A bee smoker is the device beekeepers use to puff smoke into their hives. This smoke doesn’t harm bees, it just interferes with their sense of smell so that they don’t react to alarm pheromones. Bee smokers are usually referred to as “smokers” for short. Beekeepers use smoke to keep bees calm during hive inspections. When bees sense danger, they release an alarm pheromone called isopentyl acetate from a gland near their stingers. This chemical wafts through the air and alerts other bees to be ready to attack. Smoking a beehive masks this pheromone, allowing the beekeeper to safely perform a hive inspection. This can be used on beekeeping boxes.
A smoker consists of three main parts: the bellow, nozzle, and fire chamber. The bellow attached to the fire chamber allows you to restrict the flow of oxygen. This means you can keep your smoker lit for a long time and control the smoke. Just squeeze the bellow to get a puff of smoke from the nozzle. It’s hard to believe there was ever a time where beekeepers worked without smokers! But it wasn’t until 1873 that Moses Quinby, the father of American beekeeping, first invented the smoker.
How to use Bee Smoker
The best inspection is one where you and the bees feel safe. Stings can kill bees and sure aren’t fun for humans! That’s what makes smokers so important. Here’s how to use one properly:
Pack plenty of fuel into the smoker. You don’t want it to go out in the middle of an inspection.
Puff a bit of smoke at the entrance of the hive prior to opening the cover. Think of this as letting your bees know, “Hey, I’m coming in!”
Smoke isn’t a substitute for being gentle, calm, and smart. Be mindful when inspecting bees and only work the hive on days with good weather.
Don’t use too much smoke. Unless you’re working with a particularly aggressive colony, a few puffs is all it takes.
If you get stung, smoke the area. Once a bee stings, you can be certain others will get upset and begin to sting too. This is where smoke helps.