A beekeeping smoker, or just called a smoker, is a tool to produce smoke in the attempt to calm down bees. The basic principle is smouldering some fuel, which is the flameless type of combustion of the fuel.
Calming bees using smoke has been practiced since long ago in ancient times. Although it has been practiced that long, scientific studies could not satisfactorily explain why and how the bees can be calmed down by smoke.
A clear explanation is that smoke can disguise alarm pheromones. These pheromones are released by the guard bees signaling the presence of an intruder. Injured bees during an inspection of a beekeeper could release these alarm pheromones as well.
While the smoke interrupts the defense mechanism of the bee colony, the beekeeper can freely and easily open and manage the beehives. Smoke is also a false alarm to the bees that initiates a feeding response. The bees get alert and feed themselves with honey as an anticipation of leaving the hive which they think is on fire. The distended abdomen due to honey over-eating makes it hard for the bees to bend their body when stinging.
A typical beekeeping burning smoker includes also a below, which is a tool to deliver pressurized air in a manageable quantity directed to a certain point or area. In recent years there are some suggestions to get rid of the impractical burning smoker where you have to light up the burner and squeeze the below.
Those artificial smokes are sold in liquid form and aerosol cans. The liquid smoke is a liquid concentrate that should be mixed with a certain portion of water and put in a regular spray bottle. The disadvantage of liquid smoke is that it might stain the inner side of the hive and the possibility of being contaminating the bees.
Let us go back to the burning smoker. There are many types of fuel that can be used in a beekeeping smoker. The appropriate type of fuel should be natural and free form harmful substances. The common used fuel is twine, hessian, burlap, corrugated card-board, pine needles, paper egg cartons and rotten wood. Other alternative fuels that are commercially sold are compressed cotton and pulped paper.
The fuel smoulders slowly due to the limited amount of oxygen in the smoker. A repeated squeeze of the below is needed to provide fresh air to keep the fuel burning. Smoulding provides thrifty usage of the fuel where one load of fuel can be lasting for hours.
In spite of the hassle of a burning smoker, some modification on its basic design has been applied. One of the modifications is adding an inner can which provide you with easier loading cleaning of the smoker. They also put some holes in the burner walls to facilitate air penetration. And to avoid burns, it is attached with an outer grid.
Uno Birawan is a writer and wrote a lot about beekeeping. You can find more information on other beekeeper supplies or visit his site www.thehoneybeekeeper.com
Photo: Ronnie B