Master Beekeeping Basics
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Smoker: Calming Your Bees for Easier Inspections

Lesson 4

One of the most iconic pieces of beekeeping equipment is the smoker. Many people have heard that beekeepers use smokers to calm their bees for easier inspection but how do they actually do this? In this lesson, you’ll learn about smokers and how you can use yours to help you in your hive inspections.

The bee smoker is one of the most easily recognized pieces of beekeeping equipment. 

Bee smokers have been around for centuries but have only held popularity since approximately the early 1900s. (source). Dozens of different smoker designs have come and gone since then leaving us with the popular design we typically see today. 

If you haven’t seen a smoker before, this is what it looks like:

7-Inch Stainless Steel Smoker

Smokers are a standard part of any Starter Kit (including ours) so if you’re looking for a good kit, keep your eyes out for kits that have one.

Disclaimer

At Bear Country Bees, we do not use smokers. We haven’t seen noticeable a difference by using them and it’s another piece of equipment that we have to juggle so we choose go without.

Forgoing the smoker is simply our preference, but other beekeepers we’ve worked with have had really good results with them. 

We aren’t suggesting that you completely avoid using smokers. What we are suggesting is that you keep in mind that smokers work for many, but not all, beekeepers.

Our recommendation is to try a smoker and see if it works for you. If not, it’s ok to go without one.

The two reasons we include a smoker as part of our Starter Kit are:

  1. It’s one of the most requested products from our new beekeepers
  2. It’s standard practice to include one

*Note: We’d love to hear about your experience with your smoker. We’ve created a brief survey (2 questions) to find out more about the usefulness of smokers. If you don’t mind sharing, please click below to take the survey.

How Does a Smoker Work?

Most bee smokers have 3 main components:

  • Canister
  • Bellows
  • Spout

*See photo to the right

Parts of a Smoker

When you get ready to inspect your hives, you will put some sort of fuel in your canister and light it with a match or lighter. Simply give the bellows a few good pumps and you’ll be ready to smoke your bees. 

During your inspection, you simply blow several puffs of smoke around the inside of your hive. This is said to have a calming effect on the bees thereby making your inspection go more smoothly.

It’s that simple!

What Types of Fuel Can You Use?

There are dozens of different types of fuel you can use for your smoker. Some of the most common fuels include the following:

  • Hay or dry grass
  • Pine cones or pine needles
  • Wood or bark chips
  • Touchwood
  • Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Commercially produced fuels

Basically anything that is flammable and doesn’t produce noxious, harmful fumes is ok material for bee smoker fuel. 

Important Note

The one fuel we do not advise using is agricultural burlap sacks because most of the fuel contains traces of rat poison, insecticides, and other harmful substances. This is not conducive to healthy hives so we recommend using other fuels.

The list above contains the most popular fuels but you can also make your own natural fuel. To learn how, check out this post from Modern Farmer.

Wrap-Up

As a brief review, smokers are said to have a calming effect on your bees which then makes your hive inspections run more smoothly. 

While we haven’t seen that effect during our inspections, many beekeepers report to us that they have had great luck using them. 

Because of these differing results, we recommend you purchase a smoker and test it out to see if it works for you. 

After you’ve tested your smoker, we’d love to get your thoughts on whether or not it worked well for you in our 2 question bee smoker survey. Please share your thoughts with us!

Next up is the last lesson in this course before we recap everything we've learned. We’ll be discussing woodenware, one of the most important parts of the Starter Kit.

Let’s head over to the last lesson.

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