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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Conifer, CO
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    6

    Default Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    I live in the mountains of Colorado and am new to beekeeping. I live in a high fire danger area where dropping a smoker could have some serious consequences. So far I have been able to get by without using a smoker while inspecting my hives but I know that will probably not be the case later this summer as the bees become more protective of the hive. Fire restrictions will most likely go into effect later this summer and I will not legally be able nor want to chance using a smoker as embers can come out of the top and bellows area of the smoker.

    Are there any alternatives to the conventional smoker? Last weekend I used a spray bottles and sprayed the top of the hive with a light mist of water that encouraged the bees to move down in the hive as I put the feeder back on but it did nothing for the bees buzzing around the hive.

    I was hoping there is something that is not harmful to the bees or the environment similar to a smoker but does not have the risk of starting a raging wildfire.

    Thanks for any input. -Jack

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Larimer County, CO
    Posts
    501

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    could you put a piece of very fine screen (like window screen maybe) inside the smoker to keep embers from booming out the entrance?
    I'm the dude, so that's what you call me.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Conifer, CO
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Thanks for the response. I have considered that and it is definitely an option until the fire restrictions go in place. Once we are under fire restrictions I won't even consider lighting the smoker as I will be liable for any property that burns if the worst case becomes a reality.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gaston, SC
    Posts
    272

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    look on Brushy Mountain's web site they have what they call "liquid Bee Smoker" - mix with a gallon of water and spray - can be stored mixed or just mix what you need

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Conifer, CO
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    6

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Thanks BeeGeorge. I'll give the Liquid Smoke a try.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
    Posts
    1,388

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    I have put window screen in as an ember guard before. it gets gunked up real easy. We are not supposed to have open fires when the burn ban is on, but since they allow charcoal grills I don't worry about the smoker too much. I do watch the amount of smoke I put out. Don't want to call attention to myself. Now when the fire danger goes up to Extreme and the higher level restrictions come into play, no smoker. By that time, the bees are usually in dearth mode and opening them is a bad idea anyway.

    I have thought about getting one of those electric smokers Mann Lake sells, so I don't have to light anything and there is nothing really burning unless the trigger is pulled. Never used one, but pretty sure that's how they operate.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gaston, SC
    Posts
    272

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    I cannot vouch for how good it is,, since I have never used it,, but, I would think it is worth a try in your situation,,

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Caldwell, Idaho, USA
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    I have used a spray bottle with sugar syrup with several drops each of lemongrass oil and spearmint oil in it, enough to make it have pretty strong smell. I spray it around on the inside walls, not really on the bees. It seems to work all right. I used that my whole first year last year, still sometimes when I'm too lazy to light my smoker. I have also worried about fire....pretty dry here too.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    721

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Whenever we go on fire restrictions I call the local and rural fire departments and tell them that I use a smoker, that it's part of my job, and that it can sometimes be the difference between 5 stings and 100 stings. So every summer I submit or tell them my contingency plan which is basically having a dry chemical fire extinguisher, a water filled extinguisher, a bucket of water with gunny sacks in it and a metal 5 gallon bucket that I can set my smoker in when I'm not using it and can also be sealed for transport. I have to keep a cell phone (in case of fire) and I call prior to doing a cut out or trap out and tell them the address of the property where I'll be working. However I'm on the prairie and you're in the tinderbox so... I would look into liquid smoke, spraying them with sugar water, or even a fume board.
    Zone 5a @ 4700 ft. High Desert
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Aurora, CO USA
    Posts
    129

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    MtnBeek, I was working for ABC News yesterday down in Colorado Springs, that is a nasty fire they have burning down there right now. So I feel your pain. I've lived my entire life in Colorado and understand your apprehension to using your smoker, but here's a couple of ideas to try.

    1) Rake up all pine needles and clear all dried brush from around your hive(s). Get down to the gravelly, granite base, if need be bring in some more gravel and surround your hives in that for about 4 or 5 feet around. Kind of a "defensible space" idea that mountain homes should have anyway up there.

    2) Hook up a hose to a sprayer before lighting the smoker, wet everything down around the hives and then keep the hose close at hand just in case.

    3) Once you are done using the smoker, use your hive tool and mash down all embers in the smoker and wash it out with water in a safe clean up area with that gravel around your hives.

    I think if you follow basic camp fire management practices with your much smaller smoker, then I think you'll be fine. Just be safe.

    Good luck!!

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    Last edited by ChasWG; 06-13-2013 at 04:06 PM.
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    Chas Gordon

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,974

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Didn't one of our members make a liquid smoke atomizer or mister or something?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Larimer County, CO
    Posts
    501

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    thinking back on it, you better seek out the liquid or electric options to use at some point. while the window screen is a good idea while you can still have fires, larimer county got so dry last summer (especially during the high park fire) that ALL fires were banned: charcoal grills, fire pits, welding, etc. - any flame outside was illegal, not to mention extremely dangerous because of the tinder-like conditions, especially in the hills. when that happens, you won't even be able to light your smoker.
    I'm the dude, so that's what you call me.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Spicewood, Texas, USA
    Posts
    232

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Dear Jack:

    The easiest solution??? SUIT UP! We were evacuated in the Spicewood, TX, wildfire two years ago. I won't risk it among our trees, dry leaves and super-flammable cedars. I've never used a smoker, and never will take the risk as long as I live here. I suit up, and have never once been stung through my suit. My bees have only been nasty twice in two years, so I don't consider smoking them to be a requirement. Suiting up, for me, WILL always be a requirement as long as we live here.

    It's just too dry here to risk use of a smoker, in my opinion.

    Sondra

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Conifer, CO
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Quote Originally Posted by SRBrooks View Post
    Dear Jack:

    The easiest solution??? SUIT UP! We were evacuated in the Spicewood, TX, wildfire two years ago. I won't risk it among our trees, dry leaves and super-flammable cedars. I've never used a smoker, and never will take the risk as long as I live here. I suit up, and have never once been stung through my suit. My bees have only been nasty twice in two years, so I don't consider smoking them to be a requirement. Suiting up, for me, WILL always be a requirement as long as we live here.

    It's just too dry here to risk use of a smoker, in my opinion.

    Sondra
    Hi Sondra,

    Thanks for the reply. Suiting up I guess will be my best option. Since I am new to beekeeping I don't really know what to expect later in the summer when my bee population gets bigger. So far they have been so docile I question the need for a veil.

    -Jack

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Conifer, CO
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Wildfire danger and alternatives to smoker

    Thanks all for the great suggestions. So far my bees have been gentle with me and I have not been stung. I have used a spray bottle with plain water when they seem to be getting a little more aggressive and that has taken care of it. I'm sure it will change soon though...

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