Importance of Nitrile Gloves for Beekeeping

Nitrile gloves for beekeeping

If you engage with any experienced beekeeper or frequent the beekeeping greats on YouTube, you will have no doubt seen the use of nitrile gloves for beekeeping and the handling and manipulation of bees.  

On first consideration the idea might seem like complete madness because comparatively they are much thinner than the leather gloves that you might be used to and gauntlets are rarely seen.  So what’s the big deal with nitrile and should you be using them?

We’re regularly asked this question by our customers, from both hobbyists and commercial alike, so feel its time to put this matter to bed and give you all the pros and cons so that you can make the best decision for you and your bees.

What's the problem with leather gloves?

Lets start here because when all is said and done, there really is no issue with using leather gloves provided that you adhere to a few ground rules around hygiene.  In fact leather gloves are a critical part of the beekeeping journey allowing beginners to build a high degree of confidence when it comes to handling stinging insects.  Handling bees is daunting enough, even if you’re feeling excited at the time, stings to the hand early on can mean the difference between a life long pursuit or that thing you tried that once.  So with that said, we’re not here to bash leather gloves and often recommend them in such situations.

Why we use nitrile gloves for beekeeping

Here at our bee farm we will always use nitrile gloves and have become an important part of four critical areas of our operation.  Bee Handling and Manipulation, Administration of Treatments, Feeding, and Honey Harvesting and Jarring.  The versatility of nitrile gloves means that they can be put to several uses across the beekeeping calendar so having them stocked has become critically important for us, so lets get stuck in, here are the pros:


Of course stings are the biggest concern when we suggest the use of nitrile gloves for the obvious reasons we’ve already touched on, nitrile is much thinner than leather.  But this is where the magic happens with nitrile.  The bees are clearly less concerned and don’t react or react significantly less to hands with nitrile gloves when compared to using leather, the reasons for this are often speculated on but one popular theory is that leather is recognisable to bees as skin.  I’m not completely won on that but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless. 

The science that makes sense here is that sting pheromones permeate the leather and persist for a long time, even after washing.  Bees target and attack the pheromone as an instinctual drive to attack together and ward off predators, large and small.  Stings over time to your leather gloves will result in this pheromone build up.

Whilst we’re on size, leather gloves, coupled with their gauntlets are immense in size and must be quite threatening to a colony as it passes over the frames, it’s no surprise that they stir a reaction, regardless of whether you consider your bees aggressive or not.  Using leather isn’t the most graceful thing either often resulting in jerky slips and unexpected movements that tend to startle insects rather than settle them.

Better Protection from Chemical Treatments

As the Autumn and Winter arrives we’re giving time to planning out our treatments, we’re not particularly heavy on chemicals in our hives but we do use Oxalic Acid where appropriate in order to stem the tide of a mite build up.  Our IPM (Integrated Pest Management) usually involves brood breaks and quarantines to keep those numbers down but when it isn’t enough we’re having to manage and measure out Oxalic in readiness for sublimation.  This is the process of vaporising the dry chemical powder into gas so that it distributes better throughout the frames.

Oxalic acid can be nasty stuff, we use eye protection, ventilators, and nitrile gloves.  The gloves are an effective barrier to keep the powder off our skin and it’s surprising that many will go to great lengths to protect their faces but forget about their hands which runs the risk of transference to the eyes and mouth through touch later on.  The gloves can be easily disposed of after, job done.

Feeding the bees

Anyone who has experienced the preparation and distribution of feeds either sugar syrups, fondants, or pollen patties, will know the messy business it can quickly turn into.  As much as I’d love to say experience helps, it generally doesn’t, it’s still a sticky painful job.  The nitrile gloves help here of course, whether handling fondant out in the field or avoiding the stickiness of syrup.  It’s a small benefit to consider but it all helps, the aggregation of marginal gains.  Once done, dispose of the gloves and you’re on your way with clean hands.

Harvesting and Jarring

Most nitrile gloves, much like the ones we sell, are cleared and certified as food safe.  We beekeepers take food safety seriously of course and cleanly dispensed nitrile gloves between the processing of batches is an important part of that.  Cleaned and gloved hands creates an extra layer of protection for our customers, keeps contaminants from the processing line, and helps to maintain a cleaner environment.

Apiary Hygiene Management

A lot of beekeepers these days will go to great lengths to maintain a high level of hygiene between apiaries and sometimes between the hives themselves depending on individual needs.  It’s not surprising.  Foulbrood in either form, European or American, arriving within your apiary can be hugely impactful and could potentially decimate huge numbers of colonies which has the potential to spread to apiaries in and around the immediate area if  left unchecked.  This is a worst case scenario of course, and there are other diseases and pests that can cause trouble and may be easily spread without care.

Day to day we’ll use one pair of nitrile gloves per apiary.  We check for disease at every inspection and anything that causes concern is immediately moved to a quarantine site.  These sites have an elevated hygiene level which requires the changing of gloves and cleaning of tools between hives, better to be safe than sorry.

Improved Dexterity and Sensitivity

As you develop yourself as a beekeeper over a few seasons you start to branch out and expand your skillset.  A lot of these skills benefit from having the additional dexterity and improved sensitivity that you can only get from a nitrile glove.  You’ll feel what you’re doing which will allow for you to be a lot more gentle on your bees throughout an inspection and feel that sudden buzz if you accidently trap the bees in and around your hands and fingers which may trigger a stress response from the colony.  

The benefits extend further than that of course, if you start queen rearing for example, the ability to manipulate queen cells and pick up your queen can be a useful skill, an impossible one if you’re adorning your leather gloves.  The nitrile gloves are perfect and with the textured finger tips we have greater confidence when queen handling.

Keeping Gloves Clean

A typical and recommended practice is the cleaning of gloves and tools between hives and apiaries, we keep a bucket of water with washing up liquid, soda crystals, and a scouring sponge to help make this quick work.  Nitrile gloves are incredibly easy to clean this way and anything picked up as you move through your bees, honey, wax, or propolis, is easily washed away.  Washing leather gloves in this way is particularly difficult as they naturally take on the water and get sodden and heavy which means people generally try to avoid this hygiene step which starts to become risky, particularly within quarantine sites.

Why we use nitrile gloves for beekeeping

There are some problems with nitrile gloves that are important to cover because they are not perfect, they are offset with a few particular issues that cause angst amongst beekeepers, ourselves included.  It hasn’t dissuaded us from using nitrile gloves, the benefits still far outweigh the negatives but we wanted to be completely transparent.  

Landfill & Carbon Footprint

Beekeepers are naturally inclined to behave in ways that minimise their carbon footprint, we are – of a sort – custodians of the natural world and unnecessarily adding to our carbon footprint is irksome.  Sustainability is an important aspect of our work so throwing away lots of gloves at the end of heavy day of inspection isn’t lost on us.

These gloves are often contaminated so any attempt at recycling is verging on pointless, without a doubt they’re heading to landfill.  Whilst manufacturers will claim you can recycle it just doesn’t work in practice and their ability to breakdown quickly isn’t making us feel better, it’s a problem.


A smaller problem but one that can bother some is the fact that these things get sweaty, on a warm day this is exceptionally noticeable and can cause irritation for some.  For most and after a short time of the excessive damp you generally just get used to it, soldier through the unpleasant and focus on the bees.  The gloves we stock and sell are the best we can find in helping to reduce this but could never really be avoided.

Ripped Gloves

Nitrile gloves are much easier to rip and there are a fair few sharp edges around in beekeeping.  Nails, splintered wood, hive tools, castellated spacers, cages, etc.  So some additional care may be needed in order to keep unnecessary waste down.  A torn glove will often mean having to stop, get some distance from your bees and adding unnecessary time to what can already be a lengthy process.  Go easy on your gloves 🙂

Nitrile Gloves for Beekeeping

As beekeepers we’ve been through our fair share of nitrile gloves.  We’ve sourced from various suppliers and manufacturers looking for something that ticked all the boxes, it took us months to find something that really worked.  On our shop we have now started to supply nitrile gloves which we believe will meet the needs of both hobbyists and commercial operations.

Strong tensile strength nitrile gloves that are hard wearing and easy to clean between inspections.

Comes in various sizes, S/M/L/XL so you can find that perfect fit to avoid baggy tipped fingers.

Long cuffs (30cm) that fit easily and tightly over your bee suit to prevent exploring bees finding your wrists.

Improved grip due to textured fingertips, avoids slipping, and allows for easier queen handling.

No Latex!  A completely latex free glove for those with latex allergies.

Soft elastic material for a more comfortable and flexible wear.  Cooling effect helps to reduce sweating on those warmer days!

Plastic free packaging.  The packaging can be used as smoker fuel after use.

Powder free nitrile to prevent contaminating your honey harvest.

Food contact tested in accordance with European standard EN1186 making it suitable for food contact.