How to Use a Bee Smoker
As a beekeeper, there are several tools that you must use to keep your hive in perfect shape. One of them is a bee smoker. Even with the gentlest bees, you still need to have a smoker nearby. You’ll probably realize that you need a smoker when it’s already too late.
Why Should You Use a Bee Smoker?
A bee smoker produces smoke that confuses the bees for a while. Every time you open the hive or approach a colony, you should have a smoker that is ready to use.
Bees produce pheromones to send messages to each other. One of them is the Alarm Pheromone. When you accidentally kill a bee or get stung by one, it will release pheromones in the air, attracting other nearby bees.
All the bees that smell this pheromone will become more aggressive and might start to attack you, producing more pheromones in the process. As a result, a newbie beekeeper might find himself or herself under massive attack in no time.
If you’re not careful, you can get attacked by an entire colony within minutes. The consequences can be deadly in some situations.
A smoker does another job as it encourages bees to eat more honey and accordingly become less aggressive. The bees believe that their nest is on fire, so they’ll start to eat more honey, getting ready to abandon the hive. Meanwhile, you can keep an eye on your colony, check out the honey supers or add a new brood box without being attacked by angry bees.
How to Use a Bee Smoker?
Bee smokers have come a long way, just like all the equipment that professional and amateur beekeepers use. In the past, it used to be a can with some holes where you can push the smoke out. Using a thread and swinging the can around was enough to spread some smoke.
Today more smokers come with a spout that can help you direct the smoke precisely where you need to. The idea of a bee smoker is to start a fire inside the can, then use the bellows to fill the can with oxygen to spread the smoke.
Which Fuel to Use?
To start the fire in the can, you should use the right fuel. There are three different types of fuel that you should use to get your bee smoker started; starters, kindling, and fuel.
This is the material that you can use as the base of your fire. It should have enough air pockets to be filled with oxygen to keep your kindling material burning. You can use a rolled piece of newspaper sheet, rolled cardboard or a pinecone.
Wood shavings or pine needles are the easiest to set on fire. This is what will keep the fire in your smoker going. Dried leaves or straw works because they’ll catch fire easily.
Kindling material shouldn’t have high moisture content. You should make sure that you’re not using synthetic fibers because they will melt instead of burn and produce a nasty smoke that might damage your smoker.
You can use twigs or bigger wood chips to start the fire. These pieces might take more time to start to burn but once they do, they will burn longer. Start a fire using a match or a lighter. Let the fire spread to the kindling.
Tips for Using the Bee Smoker
Here are some tips to help you use your smoker successfully.
- Start the fire first using the starter part then add the rest on top. Packing your smoker with various materials will prevent the flame from spreading up.
- If you choose to light the kindling away from the smoker, drop it gently. Dropping it too fast might put the fire out. You can also choose to drop the match into the smoker after you’ve added the kindling material.
- Pump the bellows to increase the amount of oxygen to keep the fire going. Use a hive tool to pack the smoker but don’t overdo it.
- Keep on pumping the bellows and adding more kindling until you have a steady fire in your smoker.
- Add fuel smartly to maintain your fire. Adding too much fuel will make your fire smother, and adding too little will make your fire go out too fast before you’ve used the smoker.
- When you’re using the bee smoker, make sure not to use it too much. Too much smoke can disturb and harm your bees, or even affect the quality of wax and honey in the colony. Two or three puffs are enough before you can check out the hive. You can use more if you feel that the bees are getting too aggressive.
- Don’t hold the spout too close as the heat will kill the bees. Keep it at least 6 inches away and let the smoke spread into the air.
When you’re using a bee smoker, you need to make sure that you’re not touching the handle or the can itself as you might get burned. You can also get liquid smoke which is made wood particles suspended in a liquid. Spray it on your hands if you need to do a quick inspection and it will do the job of the bee smoker.