Have you ever wondered: How do beekeepers keep from being stung? Considering that one out of every three people is afraid of insect bites, it’s a very common question. Getting stung while one is inspecting and caring for a hive is, however, relatively rare.
Smoke is the main player in a low sting rate. Smoke calms the bees enough to allow the beekeeper to safely perform inspections and capture swarms. A bee smoker, simply put, is a contraption used to puff smoke into a hive. In fact, bee smokers are considered essential pieces of equipment for any beekeeping gig. The importance of a quality bee smoker can’t be understated.
Why Does Smoke Keep Bees Calm?
Bees have a special ability to release certain pheromones into the air to alert other bees of danger. These pheromones act as an alarm response system to all the other bees, calling on them to be ready to attack anything that appears harmful to the hive. Certain pheromones will create instant alerts across the hive. When smoke is released into the air, the bees can no longer detect these pheromones, as the smoke interferes with their pheromone receptors.
Of course, you need to know how to operate your bee smoker properly. Used properly, a smoker allows you to control the smoke in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the hive. And hive conservation is what it’s all about.
Qualities of the Best Bee Smokers
Bee smokers are relatively inexpensive, and they’re not complicated machines, either. But here are a few things to look for when you’re searching for a quality bee smoker:
- Good-quality metal that will withstand being dropped
- A smoker with a metal cage around it, which will prevent you from being burned
- A storage hook that will keep it off the ground and prevent you from kicking or knocking it around. Storing the smoker correctly will provide it with a long life.
- Flexible bellows that aren’t too strong for your hand dexterity. Some bellows materials are more flexible than others. If you can, see how hard it is to pump the bellows before you buy the smoker.
Types of Smoker Fuels
A smoker needs fuel, and we’re not talking about a liquid. Cotton, burlap, cloth, wood pellets, pithy wood, dried sumac, flower heads, and corn cobs are all types of commercially produced smoker fuel. Commercial smoker fuel products are available from beekeeping supply stores. They usually produce a light, puffy smoke.
Some beekeepers even use natural pine needles. The smell is enticing, and the needles can be readily available around the home or hive. It might be a good idea to collect extras during the dry season and keep them in a five-gallon bucket for when dry pine needles aren’t readily available.
We hope this brief guide has helped you discover the importance of a quality bee smoker. It’s a necessary tool that every beekeeper should have for safety.