WITH a growing number of women taking up beekeeping, a Welsh beekeeper is launching a ‘virtually sting proof’ bee suit specifically designed for women.
Following requests from women beekeepers, Neath beekeeper and farmer, Ian Roberts, has created a female version of his revolutionary Sentinel Pro Bee Suit – aimed at all beekeepers and hobbyists.
He has developed the ‘Queen Bee’ suit following calls from women beekeepers who wanted a suit more tailored to the characteristics of the female body.
Says Ian, who also sells his honey at his farm shop, “There are over 40,000 registered beekeepers in Great Britain of which a large percentage are women, and I was surprised to find there wasn’t a specific women’s beekeeping suit of this type available.
“So, as well as exploring the market, I began researching women’s clothes sizes, and made some prototypes!
“The important factor is the cut of the suit to accommodate the different shapes of women. All beekeeping suits are a generic size, but to be truly comfortable you need something fitted for your size – one size does not fit all. Indeed, we can also make bespoke suits if required.”
The ‘Queen Bee’ beekeeping suit which is available in European and UK sizes 10-24, comes in a light lilac colour – as dark colours can encourage bees to attack.
Says Ian, “I simply cannot understand why nobody thought of it – if you’ve got a suit that fits properly, you are more comfortable, which makes you more confident with the bees.”
Ian’s idea for his original Sentinel Pro Bee Suit came when a beekeeper friend developed anaphylaxis after being stung.
A bee’s stinger is between 1.5mm and 3mm long. So, working with textile experts, Ian found a suitable material and produced a suit that is 3.5mm thick – making it ‘virtually sting proof’.
Made from a unique material, the suits are lightweight (only 1.2kgs) and breathable, with their properties making conditions far more comfortable for the wearer than traditional beekeeping suits – particularly in warmer weather.
The original suits have subsequently gone down a storm in the international beekeeping world. Still, while the unisex suit is available in different sizes – including for children – women beekeepers said they wanted to wear something that was better suited to their dimensions.
Ian revealed the ‘Queen Bee’ suit earlier this month at the American Beekeeping Federation Conference and Trade Show in Chicago Illinois – and received a great response, with orders already coming in from the USA and Canada.
All Old Castle Farm Hives’ beekeeping suits are available online from www.oldcastlefarmhives.com and at the farm’s new ‘Bee Shop’, which will be officially opened on February 7th by Neath Assembly Member, Jeremy Miles.
The opening of the 350 square metre Bee Shop has enabled Ian to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for larger and smaller scale Welsh beekeepers – as the nearest retailer of its kind is in England.
“We were making more and more internet sales, and we’d got to the stage where people were knocking on the door, so we converted one of our sheds into a dedicated Bee Shop.
“We sell everything you need for beekeeping from complete starter kits (including bees) extractors, beekeeping machinery – and we supply Königin® equipment.”
Such has been the popularity of the venture that there are already plans to convert part of a neighbouring store shed into a showroom for larger beekeeping machinery.
The expansion of Old Castle Farm Hives has also created jobs, with plans to recruit three staff members to cope with extra demand the launch of the suit and the shop has created.
Old Castle Farm Hives is part of the Welsh Honey Cluster. The Cluster is a Welsh Government business development programme facilitated by Cywain which by providing sector-specific support aims to help Welsh honey businesses to create jobs and achieve sustainable economic growth.
Says Ian, “As Cluster members, we support each other and share experiences, there is a lot of collaboration with other beekeepers, and they helped trial my original suit – and have shared the results on social media with the wider beekeeping community.”
Says Welsh Honey Cluster Lead, Haf Wyn Hughes, “Ian is always thinking of new ideas and ways to help take the sector forward. When he told us of his plans for a women’s suit as a Cluster Lead I was able to source the data from The Animal and Plant Agency and helped him with his research into sizing and taking the Queen Bee suit to the marketplace.”