Thumb loops

My first beesuit was bought from BBwear. It’s still going strong. It lacks a bit of sartorial elegance these days – it’s got holes in some pockets, the hive tool pocket is ripped beyond use, the elasticated leg bottoms are no longer elasticated and the entire thing is mottled with wax and propolis stains.

It’s been through the washing machine countless times and it’s got lots of life in it yet.

BBwear suits

BBwear suits …

Since that first suit I’ve bought many more. All are from BBwear. All are as well made and look to be as hard wearing. Their BB2 jacket is particularly good and the one I use for most apiary visits. I’ve stuck with BBWear as I’ve been pleased with the product and the service. Many have been bought for work – for trips to Varroa-free regions or for apiary visitors – and Belinda at BBWear has always given us a good deal and quick delivery. We now have a good range of colours in the work apiary; apricot, denim, cerise (or cerese as BBwear list it) and the more conventional – less lurid – white or sage.

Good but not perfect

S t r e t c h e d ...

S t r e t c h e d …

However, all the suits and jackets (at least those I own, which include BB1, BB2 and BB101) have a design flaw. The thumb loop elastic isn’t great quality and soon  s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  s. These thumb loops are designed to prevent the cuff of the suit from riding up your arm. If it does it leaves a tempting little gap at your wrist for any bees to take out their irritation on. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a gloves ‘over’ or ‘under’ (the cuff) beekeeper … without using the thumb loops you’ll soon be waving that little half-inch strip of oh-so-stingable wrist at your charges.

And it hurts (me) like hell if they target that little patch of tender skin on the inside of my wrist. Ouch.

Once the stretch is gone the temptation is to wind the elastic repeatedly round the thumb to take up the slack. Unless you’re careful, you’ll do this a bit too tight and then every time you’re at full-stretch the blood supply to your thumb is cut off. On a hot day, the relief of stripping off your perspiration-filled gloves is almost matched by the relief of unwinding the elastic and letting the blood back into your thumb.

You then drive on to the next apiary and the dangling elastic catches on the gearstick and the indicator stalk …

Replaceable elastic loops

In a new BBwear suit/jacket the elastic thumb loops are sewn directly onto the cuff (and it looks to me as though Sherriff suits are the same). Once mine are stretched beyond salvation I cut them off and replace them with a simple short loop of dacron (at least, I think it’s dacron … it’s a near indestructible manmade tape I had some spare bits of). My sewing skills are hopeless, but no-one who wears a beesuit for half the weekends a year cares much about appearances.

Ugly but functional ...

Ugly but functional …

With the dacron loop permanently fixed to the suit, it’s then a straightforward matter to tie a loop of ‘knicker’ elastic in place using a simple overhand knot. This stuff is available inexpensively online. Once the elastic (inevitably) stretches just cut it off and replace it with another piece. No more accidental changing gear in the car … no more atrophied thumbs due to restricted blood supply … and no more little strips of pale, tender flesh exposed.

 or should that be thumbloop?


8 thoughts on “Thumb loops

    1. David Post author

      I’m not allergic or anaphylaxic, but I do develop a healthy local inflammatory response if I get stung – particularly the face and ‘soft’ areas like the inside of my forearms, oxters or thighs. So I wear a suit … almost always, or I wouldn’t know that my forearms, face and thighs were so sensitive!

    1. David Post author

      If you contact the manufacturer they may do repairs … BBwear do and also offer a custom-fit service for weirdly shaped beekeepers.

  1. Calum

    Inside the nose is the worst place to be stung, though I read in the ABJ under the fingernail is worse..
    Ach it’s just like Trump , [edited]

    1. David Post author

      Michael Smith at Cornell has conducted research on the worst place to get stung. It was published – after thorough peer review – in PeerJ in 2014. This might well have been covered in ABJ. Quote from the abstract “Pain was rated on a 1–10 scale, relative to an internal standard, the forearm … pain ratings were consistent over three repetitions … The three least painful locations were the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm.. The nostril was one of the most painful areas … enough said.

  2. Chris

    There’s something about that little patch of wrist that attracts attention. A tear in a glove ditto. I’m sure I am more likely to be stung through a tear than when bare-handed.

    I have long arms and bee-suit sleeves are never long enough to give protection. One answer is washable polycotton protective cuffs, or disposable plastic ones as used in the food industry, in conjunction with long-cuffed nitrile gloves. Another, only for the brave, is a short-sleeved shirt without gloves. With gloves they still find a junction between uninteresting plastic and interesting flesh. As I no longer work bees under a hot Australian sun, I go for the first solution.

    1. David Post author

      BBwear (and probably others) will make custom suits for those who are ‘outliers’ (in terms of limb length) to the norms. I seem to remember that they weren’t outrageously expensive.

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