Bee Smoker Basics | Living the Country Life

Bee Smoker Basics

The smoker is a primary tool for controlling bees while you work, but using it requires experience and patience. Use these tips for a quick and easy introduction to beekeeping basics.
  • Storey's Guide to Keeping Bees

    In "Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees," authors Malcolm Sanford and Richard Bonney provide tips on best bee practices. Here, they give us some tips on how to use bee smokers. It's important to become acquainted with a smoker, an all-important beekeeper's tool. 

    Date Published: March 7, 2018
    Date Updated: August 14, 2018
  • Fuel

    "Practically anything that burns is good smoker fuel, from pine needles to dried dung," say Sanford and Bonney. "Avoid any material that has been chemically treated, such as coated burlap or treated wood." If using wood, chop dry 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick limbs into short lengths. Dry chips or chunks from logs also work well.

    Date Published: March 7, 2018
    Date Updated: August 14, 2018
  • Lighting the Smoker

    Sanford and Bonney recommend these steps for starting your smoker:

    1. Have your fuel handy.

    2. Crumple up one-half sheet of a newspaper so it will fit into the smoker, but don't wad it so tightly that it won't burn easily. 

    3. Light one end of the paper, put it into the smoker, and start puffing the bellows. At the same time, use your hive tool to push the paper down into the smoker and get it burning well. 

    4. Add some small chips on top of the paper. When they are burning nicely, add bigger chips until the smoker is filled. The smoke produced should be cool to the touch. Guard against hot smoke or flames. To cool the smoke, pack some green material like grass clippings on top of the burning mass in the canister. 

    5. Close the lid. 

    Date Published: March 7, 2018
    Date Updated: August 14, 2018
  • Be Patient

    If the fire goes out during the process, shake everything out of the smoker and start again. "Don't get frustrated - it may take three or four tries," the authors say.

    After half an hour, your smoker's fuel will wane and you should re-fill it. When you've finished for the day, plug the snout of the smoker with a wad of paper, class clippings, or a cork. The fire will go out you may preserve the half-burned fuel for an easier lighting next time. 

    Date Published: March 7, 2018
    Date Updated: August 14, 2018
  • Using the Smoker

    1. Put a hook on the bellows of the smoker so you can hang it from your belt while you move around, or hang it from the end of the opened hive so it will be handy while working with bees. 

    2. Give the hive a couple of puffs of dense, white smoke in the entrance when you approach. If you're standing between two hives, give both some smoke at the entrances. 

    3. Use your hive tool to pry up the cover. Immediately waft smoke over the frames and gently direct it into the colony. 

    4. Replace the cover and wait at least a minute before removing the cover again. 

    Date Published: March 7, 2018
    Date Updated: August 14, 2018
  • First Inspection

    The first inspection of your bees, a week after installation, is both important and brief. Your objective is to see if the colony's queen bee has been released and is functioning. 

    1. On a sunny day, light the smoker and put on protective gear.

    2. Check the smoker to make sure the smoke is cool, not hot. The smoke gets hot when there is too little material in the smoker. Add a little fresh green grass to the smoker to cool the smoke if necessary. 

    3. Puff several times, sending smoke into the entrance; remove the cover and again puff several times into the top of he hive. 

    4. Replace the cover, wait at least two minutes, and remove it again.

    5. Locate the queen cage. It should be empty, take it out and put it aside.

    6. If the bees have built comb around the cage, attaching it to the foundation, scrape it off with your hive tool as it will interfere with subsequent construction.

    7. Remove an outside frame and prop it outside against the hive to provide room to work the rest. 

    8. Slowly take out each frame, one at a time, examine it, and replace it. Try to spot the queen. Look for eggs and larvae in the cells.

    9. When you've finished your inspection, and either found the queen or determined that she is functional, replace the combs and close up the hive. 

    Date Published: March 7, 2018
    Date Updated: August 14, 2018

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