The Sting Through the Suit: Navigating the Threat of Hornets in Beekeeping

The Sting Through the Suit: Navigating the Threat of Hornets in Beekeeping

Beekeeping is a practice that extends beyond the mere hobby or profession—it is a contribution to biodiversity, ensuring the pollination of countless plants and the production of the sweet elixir we know as honey. Yet, this practice does not come without its perils, notably from the very insects beekeepers aim to protect and from their more daunting relatives: the hornets. Among the protective gear beekeepers rely on, the bee suit stands as the first line of defense. However, the question of its efficacy against hornet stings, particularly from species like the bald-faced hornet and others, is a matter of significant concern. This blog post delves deep into the protective capabilities of bee suits against the piercing attacks of hornets, offering insights and advice on how to enhance safety in the face of these formidable insects.

The Anatomy of a Bee Suit

A bee suit is designed as a full-body armor, intended to shield the beekeeper from stings. It is usually made from thick, durable materials that cover the wearer from head to toe, including gloves, a veil to protect the face and neck, and often boots. The suit's fabric is typically white or another light color to avoid attracting bees, which are drawn to dark colors. The premise behind the suit's design is to create a barrier that bee stingers cannot easily penetrate.

Hornets vs. Bee Suits: A Closer Look

Hornets, with their larger size and more aggressive nature, pose a greater threat than bees. Their stingers are not only longer but also equipped with a potent venom. Unlike bees, which die after stinging, hornets can sting multiple times, making them a formidable foe for beekeepers.

Can Hornets Sting Through a Bee Suit?

The ability of a hornet to sting through a bee suit largely depends on the suit's material thickness, the hornet's stinger length, and the force of the attack. For most bee suits, the fabric is designed to prevent shorter bee stings. However, hornets, particularly the Asian giant hornet, have longer stingers that can reach up to 6mm, posing a risk of penetrating standard bee suits.

The Case of the Bald-Faced Hornet

Bald-faced hornets, despite their name, are a species of yellowjacket. They possess a stinger without barbs, allowing them to sting repeatedly. The question of whether a bald-faced hornet can sting through a bee suit is particularly pertinent for beekeepers in regions where these insects are prevalent. The thickness and quality of the bee suit are crucial factors here. Standard bee suits may offer less protection against the determined assault of a bald-faced hornet, especially if the fabric is worn or has thinned over time.

Enhancing Bee Suit Protection

For beekeepers concerned about the threat posed by hornets, several steps can be taken to fortify the protective capabilities of bee suits:

  • Specialized Bee Suits: Opt for bee suits specifically designed with thicker materials or those treated with substances that make them more resistant to hornet stings.
  • Layering: Wearing additional layers of clothing beneath the bee suit can provide an added barrier, though this may reduce comfort, particularly in warmer climates.
  • Maintenance and Inspection: Regularly check bee suits for signs of wear and tear. Even small tears or worn areas can offer an entry point for hornet stingers.

The 3-Layer Bee Suit Solution

In response to the increased threat posed by hornets, the 3-layer bee suit has been developed as a pioneering solution. This innovative design incorporates three layers of fabric, each serving a specific purpose in enhancing the suit's protective capabilities:

  1. Outer Layer: The outermost layer is designed to be durable and resistant to tears and punctures, serving as the first line of defense against hornet stings.
  2. Middle Layer: This layer acts as a cushion, absorbing the force of a sting and reducing the likelihood of the stinger reaching the skin.
  3. Inner Layer: The innermost layer is soft and comfortable against the skin, ensuring that beekeepers can wear the suit for extended periods without discomfort.

The combination of these layers creates a formidable barrier that significantly reduces the risk of hornet stingers penetrating the suit and reaching the beekeeper's skin.


While bee suits offer significant protection against the stings of bees, their effectiveness against hornets, including bald-faced hornets, can vary. The risk of a hornet's stinger breaching the fabric of a bee suit is a real concern that beekeepers must consider, particularly those in areas with high hornet activity. By choosing high-quality, specifically designed bee suits, and employing additional protective measures, beekeepers can enhance their defense against these potent adversaries. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of beekeeping gear is crucial in ensuring both the safety of the beekeeper and the health of the bee colonies they tend.