Footwear for beekeepers: What’s your favorite?
Todd Smith, a Michigan beekeeper, wants to know my favorite beekeeping footwear. He is trying to decide on a gift for a 77-year-old female beekeeping friend, and he was thinking of footwear for the bee yard.
Well, I have news for you, Todd. Women do not own footwear. Women buy shoes, boots, sandals, or even hikers. But footwear? Never.
History could be rewritten if women wore footwear. Think of Dorothy in Oz trying to return to Kansas. Would tapping three times the heels of ruby-crusted footwear actually work? And how about Cinderella? Would she marry the guy who found her missing glass footwear? Sooo not romantic! She’d probably throw it at him. And remember Imelda Marcos? She had 2700 pairs of shoes, and not one pair of footwear. Seriously.
When things are too heavy to lift
Once upon a time I wore running shoes or hikers for beekeeping. That worked fairly well until the day I dropped a fully-loaded deep brood box onto the ground in front of me. It was too heavy by far and I had to let it go. I used to wonder what would happen if you lifted something that was too heavy, but I figured if you managed to dislodge it in the first place, it would be okay. Not so.
When my husband was a teenager, he apparently discovered the same reality. He worked summers at a marina, and one day he was asked to remove a customer’s outboard motor for service. He hefted it from the transom but then realized it was too heavy, so he ended up dropping it in the Chazy River. Oops.
When in doubt, they go for the ankles
The bees in the downed brood box were not particularly happy and blamed it on my ankles. In the thin sliver of space between shoes and bee suit, they tattooed white-hot ankle bracelets in a matter of seconds. I ran for the house and the bees came with. Later, I pulled out 21 stingers before I decided counting was a bad idea.
A few days later, I was standing in line at Costco scratching one ankle with the other when I felt a cold stare. I turned to see a self-important suit, all pressed and manicured and watching me with a disgusted look on his face. I delivered an unfriendly smile—one of those that dissolves into a frown and shouts, “Mind your own business, moron.” But then I left the line and went in search of boots. Enough was enough.
Finding the right boots
Since then, I always wear boots when beekeeping. My first pair of muck boots were too high, however, and caused the legs of my bee suit to fold into accordions around my knees. The accordions forced me to walk like a toddler in diapers, so I gave that up, too. Later, I learned that shorter boots—about mid-calf—keep out the bees, don’t interfere with the suit, and are easy to take on and off. So at this writing, that’s what I wear.
I know that’s not much to go on, so I’m hoping you can give Todd a helping hand. In your opinion, what is the perfect footwear for beekeepers and why?
Honey Bee Suite