In my novel “Dark Destiny”, the monks at Deer Abbey kept bees to acquire honey for healing, baking, and wine making. The bees were kept in skeps, conical woven baskets that sat on a flat surface. The monks often wore a hat with a veil or a hood with a woven frontpiece. Other that that, they were relatively unprotected from bee stings. Honey was also used as valuable trading item.
Here is a link to a site that discusses traditional beekeeping: