves can often get in the way, being necessarily large and composed of a thick material (there would be literally no point to them otherwise).
However, if you’re a new beekeeper, are dealing with particularly aggressive bees, or just do not appreciate being stung, your hands are, excepting perhaps your face, the part of your body that you will most want to protect.
A pair of beekeeping gloves will always be working with this tradeoff between protection and dexterity. You will want to have a wieldy pair of hands for getting in about your hives and carrying out all of the necessary beekeeping roles, but you’ll also want gloves that protect you effectively from stings – it’s as simple as that.
For this reason, many beekeeping gloves aim to promise all things to all men, and offer the wearer dexterity and protection, despite the fact these two elements are fundamentally in conflict. Getting savvy about bee gloves is therefore a great way to see through all of the marketing fog. I have therefore put together a handy buying guide with 14 of the best beekeeping gloves on the market. But before I start, a little info on the materials that beekeeping gloves are typically made of will help you choose the pair that are right for you.
The main material for non-disposable beekeeping gloves is good old-fashioned leather. However, even within leather there is some considerable variety and options for the beekeeper to choose from, again keeping in mind the protection-dexterity tradeoff.
The two main leathers from which beekeeping gloves are made are cow leather and goat leather. Very roughly speaking, cow leather, being the thicker of the two, provides more protection and less dexterity whereas goat leather has the edge on dexterity but is usually thinner. As you will notice from my list, the majority of beekeeping gloves seem to be composed of goatskin. This is likely a reflection of most beekeepers hoping to strike a healthy balance between protection and dexterity.
There are of course different kinds of each of these leathers and so it’s perfectly possible to get the balance just right for you. Yet keeping the general facts in mind will help you pick the right gloves.
One of the main problems with leather gloves is they can be difficult to keep clean. Think of the heavy-duty gardening and DIY gloves that are commonly used and you get the idea. These thick, roughly textured gloves collect dirt on the outside and can become clammy and sweaty on the inside. For this reason, many beekeepers prefer a pair of nitrile disposable gloves, which might be something you would like to consider.
Naturally, nitrile gloves are thinner than either cow or goat leather gloves, and this of course means less protection. However, true to the tradeoff, you will find an increased dexterity and sensitivity in wearing them. A major benefit is also that, although they are thinner, there is something about the synthetic material that suggests to the bees that they are not worth stinging. This might be because bees have evolved to sting animals and recognize the leather as an animal-like substance that can be stung. This is not to say that you will receive no stings with nitrile gloves (and they will of course be less protective when you do) but you will perhaps receive less than you’d think.
Nitrile gloves can be washed a few times for reuse but will of course ultimately have to be thrown away. If you would like a pair of gloves that can be used pretty much for life, then this is not the option for you.
Read on instead for my list of the best reusable beekeeping gloves on the market.
My first selection is a pair of goatskin leather gloves. As mentioned, these are a bit thinner than cow leather varieties and will therefore let in a few more stings. Forest Beekeeping claim these offer “unparalleled dexterity” and, while that is not quite true, these are a fairly dexterous pair of gloves that will allow you to operate pretty efficiently when inspecting the hive, performing standard maintenance, or harvesting honey.
In terms of protection, they come with a long canvas sleeve that will fasten elastically a good distance up your forearm, meaning there is really no chance of any exposed skin when worn with a bee suit. As far as gloves go too, they are fairly comfortable!
A major plus with these gloves is that the leather, for all its relative thinness, dexterity, and comfort, is actually pretty hard-wearing and can take a lot of daily use before becoming tatty. They are a good beginner’s pair and are often purchased for children.
These gloves are advertised as “heavy duty,” so that already supposes the priorities of the customer and the metric by which these should be judged. So are these gloves sufficiently heavy duty? Do they provide adequate protection for those particularly averse to getting stung?
Well, for one thing, they are made from the thinner goatskin leather and so you might not expect them to be the toughest pair on the market. They are not, and if you want real toughness (with less dexterity of course) you will want to go with a cow leather pair. However, these gloves do have some innovative features which contribute to their durability and toughness.
For example, these gloves have extra layers of fabric on the palm, thumb, and wrist to give added protection to the areas which will be in most direct contact with your sharp stinging friends.
Unfortunately, many have reported that these areas are where the “heavy duty” material of which these gloves are supposed to be composed ends. It is perfectly possible for bees to sting right through the less protected areas. However, remember that these are composed of the thinner goatskin leather, so this is nothing unusual – it just isn’t very “heavy duty.”
Another pair of gloves advertised as “heavy duty” and another pair which, as I have mentioned, are not the thickest, toughest gloves you can buy. That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing as you will want to keep things thin enough to have some dexterity when attending to the often-fiddly series of jobs that make up a beekeeper’s duties.
These gloves are composed of sheepskin, which is even lighter still than the goatskin, and for that reason “heavy duty” truly is a misnomer here. These gloves are for dexterity, not for impenetrable protection.
And not only that – these gloves are actually some of the most comfortable on the market. Offering reasonable protection against stings, you will also notice that these gloves stay considerably better aerated than others on my list. This might not be a massive priority for you, but if comfort is truly what you are aiming at, these are an excellent pair of gloves with fabric ventilation patches on the wrist.
In terms of more minor problems, there have been reports of frayed stitching and other composition issues, as well as a slightly too snug fit. This latter problem can however be easily remedied by ordering one size up, which many buyers are taken to doing.
You might notice that goatskin is particularly popular on my list. This is because this material really does offer the best compromise between protection and dexterity/comfort. Mercifully, though, these gloves from SWBEE are a pair that do not claim to be “heavy duty” while being made from a material that evidently is not. SWBEE seem to be a brand that recognize (correctly) that some people are valuing a bit of purchase when performing intricate beekeeping tasks and don’t mind if a few stings get through.
So, do these gloves offer sufficient dexterity? The answer is simply “yes,” and they are pretty lightweight into the bargain. With a ventilated wrist area, they’re also pretty comfortable (for a beekeeping glove) and the snug elasticated seal located far up the forearm will ensure no exposed skin or even any route for a particularly adventurous bee to penetrate your armor.
In terms of durability, they will not quite last forever. Nevertheless, the price more than justifies this and you can always move towards transitioning to bare hands before the gloves become a bit tatty! SWBEE have also thrown in a 100% money back guarantee. These are a fine pair of gloves for beginners and the sting shy.
Goatskin again (I told you it was popular). These gloves though are also composed of canvas along the sleeve. This might seem like cutting tailoring corners but the truth is that this part of the glove will be doubly protected and covered by the sleeve of your beekeeping suit, so there is little need to worry about the material of the sleeve.
Although also goatskin, these gloves appear to be that kind of goatskin that leans towards durability and toughness rather than dexterity. As I have said several times, there is always a tradeoff and there is certainly a place for the tougher gloves. If you are after protection, these are the gloves to go for.
The downside of course is not only loss of dexterity, but it is also a slight tradeoff in comfort. However, it should not be overstated how much of a priority this is for most beekeepers. Beekeeping gloves – much like beekeeping suits – are simply uncomfortable by definition. In order to protect you from stings, the type of materials which will also lead to clammy skin is necessary to use.
So if you would like to be very well protected from stings and don’t mind your hands getting a little hot, these are an excellent pair of gloves within the goatskin range.
Even though this is yet another goatskin-and-canvas-composed pair of gloves, these make my list for some standout features in how these materials are put together. Most of the gloves on my list so far have reported problems with long-term durability. This doesn’t refer to their immediate toughness in the face of stinging bees, but rather their ability to last a long time without becoming tatty and frayed.
These gloves, which will offer a pretty much halfway compromise between protection and comfort/dexterity, also feature double-stitched linings and tailored fit. This is by no means universal and will certainly add some significant durability and longevity to these gloves.
The gloves are also sufficiently lightweight and ventilated while still being a snug fit. The cut of these gloves, essentially, is why they are making my list. They will effectively keep out bees (if not every sting) while retaining a rare modicum of comfort and wieldiness. They are also very reasonably priced.
After a string of goatskin – and one sheepskin – leather gloves, we come to our first cowhide pair. As mentioned, beekeepers who value toughness, thickness, durability and, ultimately, protection, over dexterity and comfort typically go for cowhide gloves.
This is not to say though that the tradeoff will always be so detrimental in these areas. Indeed, the extent to which a pair of cowhide gloves can still be wieldy while offering all the protection that comes with the material is a great metric by which to measure their quality.
Sealing up with two elasticated gauntlets and a stretch of canvas over the forearm, these cowhide gloves actually manage an impressive degree of comfort thanks to the ventilated wrists and the general softness of the material.
As expected, they will also do the job of keeping out nearly all stings and – also as expected – they will not be quiteas dexterous as the goatskin gloves on my list. Nonetheless, that such comfort can be available with cowhide gloves is quite remarkable and certainly the primary reason they make my list.
Before I even get to the specifics of this next pair of excellent cowhide beekeeping gloves, it is worth pointing out what an excellent beekeeping supplies company Humble Bee is. I have beat the drum for these guys on this site before and for good reason: Humble Bee have long been supportive of sustainable and local beekeeping initiatives and frequently donate portions of their revenues to organizations that facilitate such activities. The story is no different with this pair of gloves – 10% of the profits will go to such organizations.
Humble Bee also seem to be thinking seriously about the inevitable tradeoff between dexterity and protection that is a feature of all beekeeping gloves. These gloves feature a pretty innovative composition, being – despite the slightly misleading product name – actually composed of 60% cotton canvas and the remaining 40% cow leather. Such a composition has the effect of making these gloves fairly comfortable (for cowhide) and also an excellent fit.
This composition doesn’t seem to do anything for dexterity, but these still aren’t dreadful where that is concerned. And anyway, if you are buying cowhide, you are prioritizing protection over dexterity from the get-go. These gloves certainly provide protection, fitting snugly, relatively comfortably and repelling virtually all the stings you can expect to receive. Working with several different features and an innovative composition, these are an excellent pair of gloves from an excellent company.
Humble Bee again. This time offering their goatskin gloves and, in doing so, offering the gamut of beekeepers the opportunity to buy from such a beekeeper friendly company.
Naturally, you will be opting for these gloves if you decide you do not mind being stung the odd time and would like the increased dexterity and comfort that comes with goatskin gloves.
Again, these gloves feature a dual composition in the same proportion as the cowhide variety, with the cowhide gloves that lead to an increased comfort while still providing ample protection. With these thinner goatskin gloves, this seems to have had the effect of making them very comfortable (for a pair of beekeeping gloves) while doing little for the dexterity (which is already impressive).
Extending far up the forearm and fitting exceptionally well, these gloves have you covered – in more ways than one.
Here we go again with marketing spin exclaiming “unparalleled dexterity and maximum protection.” You do have to distrust this frankly impossible claim for beekeeping gloves, especially since it distracts from the fact that this is actually a fine product.
These gloves are composed of a very high-quality goatskin leather and do offer a high degree of protection for the impressive dexterity that they also provide. These are also another pair offering a surprising amount of comfort. A great all-rounder, in other words.
Another good thing about these gloves is the excellent tailored fit, combining long gauntlets (which extend right up the forearm) with tightness is rarely easy to pull off, simply because all of this excess fabric will often hang a bit loose at least somewhere. But these gloves pull it off.
These gloves do not offer the absolute best protection, nor the very best dexterity, but they excel because they offer a high degree of both of these things while also fitting securely and being surprisingly comfortable. It is this all-round performance that sees them placed so highly on my list. An excellent pair of gloves!
The first offering from beekeeping suppliers VIVO is placed highly on my list because of their innovative and winning composition. With these gloves, there are no special patches around the palm, thumb, or wrist – because it doesn’t need them.
These gloves are simply goatskin leather (of a premium quality) on the hands and cotton for the sleeves, which extend a little up the forearm. These slightly shorter sleeves make them a good deal more comfortable than some other models that extend further. This is because long sleeves mean simply more double covered – and therefore hot and clammy – skin.
Also adding to the comfort is the cotton composition of those sleeves, being simply more comfortable than the canvas that is used for many other pairs of gloves. As I have mentioned, you will not ever find a really comfortable pair of beekeeping gloves – but these perform very well in that arena.
And all of this is not at the expense of the other qualities which a beekeeper will typically look for in a pair of goatskin leather gloves. They might let a few stings in (go with cowhide leather if you want full protection) but they will provide you with ample dexterity for going about the often-delicate tasks of general hive management.
When it comes to beekeeping gloves, there are of course the general principles of composition that I have mentioned many times throughout this list (cowhide: protection; goatskin: dexterity) but, as these gloves prove, there is certain room for innovative combinations.
With the hands made from an even covering of reasonably tough and flexible goatskin, these gloves stand out for their cotton-canvas composition in the sleeves. Offering extra comfort by being a bit shorter, these nevertheless fit securely and will not let in any intrusive bees when worn with a bee suit.
In terms of downsides there have been some familiar size issues with these. This time, they tend to be a little on the large side, so it is best to order a size down. However, if you take care to do so, you can be pretty much guaranteed a snug and comfortable fit. These are also very reasonably priced for beekeeping gloves of such high-quality composition. A winning choice.
Natural Apiary are one of the big hitters when it comes to Beekeeping supplies and so whenever buying from them, there is usually some guarantee of quality. This excellent pair of goatskin gloves are no exception where that is concerned.
With these gloves, it is all about the more “patchwork” rather than integrated composition. What I mean by this is that these gloves feature several different materials at different locations, all sown expertly together and offering just what you need, whereyou need it.
The hands of these gloves are goatskin leather slightly more on the thicker side than is typical. Yet, while this leads to a bit less sensitivity, they are actually flexible enough to be just as dexterous as other pairs.
The sleeves, by contrast, are made of canvas, a little shorter and ventilated – which really provides you with as much comfort as you can expect for a pair of goatskin gloves. They also seal up securely and will not let in a single bee.
The one area on the hands and arms where a beekeeper is most prone to be stung is actually the wrist. This is because the hands are often in motion and clenched, whereas your wrist is a flat, unprotected area just asking to be stung. Natural Apiary have that covered however with extra protected sting-proof cuffs. And it’s not like you need dexterity in the wrist area! This is a great idea.
These gloves are a snug fit and come in a cowhide version as well. A truly excellent product.
The reason this single offering from Bestope is making the number one spot on my list is very simple. These gloves almost find a way around the tradeoff between protection and dexterity (almost).
Simply made from goatskin leather on the hands and canvas for the sleeves, these gloves are nevertheless of such a composition that manages to be remarkably sting proof (though not 100%), reasonably comfortable, and fairly dexterous!
They are also near perfectly tailored and come with none of the size issues blighting many other gloves on my list. Fitting snugly from the fingertips to the forearm, these will repel all invasive bees and offer excellent wrist and arm protection. Only the hands might let in a few stings.
These gloves are also exceptionally popular. If you are prioritizing the midway between protection and dexterity that goatskin offers, you can scarcely do better than these durable, tough, comfortable, and impeccably composed beekeeping gloves.