I do a 50/50 thing with wood pellets and pine straw. I put a couple hand fulls of pellets in the smoker then use a torch to light them up. When a fair amount of burning happens I pack the rest of the smoker with pine straw. I have a small smoker and it will stay lit for atleast an hour and even then I have to dump everything out on the dirt and douse with water when I am done using it.
I also believe that the different types of pellets burn different. The cheap pellets from the big box stores suck, even when using them in the pellet stoves. They are high in ash and residue. I buy the premium pine pellets from our feed store and they not only smell good, they dont gum the smoker up as bad. At $6.50 for a 40# bag, its worth every penny and should last a long time!
Im not a seasoned beekeeper, but I have practiced lighting the smoker a lot since I started using smoke on my inspections!!
Coyote Creek Bees
I love using pellets. I use them in both of my smokers, one with an inside can like Beregondo describes and one without. I get mine lit by starting 1 loosly wadded sheet of newspaper on fire and shoving it in the bottom, then I add a tightly wadded news sheet followed by a large handful of pellets. I get those pellets going good with a half dozen heavy pumps and let sit a couple of mins and couple more heavy puffs. Then I fill it up with pellets (3-4" more) and give the bellows 2 or 3 full slow blows and again a min or so later. I throw a handfull of balled up grass/weeds (green) on top and close it up. I like to use short puffs when smoking the bees and give the smoker 1 long deep puff when I set it down. You can get the smoke really hot if you are giving the bellows full pumps which is why I use short puff of smoke. The smoke I get is dense and cool and will burn for 4 or 5 hours without messing with it at all. I place it in a metal can in the back of my pickup and move between yards without having to add fuel or relite.
As for residue, I haven't really noticed too much of a problem. I've been using pellets for 2 full seasons now and although its dark inside my smokers they don't have any real buildup.
I'm a fan.
I have a pellet stove and when we were shopping for it, a vendor told us to soak some pellets in rubbing alcohol for lighting the stove. It puffs them up and adds quick starting fuel. Not sure you want to smoke bees with rubbing alcohol, but I've done a similar thing using a little water instead of rubbing alcohol to let them puff out, get crumbly and dry off. Then I wrap a bunch of the crumbly pellets in newspaper and light it up.
When I use pellets I light them with a propane torch (I pretty much always use a torch to get my smoker going) and then, after the pellets get hot I cover them with grass. The moist grass makes a LOT of smoke.
"My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"