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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A few weeks ago I let my smoker go out, in a hurry i didn't bother to relight it and went into a few hives with no smoke, I moved slowly and to my surprise they seemed more at ease with it. I have since noticed that if you get close enough to breath on them they flare up for just a second but settle right down. Now I don't bother to even light it or use suger spray or anything, have ya'll found this to work for you?
 

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I have no first hand experience with it, but I have read that bees like humans can be very grumpy at times and they can get very defensive when they have honey stores built up. I'd recommend following the expert advice regarding smoking the bees before entering the hive and ensuring the smoker stays lit and available during hive inspections.
 

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I heard it described best the other day "Smoking bees is the difference between someone knocking before coming into your house or just kicking in the door", now which way would you be more receptive.
 

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Like a good, compliant new beek, I acquired a smoker last year. I've used it exactly twice, and not at all this year. I have more patience handling the frames than trying to keep the stupid thing lit.

I did my first big inspection on Monday (hint: nice, sunny day) with just a sugar spritzer at hand, and I didn't need to use that either. I *ALWAYS* work my bees from behind, go slowly & smoothly, and try to disrupt their work as little as possible. I had exactly two bees fly up & buzz me, and one returned almost immediately to the hive. The other one left a few minutes later. The rest of the hive never even noticed I was there.

I can see using the smoker if they start getting consistently aggressive, but for right now, I'm leaving it on the shelf.
 

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I heard it described best the other day "Smoking bees is the difference between someone knocking before coming into your house or just kicking in the door", now which way would you be more receptive.
I like to think of myself as a well trained servant who comes quietly into the room, tidies up, and the gentry never even notices my presence. ;)
 

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I like to think of myself as a well trained servant who comes quietly into the room, tidies up, and the gentry never even notices my presence. ;)
Lifting the hive top is like opening the drawn curtains in the room. Examining the frames is like dangling the guests out the newly opened window. They certainly notice that you are there.

The question then is what is their mood as you go about your business? Hopefully they remain quite calm. Should any of the bees release an alarm pheromone there is no smoke to block that communication to the other bees. And with the smoker unlit and back on the shelf there is nothing to be done to change that situation.

I wish you luck but I don't recommend that any newcomers practice what you are preaching.
 

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Point taken. If the girls seem the least grumpy, I have no objections to using the smoker. I'd just rather not if I don't have to. I've seen how they react with & without smoke, and they just seem less agitated without--for now.
 

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Calm hives are calm hives...with or without smoke.
Hot hives are hot hives...with or without smoke.

My calm hives remain calm after opening them. Sure there's always a couple of "hot heads" in the group. But otherwise they're fine without smoke...as long as I am deliberate in my movement.

I just requeened a hot hive cause I was so sick of the girls following me back to the car.

So, all this to say that I am going smokeless alot these days...but I keep the smoker in the vehicle just in case!
 

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My opinions are mostly formed from what I have read in books. My observations as a beekeeper have only been since installing my first colony on April 17th.

That being said, I think there is a balance to be struck between the truth you have observed about the bees negative reaction to smoke and the recommendation that the books put forth about never going to a hive without a lit smoker.

I think Kim Flottum, in his book "The Backyard Beekeeper" strikes this balance. In instructing his readers on opening a colony Mr. Flottum says "Before you begin, make doubly certain your smoker is burning well, but give it a reassuring puff every few minutes, just to be sure." Sounds like he's ready to smoke the heck out of them.

He goes on to say "When everything's assembled, you're ready to puff the tiniest puff of smoke into the front door." On removing the inner cover he says "Puff a half puff or so of smoke into the center hole before you remove it." He encourages patience to let the little bit of smoke used do its thing before proceeding.

This sounds to me like good advice. Have your smoker ready and use it sparingly. Can we agree?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I agree most with the statement " cool hives are cool hives & hot hives are hot hives". Every hive has its own temperment as far as I have learned. If I am slow and soft with my movements and the hive is queen right I like no smoke, but a hot hive is going to be hot smoke or not, I've noticed a queenless hive there is not much that is going to slow them down. Thanks for your imput.
 

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I think it is a generalization (and potentially dangerous) to say smoke, or no smoke. As already stated, a number of factors affect a hives mood. Right now, most hives are rearing lots of brood and are peaking at their Spring nectar flow. Those are busy, happy bees. Going smokeless is not a problem.
Wait a couple of month when those hives have a huge population, no nectar flow, large stores of honey, and a hot day. There will be questions and discussions here about hot hives and aggressive bees. Being a good beek is learning the cycles of your bees, and what to expect from them. The fact that centuries of beekeepers have used smoke to manage their hives should say a lot. :)
 

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I think it is a generalization (and potentially dangerous) to say smoke, or no smoke.
So you would disagree with all the writers of books I have read (4) and most probably numerous others who make the generalization that you should always have a lit smoker when you visit a hive; that next to a veil, it is the most important tool in your arsenal?

I think this generalization should be made and made emphatically. This is Beekeeping 101. I don't particularly care if a beekeeper uses a smoker or not. But I would think there are many inexperienced beekeepers seeking advice in this forum and on such a basic issue, the advice should be resoundingly clear: don't perform a hive inspection without a lit smoker.
 

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So you would disagree with all the writers of books I have read (4) and most probably numerous others who make the generalization that you should always have a lit smoker when you visit a hive; that next to a veil, it is the most important tool in your arsenal?
Maybe I was not clear. I emphatically support the use of smoke every time a hive is opened.

My point was that the hive changes as the seasons do, and those that think they do not need to smoke now, will change their mind later in the summer. To quote myself,"The fact that centuries of beekeepers have used smoke to manage their hives should say a lot." :)
 

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It can be hard to predict ahead of time just how the bees are going to react to you so it pays to be prepared - always have it at least ready to light should you need it - and even more so - if you find yourself wishing you had your smoker - stop what you are doing and get it! I did an open hive today with 8 college students and the bees were great - I didn't mind when the smoker went out halfway through - not a big deal.

The next yard however was a different story. Eight 1 story deeps containing 4 frame nucs installed last week. I was just going to slide the inner cover back to give myself access to the division board feeder. I hadn't counted on a frame or two being propalized to the inner cover and before I knew it I was covered in angry bees. I kept going - two other hives had fastened frames to the inner cover - and by the time I was done I must have had 60+ stingers decorating my jeans.

The smoker was in the box in my pickup. I had used the last of my fuel in the previous yard. Never again.

(To make matters worse the farmer who owns this location was cultivating a near by field while laughing and telling me that I sure had pissed those bees off - as if I didn't know. 10 minutes before I opened the first hive he had been telling me how gentle and friendly they were)
 

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"I moved slowly and to my surprise they seemed more at ease with it."

Many years ago, in the early 1960's or so, it was unheard of to go near a colony of honey bees without protection of some kind. Today, I am also somewhat surprised that I can sit right by the entrances and watch their comings and goings without being stung. Is this because of 30-40 years of requeening/selection for more unagressive bees,..I don't know.

All things in moderation,.+ be prepared,.. is my motto in regards to using the smoker or not.
 

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Why risk the time, effort, the pain and the heat? If you piss the hive off, it might be days before you can return & I just don't have the time. When I set a time to inspect the hives, that's exactly what I want to do & smoke allows me to do that on my time.

I always bring a spray bottle with syrup that seems to help keeping them boiling over.

Because of weather, I had to postpone my package-hiving a couple of days. I knew they needed some water, so I sprayed them about 3X daily. In the package, they were buzzing their heads off, but just one light spritz from the water bottle calmed the whole cluster - it works for me.
 

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With bees, it all depends. I often do SOME tasks without even bothering to find the smoker but if I intend to spend anything more than just a little time, they get smoked. Especially in the fall. I guess I should say that you don't need a smoker...until you need a smoker! :D
 

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Many times, beginner beekeepers have such a difficult time keeping a smoker lit that when it is lit, they have it blazing like a blast furnace. If it isn't belching fire, the smoke is still hot enough to anger the bees.

No smoke might be better than smoke like that.

If you can pick nice weather to work the hive, and in the spring with a nice nectar flow when the hive is building up, you may be able to get away with no smoke.

Later in the summer when you have several times the population, no nectar flow, etc. you may find cool smoke a much more useful tool. However, if you are still using a blast furnace smoker, the bees will still get upset.

I've heard of old timers working their bees with only a lit cigar as their smoker.

Even if you don't use the smoker, it's still good practice to have a lit smoker with you. If you get to where you can light the smoker and keep it going now, once the day comes that you do need the smoke, you're much less likely to be using a blast furnace on them. You will have nice cool smoke to puff on them.
 
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