I'm a new bee keeper. One month into the "hobby". How do I keep the smoker lit? How do I know when NOT to use the smoker. I think I'm over smoking. Could I actually burn the bees if I'm not careful. Any other bits of mojo or wisdom feel free to add.
Keeping your smoker lit can be tricky. First of all, it is much easier to keep the larger smokers lit for a longer period. The smaller smokers (Hobby smokers) tend to burn out much faster.
Rather than using a match or lighter, get a propane blow torch. These are pretty cheap. I got one at Lowes for about twenty bucks and it has a trigger that emitts a spark to lite the torch. One of these blow torches will save you tons of frustration.
One of the most common mistakes is filling the smoker and liting it until it flames. Then closing it up and expecting it to stay lit. The key is to get some sticks or twigs red hot. It is very much like starting a camp fire. Start by lighting small kindling. Let it burn a little until it gets nice and hot. Next, add some bigger kindling. Pump the bellows slowly. You don't need to make it pant like a dog to keep it lit.
Once you have some glowing red fuel at the bottom of your smoker, you can add something that smokes well. I like to use pine needles, but use whatever is available in you area.
Once the fuel burns up, you will have to restart your smoker. To avoid this, I like to add a couple of pieces of twigs every 15 minutes or so.
Another mistake is commonly made by packing the pine needles (or whatever you use) too tightly. The fuel needs to be able to breathe.
Even with this advice, the smoker does need attention. You can't just light it and expect it to burn forever. I tend to open the lid and check the smoker after inspecting a hive or two. It is a lot easier to keep it going rather than starting it up again.
I've had good luck with alfalfa pellets and also wood pellets (we have a pellet stove).
I use a long handled lighter (Kitchen lighter or whatever they are called) and small piece of paper I tear off the feed sack and toss it in...by the time the paper burns down the alfalfa pellets/wood pellets are smoking.
We're not all as rich as LaRae. If you have a pine forest near you take a 5 gal bucket and fill it with pine needles. Can you or is Manitoba all Plains? Since I live in a pine forest, that's my experience. I just pick them up off the ground when I want to lite it. Old burlap bags burn well. Old Rope also. Then Practice. Like other things, the more your practice the better you get. you may feel funny practicing playing with fire but it'll work for you.
Also smoke the entrance before you take off the top. Then smoke the tops of the frames after the telescoping top is off. you should see all the bees run down into the frames. ass they peep back over the tops smoke em again. they'll run back down. That's the game. keep their heads down with the smoke. If you can''t do it with smoke, sometimes I will use a spray bottle of sugar water. If neither works, requeen.
When you lite up with wood, sticks or whatever, add a piece of charchol from your BQ. I toss in at least one or two. This way I can operate my small (hobby) smoker for a couple of hours and just stuff in dry grass and sticks when needed.
I am saving for a Rauchboy.
You can modify yours by following Michael Bush's idea below. I did it and it really helps keep it going.
All you need is a older style Chunky soup can (all metal) and put holes in it any way you can. Notice the legs made at the bottom and sides. These keep the can elevated and away from the sides and provide lots of air.
"You can modify yours by following Michael Bush's idea below. I did it and it really helps keep it going."
With all due respect to both of you, MB and Sundance, but the can in can idea does not belong to Mr. Bush. I recall reading about this and have researched this and the earliest I can find is a post to Bee-L in September of 1995 - The Frugal Beekeeper. I'd just like to set the record straight. If you want to give credit then I would say the idea belongs to Kerry Clark in BC Canada.
Another product you could try is "smoker fuel" sold at Brushy Mountain Bee Supply in NC. It's sold by the pound and not to terribly expensive. It's a little tricky lighting it at first but once it gets going it produces a long lasting cool smoke. I like throwing a pinch in my smoker with a torn piece of blue jeans, twigs, needles, etc. And as they say, practice makes perfect.
Great article on smoke Jim Fischer. I have not used a smoker this year at all. I lit it a couple of times, but never actually needed it.
I work my frames with no problems. I use a veil, but no gloves. I think it is something that prehistoric man did, back in the day. How else was he going to get that honey? It has been passed down to us as "rule"
The old Root smokers featured an internal can, as described. Helps improve air flow. Wood pellets are nice, as they smoulder for a long time. One fillup will last hours. The trick is to get a good hot bed of coals going first, in the bottom of the smoker, using a less dense fuel (pine needles, dry leaves or whatever). Let that cook for a few minutes and then gradually add the pellets, keeping the bellows going. It can help to mix in some of the initial, fast burning fuel with the pellets as you add them. Then a handful of grass on top will help keep the hot pellets from rolling out of the nozzle when the smoker is tipped forward.
I don't use smoke much. When I think of how finely balanced the pheromones are in the hive I don't like disrupting that. Of course most big hives require it if you are going deep. I can slip supers on & off without it. If you're new you are probably using too much. Go slow, dont snap or knock the hive and only use it if you need it.
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