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Bee-Ginner's Guide

Welcome to the Bee-ginner's Guide Blog. Here we will go over topics and tips you might need as you go through your first year as a beekeeper.

One of a beekeepers essential tools is the smoker. The smoker is almost as iconic as a beekeepers suit or hive. It is a vital tool to aid in honey bee inspections, but how does it work?

When honey bees sense smoke nearby, their automatic reaction is to dive into their hive and gorge on honey in case they have to evacuate the hive. Smoke also masks the alarm pheromone released by guard bees so in their gorging frenzy they are not alerted to an intruder (i.e. you) in the hive, therefore their defenses are lowered and it makes the bees less aggressive when you go into the hive and inspect.

There are multiple sources of fuel for a smoker including cold draft smoker fuel, fabric scraps, burlap, fine wood chips, wood pellets, pine needles, ect. Keep in mind if you are using an item that it not directly labeled as smoker fuel (such as fabric or wood scraps) make sure that they are clean of non-natural byproducts such as glue, paint, or any other chemical. Having a scrap piece of paper or two will help ignite the fuel.

When igniting your smoker, the goal is not to produce a constant large flame, but a slow burning smolder with smoke that is cool to the touch. As you are trying to light it, it will most likely flare up temporarily but it then should eventually turn into just a smolder as long as you continue to pump constant air to it. A butane torch will make lighting your smoker much easier. If you do not have a butane torch, a lighter or extended-reach lighter will work. You will just want to be cautious and not burn yourself.

When lighting a smoker, the object is not to burn or drive the bees out of the hive with massive amounts of smoke. Producing as little smoke as possible works just as effective as heavy smoke and less likely to interfere with the internals of the hive (infuse the honey).