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Using Smokers 101

Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996
From: Andy Nachbaur <andy.nachbaur@beenet.com>
Organization: WILD BEE’S BBS (209) 826-8107 LOS BANOS, CA
Subject: Re: Using Smokers 101

>This is my first year in beekeeping and I have yet to master
> the use of my smoker. I can get a fire going producing good
> smoke, but by the time I pull my gloves on, the smoker quits.
> Any advice on correct procedure here?

xxxx, I have been doing it so long I can do it in the dark with my eyes closed and I have the same problem. I believe it has something to do with the redesign of the smoker some years back to make them fire safe or something but I have learned some really neat tricks to get nice bellowing clouds of cool smoke that will last for some time on a fill up. The problem is that some of the needed ingredients may not be available to all or in all areas of the bee world.

1. There is nothing better then used press sack from a bees wax rendering plant, the more slum gum the better. It burns cool and long and does not throw a lot of sparks if the smoker is kept stuffed ahead of the fire.

2. Burlap, jute, or some cotton sacks can be used and are available in many farm areas at reasonable, (sometimes) free prices. This material can be treated with old or new oil, cheep mobil wax, even salt peter I have been told and it will burn without going out, but sometimes it will not only drive the bees out but you will find your own head in a cloud of smoke that would give a coal miner black lung. In rare cases sack from pesticide treated seed has been used, but I would not use this as it is a good way to make yourself deathly sick.

3. If you lived in the sticker bush part of Texas, there is nothing as good as dried cow dung, 2nd in my experience to old fish net. I am sure that those who have not the experience are grinning ear to ear knowing that I am putting you on, but it is true, and there is a difference between the cow dung of the sticker bush desert and that of the green grass or the irrigated cow pasture. Because of the unbelievable amount of dry material the cows of the southwest desert must consume each day the cow pies are really Texas size and contain much more heavy matter that burns cooler, longer, and with more smoke then that wet stuff the northern and eastern beekeepers are always stepping in and trying to burn in their smokers..You may have to get someone in Texas to send you a box full to try, make sure to ask for the BIG flat one’s the size and shape of a medium combination pizza from the Pizza Hut. The dry season’s production is better then the wet season. You can also lay one of these in a big flower pot filed with soil, and water and start your own Honey Mesquite or Cat Claw plants if you are interested in planting something that makes good honey, food for cattle, and the hottest burning firewood on earth. I have several full grown Mesquite trees here in California that I started that way from high quality Sonorian desert cow pies from northern Mexico.

I bet few know or even want to know that there are world class scientists that have made a lifetimes work out of studying cow pies and just have scratched the surface of the knowledge to be gained from their study, some of which has been very helpful to beekeepers in the southwest who are trying to protect the Mesquite and other sticky brush plants that provides some of the worlds best white honey from eradication by ranchers and others with little worldly knowledge other then their own selfish interests. Until you walk into a court house being towed by lawyers from the Sierra Club, friendly newspaper writers, and other experts to introduce into evidence sworn scientific testimony from a scat scientist you have not walked in the shoes of the true American environmentalist beekeeper para legal..or into the lion’s den.

Anyway over the years I have learned that there is nothing a beekeeper has not tried to burn in his smoker as there is not much that he has not tried when caught short in the tall grass without any ‘nice and soft’ including the leaves of the poison oak plant. It’s all a matter of whats at hand and experience, good judgement, and personal preference. I liked pressed paper egg cartons when I was in junior high and had one hive that I never did learn how to keep alive until I worked several summers for a commercial beekeepers as a beekeeper louse or gopher…

ttul, the OLd Drone

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