Using a Bee Smoker
Beekeeping goes with smoking like peanut butter goes with jelly. They just work. There are many reasons that you should smoke your bees while checking your hive(s), the biggest reason is the masking of pheromones like: the pheromone that guard bees excrete when they smell your pheromones as you approach, or the pheromones that bees excrete when they are inadvertently killed during the inspection, also, the pheromone that a bee will excrete if you are stung during the inspection.
The smoke also invokes a bees natural reaction to suck up honey when they believe that they will be moving, the smoke does this by making the bees believe that the hive is on fire and could be destroyed, the bees will then begin storing honey and preparing for the move. This will allow you time to inspect the hive, once you have closed up the hive and the smoke has cleared the hive will see that the threat no longer exists and re-deposit the honey. The hive will then resume normal activity.
The best types of smoker fuel are items that occur naturally in nature. There are different types of smoker fuel that we recommend: smoker pellets, pine needles, cow poop, burlap, grass clippings and wood sticks.
We recommend igniting the smoker prior to a hive check a little ways away from the hive. Always use caution especially in areas where wildfires are a concern. We recommend having a fire extinguisher handy to put out any rouge embers. Also remember that a smoker will be hot and can cause burns, so use appropriate judgment.
Lighting a bee smoker
- Open the top of the smoker.
- Place inside the smoker the item that you are going to ignite.
- Ignite the item, leaving the top open until you have embers glowing.
- After the embers are burning, replace the top of the smoker.
- Once the top is in place, begin pumping the bellows vigorously until you have a steady plume of smoke.
The smoker will stay lit, provided it has enough fuel. As you approach the hive begin pumping the bellows vigorously to emit a steady plume of smoke. At the hive before your inspection, smoke the entrance first and then open the lid partially and smoke between the inner cover and frames. 2-3 plumes of smoke in each area should be a good start. During your check if you notice the hive is more aggressive, use additional smoke. During your hive check, leave the smoker handy and accessible, using caution where it is placed, the smoker will be very hot and could ignite dry grasses and foliage.
Extinguishing a bee smoker
When you are done with the hive check, make sure and extinguish the embers by: smoothing it by stopping up the pipe with a wet rag. You can also douse the embers with water, or let the flame burn out. In any case make sure that you use care.