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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm new to beekeeping , and have been wondering if my choice of smoker fuel is causing a problem . I'm using grass hay for fuel , the guy that taught our class uses pine needles . When we were in his hives , just a small puff calmed his bees , no problems working around them . I give my bees a puff , and they get all buzzy and excited , and I end up getting stung as often as not . I keep my movements slow and deliberate , no banging on the hive or anything like that . I was in the hive today , and had one frame out of the brood box <just added a medium super a few days ago , new hive> and was starting to move frames over so I could check the ones in the center when they got excited , I got hit twice . I just stuck the frame back in , put the super back on top and closed it up .
I don't go in the hive more than necessary , usually once a week for brood check and to see how much honey they're storing for this winter . But I have GOT to be able to go in when necessary . BTW , the ladies are doing well , have comb drawn on all frames in the brood box . They're walking around on the foundation in the super , but haven't drawn any comb yet .

Snag
 

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Welcome to BeeSource!

Smoke from a smoker needs to be cool. I have no experience with hay but expect it would be on the hot side. You should be after smoldering rather than burning.

Two stings is not pleasant but shouldn't force you if properly prepared to end your inspection. In this case I think you were wise to recognize that the bees were not reacting to the smoker the way you thought they should.
 

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Pine needles calm the bees better than anything I've tried, not that I've tried much. Dead grass around the bee yard seemed to make the bees more angry then anything, as you've noticed with your hay.
 

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Your new. You'll get the hang of things if you stick w/ it. It takes a certain level of confidence and getting used to taking stings. You might find an alternative to grass brings a cooler and more consistent smoke. Grass tends to burn hot. I use bailing twine, mostly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Welcome to BeeSource!

Smoke from a smoker needs to be cool. I have no experience with hay but expect it would be on the hot side. You should be after smoldering rather than burning.

Two stings is not pleasant but shouldn't force you if properly prepared to end your inspection. In this case I think you were wise to recognize that the bees were not reacting to the smoker the way you thought they should.

I was taught to stuff the smoker full so the smoke would be cooler , and check the smoke before I smoke the bees . Last time I got stung I ended up with a 3 day run of hives ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I've been using hay because it was on hand , but I'll be gathering some pine needles to use before I go into the hive again . The beekeeper I learned from didn't make a big point of what fuel to use , said just about anything organic that smoldered would do . I know a couple of places I can pick up needles for free , just have to remember a bag next time I go out on the motorcycle .

Y'all have a great day !
Snag
 

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Terry, I'm a newbee too. I use burlap and love it. I just wanted to mention that many folks are reporting that their bees are more aggressive right now.

You'd be amazed at the threads out here in the last month that are mentioning "mean bees" or "aggressive bees." I've got really gentle Carnies, and my girls are bumping me now too. I'm going to do a quick inspect today, with ample smoke, get the tops back on and get out of there.
 

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Not criticizing Terry, but as a new beekeeper, what seems like aggressive behavior probably isn't. You just need more experience. Experience lighting and maintaining a smoker, experience being around and working bees. It takes time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Not criticizing Terry, but as a new beekeeper, what seems like aggressive behavior probably isn't. You just need more experience. Experience lighting and maintaining a smoker, experience being around and working bees. It takes time.
I'm basing my assessment of "meanness" on the way the bees acted when we were in the class . Our teacher <Ed Levi , useta be bee inspector for Arkansas> had us inside his hives and working with the bees . They were generally docile and we had no problems . When we smoked his hives , just a small puff or two and they settled right down . I try that with my hive and they get all buzzy and start flying around , and more smoke only makes them madder . I have no problems lighting the fuel and getting a nice stream of cool smoke out the spout , it just seems like it excites them more rather than calming them . I'll be picking up some pine needles before the next time I check the hive to see if that makes a difference . As I said above somewhere , I usually only go into the hive about once a week unless there seems to be a pressing reason to inspect . At the stage they're at now <as relates to moving empty frames toward the center to encourage brood> I can probably scale that back a little , but I still need to monitor how much honey they're storing for the upcoming winter .
 

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I use dried grass abundantly. Because it's free and available in excess on most days. And it burns easy.

However, it burns very hot, and not very long. You can't just put dry grass in the smoker and work with that. I'll regularly use other smoker fuel as well, such as twine, but it's important to keep the smoke cool as it exits the smoker. Piling up enough fresh (wet) grass on top of the burning dry grass can bring the smoke temperature way down. If you do this, though, you'll need to regularly check the smoke temperature and refill with fresh grass, as it will heat up, dry, and start to burn itself.
 

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I use what ever I got. but one thing I not sure I read in this thread is after you smoke your hive with a couple or three puffs of smoke, I wait till the buzzing goes back down about 2 to 3 mins this give them time to eat honey and clam down. A full bee is a happy bee.

if I smoke then go right in the hive theyll get defensive or angry if you want to call it that

my fuels are mulch from flower bed, grass, cotton, or any other natural material
 

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I'm basing my assessment of "meanness" on the way the bees acted when we were in the class .
When was this? Any hive in August is on tenterhooks compared to the April cute furry insects.

Bee become aggressive when:
1. About 2-3 weeks prior to swarming.
2. When queenless
3. When in a dearth
4. When other bees are robbing their hive
5. When overcrowded
6. When other animals (especially skunks) are bothering their hive.
7. When keepers have disturbed the order of the nest.
8. In the F2 generation of varietal crosses (e.g. grandaughters of Russian x Italians)
9. When Africanized.

A key point to remember is the guard bee caste is recruited. The number of guard bees is not fixed but is conditioned by need, but once recruited the behavior is reinforced by development hormones and is persistent.
 

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JMO, I have been able to use Aspen wood pet shavings, stuff my smoker full, light, give puffs till seeing glowing embers, puff and burn for 10 minutes or so and then I add apple wood chips or cherry wood chips full to the brim and stuffed.

Took a while to get the hang of it. So far it's pretty cheap and I smoke myself first.
 

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My bees do not seem to care about what I use for smoke very much. My local bee keeper supply guy does not recommend pine, he thinks they burn too hot. Others think they are the way to go.

I have had luck with the following. Egg Cartons - paper tear them into 2 egg strips and stack then light them, get them flaming a little then stuff some mixed leaves and dried grass or pine needles in beside them then put top on.

I only need a couple of puffs at the front, then one or two when I crack the lid, then another over the frames after I have set the lid on the ground. This is usually enough for the entire inspection.

You might have mean bees. Consider re-queening this spring if not sooner. You might have time to get winter bees that are not so mean depending on your climate.
 

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my bees are pretty aggressive defending their honey right now as we are in the middle of our dearth and its very hot out, as soon as it cools down and we get some more flow they will calm right down. not much need to inspect right now anyways, they are not really doing much during the derth.
 

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> I smoke myself first

Good advice! Also, try smoking the entrance(s), then lift the cover and puff a small amount of smoke in and put the replace the cover. Then wait for about 1 minute. Then open the hive to do your work. I admit that I normally use pine straw, so apparently that helps. But a little bit of time for the smoke to spread inside the hive and have its affect may help.
 
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