Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Not To Wear

The other day, I was watching an episode of A&E's Billy the Exterminator. In this particular episode, Billy had been contacted about a colony of honey bees that had taken up residence in an exterior wall of a client's home. The client wanted the bees to be removed instead of being killed. In beekeeping terms, this is called a cut out and it's a much better idea than killing the bees.

Inside the client's home after the exterior siding was removed.
I'm obviously a proponent of saving all the honey bees we can, but even if you aren't, if you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is call your local agricultural extension and get the number for a beekeeper in your area that can do a cut out. If you think a can of wasp spray would be easier consider this: If there are bees inside a wall of your home, that means there is comb full of honey and brood. If you spray the bees, you will wind up either killing the colony or severely weakening it. Either way, this makes the hive susceptible to two honeybee pests you don't want to deal with: wax moths and small hive beetles. Wax moths are attracted to brood comb, and their larvae bore grooves into wood. This may not damage the integrity of your wall studs, but you'll be killing moths for a while. The bigger issue is small hive beetles, which lay their eggs in honey. The beetle larvae contaminate the honey and cause it to ferment, which causes it to liquefy and ooze out. Beekeepers refer to this as sliming due to the slimy pool of fermented honey that runs out of a beetle infested hive...not something you want inside your walls. So, like Billy's clients, have the hive removed. It'll be a lot less headache. Public service announcement complete. Back to the show.

Nicholas Cage called. He wants his Ghost Rider outfit back.

Based on Billy's appearance, he seems to be a nonconformist when it comes to fashion, often wearing leather pants and spiked accessories. His beekeeping suit was no different as he wrapped himself in a black leather chaps and a matching leather duster. Instead of a veil, he opted for a neoprene skeleton mask. Despite creating a sweltering environment, I suppose his suit provided decent protection from the neck down, but it didn't take long for Billy to realize his cute little mask didn't provide much protection as a bee crawled through one of the holes and stung him just below the eye, sending him screaming and pawing at his face like a Nancy.

If Billy had sought my reasonably priced counsel before taking a skill saw to his clients' home, I'd have told him that bees generally don't respond well to dark colors, so black leather wouldn't be the best choice. I may have shown him my Honey Maker suit from Mann Lake Ltd.

I don't do cut outs as of yet, but if I am working an aggressive hive, like the one I'm in front of in the video below, I wear this Buzz Lightyear get up. White nylon and veil, good. Black leather and Halloween mask, bad.

But despite looking dead sexy in my Honey Maker suit, I recently stopped wearing a suit for most of my inspections (Yes, I'm still clothed). I did this for two reasons: 1) It gets HOT in that thing. 2) I found that the bees tried to sting me less without the suit.

How did I come to test this theory? Well, I was watching a hive inspection during a beekeeping short course. At one point, the instructor, who wore only a veil and hat, scratched out a stinger and puffed some smoke on his elbow from his smoker. Someone asked him why he did that, and he explained that when a bee leaves her stinger in you, she leaves a pheromone behind that lets other bees where to sting you. I thought about this for a while and realized that my gloves and suit were full of stingers from previous inspections. Maybe they were full of this pheromone. Further, due to the bulky gloves I wore, I lacked tactility when manipulating the frames, causing me to further agitate the bees by accidentally mashing some of them. So maybe, I theorized, wearing the suit and gloves was actually encouraging them to sting me. So the next time I went into a hive, I wore only a hat and veil; no gloves, no suit. Long story short, the bees were much more gentle and I didn't get least not as much.  

veil and helmet setup similar to what I wear now

So am I saying don't wear a suit? Not at all. I am saying save the Halloween mask for trick or treat and don't ever wear leather chaps or matching dusters...EVER.

If you'd like to be notified of updates to this blog, please email me at I promise your email address will not be shared with anyone.

 If you're interested in learning more about beekeeping, join a local beekeepers association as well as your state's beekeepers association. Explore your state's master beekeeper program if they have one. The following links can get you started:

U.S. State Beekeeping Clubs

South Carolina
South Carolina Beekeepers Association
Local Beekeepers Associations in South Carolina
South Carolina Master Beekeeper Program

Georgia Beekeepers Association
Local Beekeepers Associations in Georgia
Georgia Master Beekeeper Program

North Carolina
North Carolina State Beekeepers Association
Local Beekeepers Associations in North Carolina
North Carolina Master Beekeeper Program


  1. I enjoyed the article! Funny, informative, entertaining. I am sliding off my leather chaps and removing matching duster right now.

  2. You really DO look like Buzz Lightyear!:)

  3. Nice post. I really like it. I missed this particular show, but really like it when these "professionals" show how unprofessional they really are and get whats coming to them. I'll have to find this episode. I'll laugh my butt off.

    Great site you have going here.

    Toooooo infinity...and beyond.

  4. It's a good episode. Given the age of some of the vids on cut outs I've found, it's not bad on what to expect. That thing was loaded with bees. I bet he didn't get half of them. He spouted some BS about the bees he didn't put in the box "finding another hive to join". Yeah, that's not how it works chief.

    When my wife and I were dating, she found a Buzz Lightyear suit in the Disney Store and said something about me looking like Buzz. A couple of teenagers heard her and one of them shouted, "Oh my gosh!! You DO look like Buzz Lightyear!!". Not one of my prouder moments.