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Does anyone have a suggestion on smoker fuel? I have the pellets but they don’t seem to work, had a very upset hive this afternoon and the smoke was very week.

Something that I can get easily, such as Walmart, tractor supply, or amazon?
 

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Scrap paper to get it started -- little sticks -- bigger sticks -- enough pine straw to smother it well. In that order. Build a fire in there with the paper and sticks. Smother it with the pine straw -- pack it in til it's overfull. All free and works better than store bought.
 

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I have found the following works well:

1. drill a 3/4" hole in the bottom of the smoker and put a door on the bottom to block the hole. I have the 3/4 hole off center, and a metal flap attached to a bolt in the center.

2. put about 1/6 to 1/4 of a shreded egg carton in the bottom of the smoker (on the grate that holds stuff up a bit)

3. fill the rest of the smoker with wood pellets

4. hold a blowtorch thru the hole in the bottom for a minute or 2. After the smoker starts going pull the torch out and close the door (door may be hot)


This combo seems to go well and keep going.
 

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Go to Walmart and get a bag of cedar chips for pet bedding and a blowtorch. Add a small handful of cedar chips in your smoker and use the blowtorch to get it burning. Once burning well, add a small handful of pellets to the smoker. It will probably put out the flames but use the bellows to get the pellets started. Add some more cedar chips and another handful of pellets. Keep pumping the bellows while adding the fuel until you have enough in the smoker to support your inspections and it is smoking heavily. On top of the fuel, I add a wad of cotton husks (Mann Lake) to keep sparks from getting blown out of the smoker.
This works well for me.
 

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Hay is insanely great. Great white cool smoke. Beyond fuel, be sure you get a great smoker. Lighting should just take a couple of minutes and last for hours. Kamon has a great video comparison on YouTube.
 

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Do yourself a favor and get a propane torch with auto ignite no matter what fuel you are using. I use almost exclusively pine straw (long pine needles). Use the leftovers from last burn as a starter and pack fresh needles over top. Key is to pack them down tight so it burns long. I can light a smoker in 2 minutes and it should last three hours.
 

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Corrugated cardboard.
Free unlimited supply.
All those boxes from Amazon, etc.
Roll a piece, lit it, plug into the smoker.
 

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I’m a horse guy and I use Alfalfa cube feed when travelling, the cubes are pressed grass and quite dense. A bit of paper, a few small sticks and fill with cubes... my smoker burns for 4-5 hours and never goes out.
 

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Do yourself a favor and get a propane torch with auto ignite no matter what fuel you are using. I use almost exclusively pine straw (long pine needles). Use the leftovers from last burn as a starter and pack fresh needles over top. Key is to pack them down tight so it burns long. I can light a smoker in 2 minutes and it should last three hours.
I endorse this 100%

Some cardboard and some wood pellets give a very acrid smoke. That is a bit of a crap shoot. Pine needles are ticketty boo every time!
 

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I've tried about everything and have finally settled on sawdust - as I usually have several dustbins full of the stuff ...

I find the secret to getting a smoker to light really easily lies in the last time you use that smoker. At the end of a session, ensure there's some fuel still remaining in the smoker, and then cap the spout with something - a wad of paper, a cork - whatever's handy.

Then next time, all you need do is move some of that partially burnt fuel to one side with some sort of hive tool and drop a small piece of lighted paper down into that space. The fuel immediately ignites, and you're up and running within seconds. Add more fuel ... and you're ready for work.
LJ
 

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One important consideration that gets routinely missed - how long do you actually work your bees?
It is a 15-minute project or 150-minute project?
Do you have one hive or 50 hives?
Do you really need your smoker working for two hours non-stop when all you really need it for 2-3 quick puffs while checking a nuc?

Somehow it is assumed everyone MUST have smoker running for 2-3 hours non-stop.
Why exactly?

I don't keep more than 2-3 hives at a single spot.
With that, a smoker running for 2 hours non-stop is a nuisance in my case.
I don't need a running smoker in my van while driving.
Killing/relighting the fully loaded smoker is a hassle.

I'd prefer the smoker to run out completely in 15-20 minutes on its own so that I can just empty it out and put into my van and drive away.
If need more running time - simply add more fuel (another roll of cardboard).
 

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Pinestraw is the fuel of choice around here. it is readily available and works well. Well packed it will smolder for hours.
About once a year you need to get a propane torch and burn off the accumulated creosote.
You may want to go to your profile and add your location. Often when you ask or offer advice it is important to know where you are.
 

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I find the secret to getting a smoker to light really easily lies in the last time you use that smoker. At the end of a session, ensure there's some fuel still remaining in the smoker, and then cap the spout with something - a wad of paper, a cork - whatever's handy.
LJ
This works.

I have found that putting the smoker on it's side or even tilted slightly down works better than having it upright. Light some newspaper and slowly squeeze the bellows to keep it lit. Add your smoke material on top while puffing slowly.

For fuel I use any dry material available. Often it's lawn grass after mowing. In a day or two of sunny weather it's good. I also use dry tree leaves. I grow tobacco in my garden for an occasional cigar but have many times the dried leaves I need so I use tobacco leaves in the smoker. This is controversial for some people because nicotine is an insecticide and may harm bees. I read some research that found no ill effects, and some research that found positive effects on mite drop. No idea if it actually kills mites, but over 90% of phoretic mites fell to the floor, which sounds good to me. So, for the last three years I have been using tobacco smoke.

But really, with normal, not aggressive bees, no smoker at all works great if you move slowly and gently.
 

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..... but over 90% of phoretic mites fell to the floor, which sounds good to me. So, for the last three years I have been using tobacco smoke..
Per my non-scientific research, horse radish roots (dry) in the smoker drops mites too.
As well as hot peppers mixed in.

I found many non-scientific testimonies where all mite-control amounts to several sessions of horse radish smoking - the bees are claimed to be doing great.
Disclaimer - horse radish smoke is very aggravating.
Use at your own risk.

I planted horse radish in my garden this year just so to have it handy.
 

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Put an empty cardboard box in your trunk with a pair of gloves. Next time you drive past a bunch of pine trees along a country road pull over at a safe spot and fill up the box with dry pine needles and pine cones from the ground. Pine straw works better than anything else, and best part is it is free. Until the time you can collect a box of pine straw, a bag of hamster bedding from the pet store works well, make sure it is unscented and untreated wood shavings, you don't want those chemicals in your smoke. Small pet bedding doesn't fuel the smoker for as long as pine straw but it's cheap and easy to get. Before you close the smoker lid grab a handful of green grass, weeds, or leaves, roll them into a loose ball, and insert loosely into the smoker spout from the inside. The green foliage will cool the smoke so you don't singe any little bee wings. If you have a self igniting torch it is a big time saver. You can pre-fuel an unlit smoker with packed fuel, make a hole for the torch tip with your hive tool, shove the torch tip to the bottom of the smoker and pull the trigger for five seconds. Ta-dah! Lit smoker.

Edit, I think I need to clarify. The hole I said to make is not a hole in the smoker. Its a hole in the packed fuel. If you shove a torch into packed fuel then the fuel gets packed into the torch nozzle and it won't light. Shove a hive tool into the fuel and wiggle it back and forth to get to the bottom, then pull it back out. Now you have a clear path in the pine needles so that you can insert the torch nozzle into the pine needles all the way to the bottom. If you have to relight then use the hive tool to make a new path through the fuel for the torch nozzle to reach the bottom.
 

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Put an empty cardboard box in your trunk with a pair of gloves. Next time you drive past a bunch of pine trees along a country road pull over at a safe spot and fill up the box with dry pine needles and pine cones from the ground. Pine straw works better than anything else, and best part is it is free. Until the time you can collect a box of pine straw, a bag of hamster bedding from the pet store works well, make sure it is unscented and untreated wood shavings, you don't want those chemicals in your smoke. Small pet bedding doesn't fuel the smoker for as long as pine straw but it's cheap and easy to get. Before you close the smoker lid grab a handful of green grass, weeds, or leaves, roll them into a loose ball, and insert loosely into the smoker spout from the inside. The green foliage will cool the smoke so you don't singe any little bee wings. If you have a self igniting torch it is a big time saver. You can pre-fuel an unlit smoker with packed fuel, make a hole for the torch tip with your hive tool, shove the torch tip to the bottom of the smoker and pull the trigger for five seconds. Ta-dah! Lit smoker.
What a time saver this is. The idea about poking a hole to the bottom on the air inlet side and being able to relight a filled or partially filled smoker without having to dump out and start from scratch each time. It is essential that the fire start at the bottom next to the air jet and this is the way to do it.
 

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What a time saver this is. The idea about poking a hole to the bottom on the air inlet side and being able to relight a filled or partially filled smoker without having to dump out and start from scratch each time. It is essential that the fire start at the bottom next to the air jet and this is the way to do it.
Keep in mind that hole when a hot ash will fall out and start a fire.
One day.
 

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Keep in mind that hole when a hot ash will fall out and start a fire.
One day.
I think you must have me confused with someone who said to make a hole at the bottom of the smoker to light the charge. JConnolly I am sure was talking about prying a hole in the fuel all the way to the bottom on the bellows side that will allow the flame of the propane burner to blow down and light the fuel right by the air inlet. At least that is what I do. Then tamp that hole full from the top and pack everything down while pumping the bellows. Pack that temporary chimney full and add some more. Pine needles are pretty clumpy and no tendency to spark out.
 
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