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Why is a Bee Smoker Used

Mukulika Mukherjee
If you're planning to start beekeeping as a hobby, then the bee smoker is one thing that you possibly can't do without. A bee smoker is a simple device used to generate smoke that calms the bees down. Read on to know more about why a bee smoker is used.
A bee smoker is a small container in which you burn some fuel along with dead branches and leaves, to produce smoke. It consists of three parts: the metal cylinder, the lid with the nozzle, and the bellows. You need to put the fuel inside the cylinder, light a fire and close the lid.
The inside of the smoker is deficit in oxygen and this causes the fuel to burn slowly, releasing a steady cloud of smoke. While you can choose any kind of fuel, just stay away from using chemically treated fuels because the smoke from such fuels can be toxic for the bees.
If you find the smoke thinning out, all you need to do is squeeze the bellows to let air inside the smoker. If you are left wondering how a smoker works, then keep reading.

How Does a Bee Smoker Work

The purpose of a bee smoker is to release warm smoke into the beehive, which has a soothing effect on the bees. But how can smoke help calm bees and why and when would one need to calm the bees, you may ask. Well, the exact reason still remains a mystery. However, animal behavior experts say that there are two factors that are probably responsible.
One is the fact that every beehive has several worker bees and their duty is to safeguard the colony from outside threats. When a few bees perceive potential threat, they release chemical scents known as pheromones that alert the other bees and in no time, the entire colony is ready to attack.
However, smoke reduces the ability of the bees to detect the scent of the pheromones and this prevents the bees from coming together against the attacker. This way you, the beekeeper, can safely have a look at the beehives inside the wooden boxes.
The other reason goes like this. When the bees detect the presence of smoke in their hive, they conclude that there is a fire somewhere. After all, even we humans associate smoke with fire, isn't it? For the fear that they might have to evacuate the hive some time soon, all the bees begin feeding on the honey in the hive.
This is because it takes the bees months of painstaking effort to collect all the honey and store it within the small hexagonal cells of the hive, and they do not wish to leave it all behind. Since the bees get busy feeding on the honey, there really isn't anybody left to fend for the security of the hive. Poor creatures!

How to Use a Bee Smoker

If you are planning to take up beekeeping as a hobby, learning how to use a bee smoker is sure to help you. The first step is to light a fire using tinder (substances that catch fire easily). Dry remains of plants make for excellent tinder, as also paper and natural fibers such as cotton.
Once the fire is ignited, add the fuel to the smoker. You can use diverse materials such as scrap newspapers and cardboard, wood, pine needles, etc as fuel but most people prefer burlap, a fabric made from natural jute fibers. Once you see smoke emerging from the nozzle of the smoker, hold it for a few minutes in front of the wooden box containing the hive.
Then carefully remove the lid of the box, hold the smoker such that the smoke fills the box and then replace the lid. After a few minutes, observe the activity of the bees to find out if they are aggressive. If they are, then let in more of the smoke to get the desired results.
However, it is not necessary that the smoke has the same effect on the bees every time. If, in any case, you find that the bees are not responding to the smoke, the best thing to do is call a professional.
Hope this information on bee smokers was helpful. Before going dangerously close to beehives, always remember to wear protective gear to protect your eyes and face from painful bee stings. But if you are really passionate about caring for these busy social insects, then go ahead. Gather all the tools required for beekeeping and get started!