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What Is A Bee Smoker? (A Must-Have Beekeeping Tool)

Extracting Honey from the Combs

 For hive inspections, beekeepers use two major tools: a bee smoker and a hive tool. A smoker is used to regulate honey bees while a hive tool is used to adjust hive boxes and frames.

Smoldering, smoking fuel is held by a bee smoker. Puffing cold smoke on bees leads them to move out of the path of the beekeeper and impairs the colony's ability to communicate through pheromones, causing them to become less defensive. Hive inspections are made simpler by manipulating bee behavior using smoke.

For every hive inspection, a bee smoker is a must-have instrument. This post will show you how to operate a bee smoker and how it works.

What Is A Bee Smoker And How Does It Work?

A bee smoker is essential beekeeping equipment that is used for almost every hive inspection. A smoker is used to push the beer out of the path and reduce their defensive response.

Modern bee smokers are mainly constructed of stainless steel and come in a variety of sizes and designs. They all, however, work in the same way and have comparable components:

  • The nozzle has an internal, detachable grill at the bottom of the fire chamber and an air hole at the lower rear (as part of the lid)
  • Heatshield Hook Bellows with an airhole aligned with the airhole in the fire chamber.

The fire chamber, a cylindrical container with a diameter of about 4", houses smoldering fuel that produces smoke. A grill or grate in the chamber's bottom offers air space underneath the fuel.

A hinged cover with a nozzle sits above the fire chamber. Smoke is directed where it is required by the nozzle. A little hook or handle may also be included on the lid.

A heat shield might be placed over the firing chamber. The beekeeper is protected from direct contact with a hot fire chamber by the heat shield, which is a wire cage. On the front side of the chamber, heat shields feature hooks that may be used to hang the smoker out of the way.

The rear of the fire chamber has bellows (leather, canvas, or rubber). Air is pushed into the fire chamber by squeezing the bellows, which have air holes in them. Moving air into the chamber keeps the fire burning, while smoke is driven out the nozzle.

What Effects Do Smokers Have on Bees?

Bees are calmed by the smoker in two ways: by forcing them to feast on honey and by interrupting pheromone transmission.

Bees feast on honey in anticipation of having to flee the hive due to a fire. Bees are driven to travel away from frame tops and edges and towards the hive's center by their need for honey. The bees become more relaxed once they are full of honey.

Smoke also interferes with any warning hormones that would make the bees more protective.

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bee Smoker?

If you search YouTube for methods to light a bee smoker, you'll likely discover a plethora of options. At the end of the day, they all boil down to the same thing.

Step 1 – Light a piece of paper and place it in the smoker after ensuring your grill is properly set at the bottom of the fire chamber.
Step 2 – Fill the smoker with a little quantity of fuel and light it by pumping the bellows a few times.

Step 3 – Gradually increase the amount of gasoline. To prevent suffocating the fire, don't pack the fuel in too tightly. Each time you add gasoline, continue to push the bellows a few times.
Keep your face and hands away from the top of the chamber while you add fuel and pump the bellows. You'll want to stay away from the fire if it starts to flare up.

Step 4 – As the fire spreads throughout the chamber, you may start packing the fuel in tighter.
The longer the fire smolders, the more fuel you need.

Step 5: Put the cover back on.
This will keep the fuel smoldering rather than burning up in an open fire by limiting the amount of air in the fire chamber. Pump air into the fire using the bellows on a regular basis to keep the smoke going.

I used to throw as much gasoline in as I could and still keep the fire going. When you just require a brief visit to the apiary and don't need a lengthy burn, you may eventually start putting in less fuel.

On the internet, I've encountered beekeepers who employ a somewhat different approach:

  • Fill the container with gasoline and light it with a propane torch.
  • Although we haven't tested it (yet! ), this strategy seems to work.
The chamber might get quite heated. To prevent being burnt, hold the smoker by the bellows.

Make sure a lighted smoker isn't placed on top of anything that might catch fire. I place the smoker down on a spot of bare earth till it burns out after I'm done with the bee yard.

What Is A Bee Smoker And How Do I Use It?

Every hive inspection requires three items: protective clothing, a hive tool, and a lighted bee smoker.

There have been several occasions when the smoker has been used sparingly, if at all. After opening the hive and understanding you need it, you don't want to start lighting a smoker.

Some beekeepers spray smoke on their hands, gloves, and equipment ahead of time, ostensibly to keep the bees away. I'm not sure whether it works, but feel free to test it.

I put a puff or two into the openings before opening the hive. Then I gently raise it and blow a few puffs of smoke inside. I place the cover on the table and wait for the smoke to take effect.

As you begin working, this preliminary smoke should disarm the guard bees.

I mostly use the smoker once inside the hive to get the bees out of my way or if they become defensive.

For example, if I need to remove or change frames and there are a lot of bees in a position where I may cause a lot of trouble, a few smoke puffs will scare them away.

When I need to change the box above them in a crowded hive, bees may be sitting on the edges. You may prevent crushing them with a few puffs of smoke.

The air from the smoker may be heated around the nozzle. Keep the smoker a few inches away from the bees so they may inhale cold smoke.

I blast smoke around me to disrupt the alarm pheromones if bees are very protective, beating on my hood, and generally distracting me from my task. This is usually all that is required to reduce or stop the activity.

There are times when the bees are really irritable, and no amount of smoke will help. In such circumstances, I'll either go away for a few minutes to give them a rest or completely seal the hive and return at a later time. 

What Is The Best Way To Clean A Bee Smoker?

Large volumes of creosote will accumulate within and around the rim of the smoker over time. Creosote may get so heavy that opening and closing the lid correctly becomes difficult. It may also make the nozzle hole smaller, reducing the effectiveness of the smoker.

You may use a decent degreaser to remove some creosote or scrape it off with a hive tool around the rim. Scraping the interior of the fire chamber is difficult due to its round shape.

We've discovered that using heat to clean a bee smoker is the most effective method. Remove the bellows before doing this to avoid damaging them.

Follow all manufacturer's directions and take measures to prevent injury or property damage if you use hot equipment to clean your bee smoker.

Putting A Propane Torch To Work

A properly-fueled propane torch, such as this one from Amazon, can provide enough heat to convert creosote to ash. Ashes may then be swept away with ease.

We don't have a little propane torch, but we do have a Weed Dragon, which may be found on Amazon here. The Weed Dragon is essentially a large propane flame for weed removal. It connects to a regular propane tank used for grilling.

The Weed Dragon did a fantastic job cleaning the smoker, although it can become rather hot. If you do anything similar, I recommend starting with a modest output.

Making Use Of A Gas Grill

We often clean the steel grates of our gas barbecue by burning off food at high heat. By setting your bee smoker on the grill at the same time, you can clean it at the same time.

Using a gas barbecue instead of a propane torch is more passive.


Every beekeeper's armory should include a bee smoker as a "must-have" instrument.

When you first start beekeeping in your backyard, you may find it difficult to get the hive started and keep it burning. Don't be concerned. You'll get the hang of it in no time.

Remember that a bee smoker gets quite hot, so be cautious.

Every hive inspection, take it to the apiary. You will not be sorry.

This post is part of a series on how to get started beekeeping, which includes a step-by-step approach through your first year in the hive.