Beekeeping Suit Redesign


For the final project of my Sophomore year in the Industrial Design department at The Rhode Island School of Design I conducted a thorough redesign of the beekeeping suit.

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As an avid beekeeper, I’ve found that many of the beekeeping tools we use today haven’t been redesigned since their invention centuries ago. Hive tools, smokers, honey extractors and beekeeping suits are all opportunities to reassess the needs of modern beekeepers and experiment with new forms and materials.

I researched, tested and sewed a working prototype of a beekeeping suit made from ripstop nylon with detachable arm and leg bands that allowed beekeepers to stay protected while beekeeping in the heat of the summer.

 

This project was my most heavily researched project to date, I started by surveying beekeepers in both Rhode Island and Pennsylvania about the tools they used and what problems they encountered when inspecting their beehives. Beekeeping suits were overwhelmingly the piece of equipment that people struggled with the most. “It’s too heavy to wear in the heat of summer”, “It looks goofy”, and “It get’s dirty very easily” were just some of the complaints I heard.

I began to research exactly why bee suits are the color that they are, and started to ask “what if we made bee suits red instead of white?”, bees can only see in the ultraviolet spectrum, so perhaps if you made the bee suit red, they would have trouble distinguishing you from the background. It turns out, bees see red as black, which is a color they associate with bears or animals that might attack the hive, so it seemed that in the end white was the best color for the suit.

The most important piece of research I came across  was a pain index noting where on the body bee stings hurt the most. The nose is a level 9 at the most painful place to be stung, followed by the groin, face, and chest but the places where it hurt to be stung the least were the arms and legs.

 

With the initial research phase behind me, I began to sketch and worked through multiple ideas I had regarding materials, clasps, textures and patterns.