A lot of things will work in the spring, on a perfect day or when the bees are working a flow. However, the smoker is the tool to use during a dearth or when weather conditions are not optimal (getting ready to storm, overcast, late in the day, etc.).
I have tried it. I wasn't impressed. As merince said, if they are in a good mood it doesn't really matter what you use. Smoke always is helpful (in small amounts) in keeping them from smelling the alarm pheromone.
What merince said. On those nice days during a flow, you probably don't need anything at all. When times get tough you need to interrupt the pheromone communication, especially alarm pheromones from the guards or any bees you might accidently pinch.
I use a water bottle when working my hive. Add a few drops of Anise oil to help cover up the bee pheromones. Works great and is not sticky like sugar water. I do have a smoker for times when they get a bit testy, which I'm sure the day will come. But until then, the anise water works fine.
It does seem like a lot of effort is spent trying to solve problems that I don't have... I'm perfectly happy with a smoker. The difference in demeanor between a lightly smoked hive and one with no smoke can be night and day. There is a reason people have been using smoke to calm bees for at least the last 10,000 years...
I use a water spray when bees get into the house or come in with the frames during extracting. I give them a spray when they go for the light bulb, an they go right down (can't fly with wet wings) Pick them up an put them outside to fly another day.No way I would replace my smoker over a water sprayer.
Anytime you propose a new or different method of doing a proceedure that has been around for years, you are going to get ridiculed. People just resist change.
I used sugar water for quite a while and have switched to my own version of Honey B Healhy.
I do cutouts in public places where you dont want bees flying at all because of the people passing by and the spray works better than the smoke.
Liquid smoke. I didn't like that the smell lingered for days or weeks.
Sugar water. I didn't like sticky bees and it didn't really keep them calm as much as it kept them from flying and kept them busy.
Water. It just didn't work well. It kept them from flying so much, but didn't really keep them calm. Only the wet ones were busy doing other things.
Water with essential oils (various including HBH and wintergreen). This worked better than water or sugar water at keeping them calm, but again, only really on the ones getting sprayed and not on the hive in general. Also, I worry that HBH simulates actual pheromones in the hive and I don't really want to confuse the bees for a long time after I leave, just long enough to do my work.
Smoke. Keeps them remarkably calm compared to nothing and lasts somewhere between 10 minutes and half an hour. Short enough that they soon get back to normal and long enough I can get work done.
I have never been afraid to try something new.
Keeping a smoker lit is a pain, but it's worth learning how to do it and it's worth doing it. NOT upsetting the bees by using smoke is less disrupting than getting them defensive. A defensive reaction they tend to take a week or so to get over. Smoke they take about half a hour to get over.
>I do cutouts in public places where you dont want bees flying at all because of the people passing by and the spray works better than the smoke.
For a cutout it probably does work better than smoke because you want them to get organized in the new location and bees with HBH on them smell like Nasonov which will help. NOT making the queen run is helpful in a cut out and smoke may make her run. I would probably prefer HBH spray when doing a cutout if it was in water. The bees get sticky enough during a cutout already, so I don't want them to get stickier by spraying syrup on them.
I must agree with one experienced beek who said " the smoker came from heaven". The rest .. is not for me..
I don't have problem with keeping smoker lit - one piece of fungi in smoker smokes pretty long ( I didn't watch the time but hour or so), and when is near to end just drop another piece in smoker, not some fuss about it..
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