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When collecting honey from bees, as has been noted in bee sting, a bee will do its utmost to protect the hive. A sharp barb with two (or more) lancets can hurt a lot, and unless a person is covered adequately, a bee sting is painful and often causes swelling and severe irritation for a few days.

Today modern beekeepers have a number of suits and types of protective options, that range from full body, to simple face netting. But the history of protective clothing is relatively modern, when one considers that bees and honey have been gathered throughout man's history.

Romans give us some of the first written examples of protection, when Nonnus (an Egyptian who lived in Egypt, AD 431) describes a mythical discovery of beekeeping by Aristaeus:

He covered every limb from toenail to hair with a close-woven wrap of linen, to defend him form the formidable stings of the battling (armed) bees.
(Dionysiaca V.247-249)

The earliest known purpose-made protection against stings on the head and face appears in western Europe about 1160. An illumination in St Swithin's Psalter shows two shepherds wearing a hood (fastened at the neck), leaving a hole for the face. A cover is sewn into the hood for a faceplate, and thus a bee-proof head covering. Many further examples are available around the 1400's where faces become covered much more clearly in woven wicker, or cane 'basketry,' and by the 17th Century the pictures show more wire related weaves - close to fencing masks.

These would have only offered very limited vision, been cumbersome and possibly heavy, and it is surprising that a solution was not more quickly invented!

Crane, Eva. 1983. "The Archaeology of beekeeping", Duckworth. London. ISBN 0 7156 1681 1
Crane, Eva. (unknown). "history of protective measures against stinging by bees" (unknown) - I have a 3rd generation photocopy - sorry.

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