When asked “Besides a hive tool, a smoker and a veil, what is your favorite tool in the beekeeper’s toolbox?” fellow BIP field specialist Dan Aurell replied with NITRILE GLOVES! There are a lot of situations where a beekeeper (especially a BIP field specialist) might want to pull on some nitrile gloves.
The most obvious benefit gained using nitrile gloves is that they can help prevent honey bee stings (or just make them less severe). This fact assumes that you are already going gloveless and not using thick leather gloves. They do not prevent stings outright but they can help prevent the stinger becoming embedded in your skin. Nitrile gloves are chemical resistant when compared to latex, plastic or leather gloves. When inspecting hives with treatments on it is important to wear some protection as your skin will readily absorb any chemicals. Formic and oxalic acid can cause your skin peel or worse. Apivar, Apistan and CheckMite+ are treatments with harder chemicals and are not good for us humans (for example the CheckMite+ label requires you to use a 14 mil chemical-resistant glove, that means 14 thousandths of an inch in thickness). When doing alcohol mite washes nitrile gloves can help prevent your skin from getting dried out from exposure to lots of alcohol. One of my favorite reasons to use them is that clean up is easy and fast, and they are disposable so we don’t reuse them when visiting different beekeepers. My hands are clean at the end of working a yard and I don’t need to wash the sticky off them or pick the wax and propolis out of my fingernails. If the gloves aren’t too dirty and they haven’t touched any chemicals you may be able to use them a second time. Just put them on inside out as they will turn inside out when you take them off the first time.
Based on BIP field specialists’ experience a snugly fitting 6 mil nitrile gloves may be the best. Tight fitting is important so that you don’t have space at the end of your fingers. This allows you to make more dexterous moves like picking up queens. Anything less than 6 mil seems to rip too easily. If they rip and you need to put on another pair it is difficult if your hands are sweaty (these gloves will make your hands sweat even if it is not that hot). Many times the nitrile gloves come in purple. Just make sure not to get black for obvious reasons. The last reason to use nitrile gloves is that they make you feel more like a scientist. Pulling up to a yard and donning some nitrile gloves and maybe a white lab coat would up your cool factor big time. Ok, maybe not.
Written by Matt Hoepfinger and Dan Aurell