What Is The Best Fuel for a Bee Smoker? [BEEKEEPER 101]

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If you keep bees, it’s important to make sure that you have a reliable smoker. But, for the smoker to be effective, you’ll need to be using the right fuel. But what is the best type of fuel for a bee smoker?

There are a few types of smoker materials you can use. Some of the most popular include; cotton, dried herbs, pine needles, wood pellets, cardboard, and paper. You need to make sure that the material you use will be non-toxic, so you don’t hurt the colony.

The types of materials you are using in your smoker will determine how effective it is. Keep reading to learn some tips on how you can get the most out of your smoker.

Importance of a Bee Smoker

Anyone who works with bees will need to have a reliable smoker. The smoke will stop the bees from defending their hive. This ensures that they won’t try to sting you, ensuring that all your bees will survive.

It works by making the bees think that there is a fire outside. The natural response to this is to eat the honey they have been producing. This causes them to become lethargic and docile. As a result, they won’t have the energy required to try and attack you. Furthermore, the smoker will allow you to hide your scent as you are walking towards the hive.

Why Does the Fuel Used in a Smoker Matter?

The fuel that you are using in your smoker is important. This will determine the way that the bees respond to it. Using the right materials will keep the bees relaxed. However, not everything that makes smoke will be a choice. Some types of fuels will release harmful chemicals. These have the potential to hurt your bees.

Best Fuels for Bee Smokers

The good news is that there are plenty of smoker fuel options that you can use in your smoker. This includes:

  • Natural materials, like dried herbs and pine needles. If you want to take these to the next level, dry them out. This will increase the amount of oil in the materials. This will produce more smoke while stopping the materials from burning out too quickly.
  • Cotton. This will burn for a long time and produce a cool white smoke. If you want, you can use pieces of cotton clothing. Alternatively, most beekeeping stores will sell cotton. These will have been specifically designed for bee smokers.
  • Wood pellets. These are known for lasting a long time. Plus, they are freely available and tend to be relatively inexpensive. You just need to get the plain version. While the flavored version might be good for grilling, it won’t have any impact on the way the bees react to the smoke.
  • Cardboard rolls. This is a great way of recycling. Plus, they can be an effective way of getting the fire started.
  • Paper

How to Find the Best Fuel for Your Smoker

There are a few ways that you can find the right fuel to use in your smoker. Some of the elements to consider are:

  • Use natural materials. You don’t want to risk using any chemicals, which could harm the bees. Not every natural plant is a good option. Here are some of the natural flora to avoid.
  • Consider how long it will burn for. You don’t want to run out of smoke when you are trying to tend to your bees.
  • The type of smoke it produces. It’s best to get something that will make a white smoke. Black smoke will obscure your view of the hive, making it harder for you to handle the bees.
  • It should be easily available and affordable. That’s why natural herbs are such a good choice. They can be grown in the backyard without costing you anything.   

Can You Use Smoker Pellets in a Bee Smoker?

When thinking about what to use in your smoker, it’s tempting to use pellets. This might be a good solution. It will create plenty of smoke. The only thing to be concerned about is the heat that the pellets are producing. If the fire gets too hot, it could start to hurt the bees.

Lighting a Bee Smoker

Once you have gathered the appropriate fuels, it’s time to light the smoker. This is fairly simple, as long as you follow the right procedure. The steps to follow are:

  1. Arrange the starter material. These are smaller pieces, which will be relatively easy to ignite. For example, you might want to tear up some strips from cardboard rolls. Light it and put it into the smoker. Pump the bellows a few times, this helps oxygen get to the material, so it burns better.
  2. Start to add bigger pieces. You want to firmly pack the material into the space. This will generate plenty of smoke. However, if you pack it in too tightly, you risk extinguishing the flame. This can be a difficult balance to get right.
  3. Close the lid and squeeze the bellows a few times. You should start to see the white smoke coming out of the top. When you see this, you are ready to start beekeeping. Though lighting the bee smoker properly might be a challenge the first few times, the more often you do it, the easier it will get.

It’s important to make sure that you aren’t using any lighter fluid when you are getting the bee smoker started. While this will allow you to get a flame quickly, it will also introduce potentially harmful chemicals. This can harm the health of your bees.

Using a Bee Smoker

Once you have the smoker going, it’s time to put it to use. First, you’ll need to pump the bellows a few times as you are approaching the hive. This will cause the smoke to waft through the area. After a few minutes, you should notice less bee activity.

Once you lift the hive, put a few puffs of smoke through the colony. This will cause most of the bees to vanish, allowing you to complete your inspection in peace. If you do notice some that are still flying around you, spray a few puffs around your outfit. If one of them stings the suit, bellow smoke at the sting. This blocks the pheromone that would normally cause other bees to attack you.

One thing to keep your eye open for is sparks coming out of the smoker. This is a sign that you are running low on fuel. This shouldn’t be a big problem. All you need to do is open the smoker and stuff some more material inside.

Cleaning a Smoker

Finally, when you light a fire, some resins might accumulate in the spout. This can limit the amount of smoke that is coming out. How much resin will be produced will depend on the type of materials that you are using. For example, pine needles are known for producing a lot of resins.

To remove these deposits, you will need to heat a screwdriver or wire brush. Then scrape it along the spout. This should allow you to remove the resin that is blocking the smoke. You’ll only have to do this once or twice a year. You’ll know it’s time when the stream of smoke gets narrower.

Final Thoughts

The bee smoker is one of the most important tools for any beekeeper. It will allow you to keep the bees away from you while you are performing an inspection, ensuring that they don’t die trying to sting you. To get the most out of the smoker, you’ll need to make sure that you are using the right fuel. The good news is that there are plenty of long-lasting, easily available options to choose from. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to look for and how to use your smoker.

About Grampa Beekeeper

Having spent a lifetime tending to bees, I now want to pass my knowledge onto the next generation of beekeepers. Beekeeping may not be fashionable, but it is my life long passion! From entrance excluders to packaged bee handling, I've got you covered! I'm not the best at writing, though, so bear with me!!

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