I've always found Bee Source to be a great place to find out about equipment, and having just gone and spent a ridiculously large amount of money on the Bee-Z-Smoker, I thought I'd return the favor and post about it, since it doesn't look like anyone's posted anything about it for a couple of years. Full disclosure: I have nothing to disclose. I just saw this in the Mann Lake catalog, after a particularly trying day with a couple stings and a smoker that, like usual, wouldn't stay lit, and I said hey, it's an equipment expense, I can deduct it, and spent (lots!) of money on a whim. I've never even heard of this company before. I don't know who they are, where they're from, or whose garage they're probably working out of.
But look out, because I'm going to gush. I am in loooove, in a middleschool-crush kind of way. This smoker makes me happy. I want to go check on the bees ALL THE TIME now. I want to give it a nickname. I want to tuck it into bed with me next to the teddy bear.
Okay, maybe not. I'd wake up smelling like a forest fire. But this thing WORKS, better than their hokey video would have you believe. I've had bees for nine years, and have never mastered the smoker. I have a dozen hives, in three yards, none at my house. To get a regular smoker to that sweet spot has always taken me about twenty minutes, and since I often have kids waiting in the car while I check the bees, this is _not_ time I usually have to spend. I also have to extinguish it before I throw it back in the minivan, or the car smells for days, and I worry about causing a grass fire on someone else's land. To combat these problems, I've been using those big pellets (I forget what they're called just now) because they work fast, but they don't last long enough and I run out of smoke, and either have to fumble for the matches and pellets (hard in gloves) or, more often, I just do without and end up getting stung. Upside, I get fairly resistant to the stings pretty quick, but it makes me (and the bees) all jangly. I don't get that nice calm quiet beekeeper thing going on - it's more of a "rush as fast as I can and try to get back in the car without too many angry bees to freak out the kids" kind of vibe.
The Bee-Z makes it ALL better. You pull the trigger - like a cordless flashlight trigger - and in about 10 seconds you get a few little wisps of smoke. Then you release the trigger - it's hot enough - and press the fan button. In another ten seconds, you have clouds of thick, cool smoke. Clouds. Lots. Everywhere. Enough for you to hide yourself from predators, even. I haven't run out of fuel, since I haven't worked my bees longer than 20-30 minutes at a time since I got it. To make the smoke go away, you shake the smoker and the smoldering & smoking stops. Maybe a minute later, it can go back in the car. My bees are calm and don't hate me. I'm much happier.
Main one: the other beekeepers will laugh/taunt/ridicule you. At least I think they will. Good thing beekeepers are solitary creatures.
Other cons: It looks homemade, and feels somewhat flimsy. The charger doesn't fit very tightly, and works itself loose. The screw that holds the battery door closed doesn't unscrew; the hole was stripped out when it came. But I could push it out with tweezers from my pocketknife, and it went back in fairly snugly. You only have to remove it once, when you open the box and have to put the battery pack in, and after I put it back in it hasn't worked itself out. The battery pack plastic was cracked when I got it, but that doesn't seem to affect anything.
Things I don't know: how long it will go on a single charge. I haven't taken the time to test it to its limit. It does half an hour fine. Probably it's a function of how long you leave the heating element on, since that's going to be a huge battery drain, where the fan isn't. When I get around to really running a test, I'll reply to this post. I don't know how long (years, I hope?) the battery pack or heating element will last. I don't know how resistant it will be to getting dropped - it feels a tad fragile. I'm not going to test that one, sorry.
Overall, I love this thing. So far. I will post if I change my mind. And those of you who are too cool/authentic/manly/whatever to buy one, great for you. I'm all impressed by your coolness/authenticity/manliness/whatever. But I, and my uncool mom-ness, and my tacky old minivan, are delighted with this smoker. So there.
Last edited by isaberg; 03-24-2012 at 10:28 PM.
Reason: Added my name.
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