Ceri's well used smoker

Tip 6: Using your smoker

The smoker is a very necessary piece of kit and as with the bee suit is worth investing wisely in a good one that will hopefully last you a lifetime. The two main types are the straight nose or bent nose, the latter being more efficient and easier to keep alight. We use a fairly large smoker so it doesn’t need re-fuelling as often.

Always light a smoker and have it and plenty of fuel ready to inspect your bees prior to opening the hive and during. After 25 years of keeping bees Ceri always lights his smoker, even for the quickest easiest checks. The smoke from a smoker calms and subdues the bees and encourages them to focus on the hive and stores instead of you as the threat. If the bees are focusing on you as a threat it will soon get unpleasant. There are many different fuels, but you want a non-toxic, cool, billowing white smoke, to waft over your bees. We use bits of light, dry, rotten wood, dry grass to make a fire in the bottom of the smoker then top with a clump of green grass to ensure the smoke stays cool and to stop sparks or embers being blown out with the smoke. Other suitable fuel include hessian sacking, egg boxes, hay/straw or corrugated cardboard, but we prefer  the cooler less pungent smoke from dry grasses and dry bits of wood.  A smoker acts like a chimney, it takes a while to warm, once warm the flu works well and will stay alight all day if need be with the regular addition of fuel. Straight after lighting be prepared to pump the bellows often to help it warm up and stay alight. Also keep an eye on the heat of the smoke, as it gets more efficient the fire will burn hotter, you don’t want to be scorching your bees or melting the delicate wax honeycomb as you inspect. If it gets too hot, open the smoker top and add a clump of green grass.

Remember not to leave your smoker on its side, as it will go out and do not leave a lit smoker on the now commonly used polystyrene roofs, otherwise it will do a lot of damage.


Get a helper to keep the smoker lit and to smoke the bees

When you approach the hive for inspection try to not stand in the way of the entrance, so as not to disrupt the flight path nor have thousands of bees settling on you, but stand to the side and gently waft smoke across the entrance then into the entrance wait a moment then take the roof off and smoke under the corner of the crown board as you lift it off then again over the top of the frames. After inspecting each frame smoke where you replace it so as not to crush bees with the frame ends.

Other essential pieces of kit include :

Hive tool – with a flat broad blade on one side and a j type hook on the other end.  Good for levering up frames and boxes without damaging the wood.

Your Suit, gloves and gauntlets.

Collect and set out ready everything you might need before starting the inspection. eg queen excluder, supers, treatments or feed etc so as not to have to keep going backwards and forwards to your shed or car.