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Cotton as a smoker fuel?

2819 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  BoBn
Disclaimer: While I'm a long time beekeeper, I openly admit I'm not an authority and know increasingly little on the subject of beekeeping. While I don't use chemicals in my hives, I'm by no means an environmentalist nor do I encourage others to follow suit, the purpose of this post is to stimulate thought on the subject of using cotton as smoker fuel.

For many years, I've used cotton as a smoker fuel source. In recent years, i switched to using raw cotton from a bee equipment supplier. This past summer after opening the hives and smoking the bees, I noticed thousands of bees crawling in the grass and unable to fly. At that point I switched fuel and haven't observed the crawling since that time. I'm not sure there was a cause and effect there but I removed cotton anyway.

I've been thinking about cotton as a fuel. Cotton has traditionally been a crop which is treated with a lot of insecticide. In more recent years, GM (Genetically Modified) cotton has made the scene and the plant makes it's own insecticide which is found in all parts of the plant by some accounts.

Could beekeepers using cotton as a smoker fuel be inadvertently fumigating their hives with low levels of insecticide?

"...Most GM cotton crops worldwide are engineered with Bt for resistance to insect pests... ‘Bollgard’ carries the cry1Ac gene from soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, (Bt) to produce a toxin that kills some cotton pests including the boll weevil."
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I live in cotton country in the TX panhandle. I've never used cotton or raw cotton fiber as smoker fuel. I do use cotton burrs which is a by-product of the ginning process. It contains some lint, stems, hulls etc. Most all the producers around here are now using BT cotton. In three years I have never seen my bees have a bad reaction to cotton burr smoker fuel.

What is the source of your cotton fiber? Are you sure it hasn't been treated with something during processing?

I may be wrong, but isn't the bacillus thurengensis toxin the same thing that's in the Xentari powder Barry sells to treat stored combs against wax moth attact? If it is, it is non toxic to bees.
I have used old raw cotton for years and never noticed any problems, but I never bought any. Raw cotton was used for stuffing in old chairs and sofas.

Bacillus thurengensis is a bacteria. It is species specific and should not be the problem and shouldn't be active in smoke. Send a note to the supplier just in case other people are having problems.
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