To Bee or Not to Bee?
“Not without my Buck Naked Underwear!” says beekeeper Steve in Iowa.
The Duluth Trading office was abuzz with excitement. We'd just read a product review of our Buck Naked Boxer Briefs. In addition to its usual benefits – no sweat, no pinch, no stink – beekeeper Steve had just added a new one: no sting!
“Yes, I am a beekeeper in Iowa and yes I do like your Buck Naked Boxer Briefs especially during the summer,” he wrote. We were already aware, since we noticed he'd ordered about a dozen pair.
“Wearing a pair of white coveralls during the summer months can be like wearing your own personal sauna. When the humidity and temperature are high, I think if you had a thermometer in the pocket you would find it is close to 120°F inside the coveralls. Even though it is hot inside, the boxer briefs keep me cooler than comparable cotton boxer briefs. It makes working with 600 hives of stinging honey bees all day long a lot more enjoyable and fun.”
600 hives of stinging bees? That would certainly make US sweat – out of nervousness!
“That's what a lot of people say,” he laughs. “But I try to stay calm most of the time around the bees, because they can sense fear and you cannot outrun them.”
Steve has been beekeeping for 35 years, ever since he was in high school.
Currently he's a government entomologist in charge of controlled pollination. Most people think of honey when they think of bees, but bees also play a role in farming. They're critical for the pollination of many cultivated crops.
“Wearing a pair of white coveralls during the summer months can be like wearing your own personal sauna…Even though it is hot inside, the boxer briefs keep me cooler than comparable cotton boxer briefs. It makes working with 600 hives of stinging honey bees all day long a lot more enjoyable and fun.”
“I do not produce honey right now,” Steve explains. “I only use the bees for pollination. In addition to working with honey bees, I also work with bumble bees. I bend over and twist to pick up bee boxes and equipment all day long. That's another reason I like this underwear. They stay snug around your legs and don't roll up during the day. They also don't start pinching around the waist or chafing.”
“In the past, I have worked with bees to produce honey. After the larvae have hatched, the queen larva and the worker larva are fed basically the same diet for a week. After that, only the queen is continued to be fed a high protein diet.”
Steve would probably like to tell us more about the science of what he does, but like most people, we're more curious about the danger. Put a bee's stinger under a microscope and it looks like a miniature sword just waiting to inject its venom. Yikes!
“Yes I do get stung every day,” he says. “I don't wear gloves and thus get stung several times a day in the hands. I do wear a veil over my face. I don't want to run around all the time with swollen eyes and lips.”
Interestingly, while getting stung can be very painful, it's not without benefits. A tolerance builds up, so Steve's hands no longer swell. And bee stings have been documented to prevent joint problems and diseases such as MS. “Beekeepers tend to have bad backs, but no arthritis,” says Steve.
“When I first started beekeeping my mentor told me that I would eventually get used to being stung and it would not hurt. Well, I have not reached that place yet and usually have choice words to say.”
So is it worth it, Steve? We all love a good peanut-butter and honey sandwich, but it sounds like a tough line of work.
“My thoughts are that we all have risks in our jobs, and with all the time I get to spend outside which I enjoy and the birds singing nearby I may have to take a few stings.”