The SmokerWhat is it?
- A device to deliver small amounts of smoke when we need it.
- Invented by Moses Quinby in 1873 in the USA.
- A prolific inventor of bee keeping equipment
- Was not patented so widely adopted and improved.
- More efficient than lighting a smoky fire just upwind of the apiary.
- Consists of:
- Bellows - which contain a spring to expand them.
- Body - which contains a grate.
- Nozzle or snout.
- Cage around the body to prevent you burning yourself hopefully.
What do beekeepers use it for?
- Calm the bees when investigating the hive.
- Move bees away from where you are working.
- Mask the queen pheromone when collecting a swarm.
- Mask the alarm pheromone if you have been stung.
Why does it work?
- Alarm bees emit pheromones to warn other bees.
- Alarm pheromone includes 2-heptanone and isoamyl acetate.
- Isoamyl acetate is also know as isopentyl acetate.
- Isoamyl acetate is very similar to smell of bananas.
- I suggest you don't eat bananas just before visiting the apiary.
- The smoke masks the smell of the pheromones.
- If collecting a swarm it masks left over queen pheromone on the branch from which you shook her.
- If stung it masks the attack pheromone smell on your bee suit.
- Also suggested bees sense it as a fire in the forest.
- They gorge themselves on honey.
- This means they cannot bend their bodies so easily to sting.
- Also suggested they feel sleepy and docile - like us after a big meal.
What fuel does it use?
- Fuel must be easily ignited.
- Fuel must burn slowly with lots of smoke.
- The smoke must not contain any chemicals toxic to bees or humans.
- Good fuels are - pine needles, dry grass, egg boxes, hessian, dry soft rotten wood.
- Wood pellets are available from several suppliers.
- If using cardboard remove all plastic labels.
- If using corrugated cardboard - is the glue between layers bee friendly?
- Other suggestions include denim and dried dung from herbivores.
How do you light it?
- Do not light it with your veil on. Veils can be highly flammable.
- Do not wear gloves when lighting it. Molten gloves give a nasty burn.
- Empty out any ash but charred material can make good starter.
- Scrunch up some newspaper in the base.
- Light that paper and give a few puffs.
- When that is well alight add kindling and get that going.
- Add the smoking material.
- Puff it to get smoke but not to get flames!.
What do you do with it once it is lit?
- Check the smoke emitted is cool. .
- A couple of puffs near the entrance to the hive before you start.
- Leave it a couple of minutes so that the bees communicate that to the other bees.
- Use it sparingly when you want to move bees out of your way.
- Too much smoke can possibly taint uncapped honey.
- Particularly useful to clear bees from the top of super when putting another super on.
How do you put it out?
- The smoker can stay alight for a long time and get very hot.
- Do not put it anywhere it could set fire to grass etc.
- When you have finished with it block the nozzle.
- I have a cork I have shaped to fit the nozzle.
- It is attached by a piece of string to the smoker.
- Alternatively stuff the nozzle with grass.
- Do not check if it is still alight by puffing the bellows!
- Feel the body of the smoker to see if it is cold.
- If driving back home with your smoker either:
- Empty it before you leave or
- Place it in an airtight metal box or
- Place it in the front passenger foot well where you can see it.
How do you clean it?
- If using the smoker on several apiaries hygiene is important.
- Cover the bellows with a disposable shower cap and change it between apiaries.
- Regulary empty out the ash from the body of the smoker.
- The tar in the snout can be removed by scraping.
- Burning it off may work but avoid any fumes
- Soak the metal part (not the bellows) in 20% solution of washing soda.
- Don't worry about getting it too clean - as long as the smoke can get out.
What alternatives are there?
- Only open hives on warm sunny afternoons - when the bees are out foraging.
- Never open the hives if there is a threat of thundery weather.
- Work steadily - no sudden movements.
- Work from the side or the back of the hive.
- Avoid moving your hands across the top of the open hive - it may be seen as a threat.
- Wear light coloured gloves.
- Use a gentle water spray - possibly with a small amount of sugar in it.
- The bees have to groom this off the others and are thus distracted.
- Use liquid smoke - available from Omlet.
Where can I get one?
- All the regular suppliers:
- Simon the Beekeeper
- Bee Equipment
- National Bee Supplies
What should I look for when buying a smoker?
- A large body - to hold more fuel and therefore bigger interval between refueling.
- A cage round the body to minimise your risk of being burned.
- Made of stainless steel or copper.