Beekeeping is an exciting hobby that brings joy and tasty, delicious honey to thousands of people around the world. Over the years, innovative beekeepers have found various ways to maintain and improve a healthy relationship between themselves and the bees, and one of those commonly used tactics is to use smoke.
A bee smoker is a tool that is used to instill a calming effect over the bees. The idea is to put them in a less-aggressive state of mind, this should deter them from attacking and stinging you, as they would normally do in a non-smoked environment!
Of course, who can blame them, it is only natural behavior to attack when someone or something, who is not welcome, is trying to get inside of your home!
Next, we will take a look at some of the best smokers on the market at the moment and pick out the one which we think is the best bee hive smoker available right now.
The VIVO smoker is definitely a fan favorite and should be high up on your potential “smokers to buy” list. The materials are durable, the build quality is excellent and the price is very competitive against other smokers on the market.
Overall, if you choose the VIVO, you are buying a well-built beekeeping tool that will give you peace of mind when out working amongst your bees.
Aspectek’s offering is another quality option at a very reasonable price, the materials are heavy duty and the design will ensure it keeps smoking until you are finished.
Suitable for both beginners and professionals, the Aspectek smoker is a popular choice for those want a solid, well-built smoker for their beekeeping duties.
It’s always a good feeling to not have to worry about your tools letting you down, and we feel that this smoker from Aspectek has got your back, and your hive, covered!
The smoker from CO-Z is well-built and reliable and is proving to be one of the more popular choices on the hive smoker market. It’s quite large in size and comes in at around 12 inches in height, the bigger size means that this will smoke and smoke until you are ready to pack up.
It has all of the standard safety features on it with the protective cage, mounting hook and perforated base. The smoker itself is made of stainless steel so you know that you’re buying a durable and long-lasting piece of beekeeping equipment.
The Goodland Bee Supply smoker is a wise choice for those who need to work with their bees for longer periods of time, the large canister allows for easy filling and an extended smoking potential.
The smoker fires up with little effort and has a unique rounded lid that not only opens and closes freely but also looks great as well. Goodland Bee Supply is another trustworthy beekeeping company that you can rely on to make quality equipment and tools.
The Agralogix smoker ticks all of the boxes for someone just starting out in beekeeping, it’s not too large and will put out enough smoke for a couple of hours depending on what fuel you are using. The bellows are durable and easy to pump so generating smoke is a simple process.
The stainless steel canister and the well-designed lid both help to give this smoker a sturdy feel to it, and it will no doubt last a long time in the hands of most beekeepers.
The Mann Lake smoker is our Top Pick, it sets itself above the others with a much higher price tag, but we feel that this price is justified as it uses materials that are superior to the other designs that are available.
The rubber bellows have proven to be very durable and they are replaceable, meaning that this smoker from Mann Lake should last you a long time. Overall, this smoker is one of the top choices for many beekeeper enthusiasts, favored by beginners and professionals for its durability and smoke efficiency.
You are paying more, but you get what you pay for, a high-quality smoker from a trusted company who are passionate about beekeeping.
The Honey Keeper bee hive smoker is our Budget Friendly Pick and it’s a hard option to ignore from such a reputable company. All of the features that make a worthy bee smoker are there, the durable material, the well thought out design, and the price are what every beekeeper wants to see.
You will struggle to find better value for money when it comes to this smoker from Honey Keeper, they offer superb tools and equipment that are made with experience and passion.
If I may, I’ll put my science hat on just for a moment and go into this in a bit more detail. The process of smoking the hive is actually used to mask the bees pheromones, this will disable their ability to communicate to one another.
One of these pheromones is used as an alarm when a bee becomes injured, this alarm will alert all of the other bees in the area and put them all into “aggressive mode”, and this is exactly what we don’t want when working in a bee yard.
Secondly, the smoke acts as a sort of “forest fire” and sends the bees into a honey-eating frenzy, this is a natural reaction in case they need to relocate elsewhere.
You can think of it as like humans grabbing their treasured possessions if they are in danger. However, the main advantage to this “honey-eating frenzy” is that the bees become lethargic on a full stomach, just like you and I, so they are less likely to attack during this period of time!
So, with the science hat back on the hook, we now know why bee smokers are an invaluable tool for the beekeeper hobbyist. Smoker designs have been upgraded, modified and re-designed again over the years, so nowadays they are very capable and reliable for your hobby or business requirements.
Using a smoker is not just a case of “point and puff”, there is an art to it and understanding how much smoke to use is important. Too little smoke and the bees will not feel any effect and too much smoke may even harm the bees. It’s a fine line and it will take some practice for beginners to find the right balance.
You have a wide range of choices when it comes down to picking out a bee smoker fuel, with so many options on offer, we wouldn’t be surprised if you became slightly overwhelmed, but don’t worry, we are here to help. We’ll guide you through all of the recommended fuels and what unique features you should be looking out for.
Natural materials are considered the best when working with your bees, they produce the best quality of smoke, which in the beekeeping world is described as cool white smoke.
Many materials will generate what is known as hot smoke, avoid these at all costs as they will harm your bees and some are known to burn off hazardous chemicals, which is not good for you or your bees. The best smoker fuel will produce a mellow, light smoke that not only is bee-friendly but will make your job a lot easier.
Depending on where you live, smoker fuel could be right on your doorstep in the form of wood chips, pine needles or just plain old-fashioned twigs (of course, they need to be small enough to fit inside a smoker).
If you happen to be based in an urban environment then you can opt for the commercial route and purchase your fuel from online stores such as Amazon. Either way, the natural option is always best and be sure that it is able to burn slowly at a low temperature.
You don’t want a big fire at high temperatures, this will only produce soot and embers that will spread to the hive and honey, and nobody wants that to happen!
So, as a reminder, stay away from man-made materials, products that contain anything petroleum-based and materials such as sawdust that will create harmful embers when setting your fuel alight.
Now we’re up to speed on what makes the best bee smoker fuel, let’s run through some of the most popular bee hive smoker fuels out on the market today:
One of the most popular and efficient smoker fuels available today. The smoke that is generated is cool and calming and this is due to the material being made up of 100% cotton fibers.
The cotton easily lights up and will smolder for hours, giving you plenty of time to work on your bees and hives.
It gives you peace of mind that your bees will never be harmed when using this smoker fuel and it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or professional, this material works for both because of it being so easy to use and that it lasts for such a long time.
The smoker pellets from BeeCastle give you plenty of smoking time and produces a clean quality of smoke that is safe for your bees. Burning on average for around 20 minutes you will have time for inspections, they are small enough to carry with you so being able to throw some extra pellets into your smoker will quickly extend the smoking time.
The pellets are made up of Chinese herbs that actually help to keep your hives healthy and bug-free, so you’re getting some added benefits from using this option. I’m sure your bees will appreciate the gesture! The bag comes with 54 pellets which is more than enough to keep any type of beekeeper going for a long time.
Gooday’s offering comes with the usual features that you would expect with a good quality bee hive smoker fuel, it produces calming smoke and stays burning for a reasonable amount of time, although it might be worth adding two or three pieces to get an extended burning time.
This fuel also offers up some additional benefits as well. The rolls of fuel are made up of Chinese medicinal herbs, these help to remove harmful bacteria and beehive borers. If used on a daily basis, it can also help to fight off insects in and around the hive. All in all, this fuel from Gooday becomes very useful when you consider the extra benefits that it brings to maintaining your hive.
Pellets tend to be a common choice for many beekeepers, this is due to how quick and easy they are to use. The pellets are designed to quickly set alight and should carry on smoldering over the course of a few hours. Plus, they produce the right quality of smoke to keep your bees calm and unharmed whilst you are working around them.
The pellets come in a 2-pound bag that is neither too heavy or awkward to carry around with you, they can also be used as starter fuels for other materials if you are looking for a longer smoking period.
This fuel is made up of 100% natural cotton thread, making it a perfect choice for safely working with your bee colony. It burns slow and can easily be pulled apart so you can use just the right amount, making it great for working on smaller jobs and reducing waste.
This cotton is US grown and spun in North Carolina, it’s light and burns really well, resulting in a smoke that lasts a long time. To top it all off, it comes with a very reasonable price tag given the fact that you can use exactly the right amount of cotton per job.
Pine needles make an excellent smoker material, so this bundle of pine needle mulch from Pine Straw is our Top Pick for best bee smoker fuel. This material is 100% natural and produces a steady flow of cool and calming smoke to keep your bee colony safe.
Using pine needle mulch in your smoker is perfect for any type of hive inspection or honey harvesting, it‘s a reliable material that works well for both beginners and professionals.
To get the most from using pine needles as smoker fuel you can add green leaves or dry grass on top to make the smoke last a little longer, doing this also helps to cool the burning down so the smoke doesn’t become too hot for your bees.
Overall, pine needle mulch is a great material to use in your hive smoker and your bees will love it, well, at least appreciate your thought of using a safe smoking material anyway!
Our Budget Friendly Pick is the smoker pellet option from Mann Lake, they are easy to light and will last a couple of hours, giving you plenty of time to inspect your hives or harvest your honey. They generate the cool and calming type of smoke that is perfect for beekeeping.
The pellets can either act as smoker fuel on their own or you can also use them as starter fuel, in combination with other materials, for a longer lasting effect.
Supplied in a convenient carry bag, you are given 100 pellets per bag so even one bag should last you at least several months, if not longer. The Mann Lake pellets are a great choice for beginners, making it easy to get your smoker up and smoking in a short amount of time, plus, the price is very reasonable compared to other smoker fuels.
Finding the right bee hive smoker will mean sifting through the good and the bad, there are many smokers out there that might look the part, or they might be tempting at a low price but there are some features that you should look out for.
So, before you click on the “buy now” button, make sure that you can tick off the following features for the smoker or smokers that you have your eyes on:
A protection cage around the smoker is a must-have feature, this will save you from burning your hands or any areas of skin that might happen to come into contact with the smoker.
The outside casing will obviously become very hot when the fuel inside has been lit, so the cage that wraps around the casing needs to be sturdy enough to protect you from any nasty burns.
A smoker made of stainless steel is important for various reasons, the main one being that it is durable and a stainless steel smoker is built to last. The steel will also prevent rust from building up and reduce the amount of heat passing through to the outside, keeping you a lot safer than if it was built with a less durable material. Stainless steel is a must for your smoker.
A simple but essential feature on any quality smoker, a mounting hook not only lets you store your smoker somewhere that you can easily find (for the more forgetful of the beekeepers out there!), but also it means you can hang it somewhere safe to cool down after using it.
Remember, these smokers get really hot and will take a while for the steel to fully cool down, keep everybody safe and hang it up out of harm’s way!
Using your smoker should be an easy process, you want to be able to trust that it will do its job, every time you use it. A smoker that is reliable with a simple and effective smoking action is key.
Also, an easy to use smoker will allow you to work it with one hand while your other hand is busy in the hive, this is going to make your beekeeping duties a whole lot easier in the long run.
Bee smokers are used for when you need to make inspections on your hives or when it’s time to harvest your honey. Knowing how much smoke to use will come with practice, but one common mistake is to use too much. Just a couple of puffs of smoke is more than enough to get you started, allowing around 20-30 seconds before you actually begin your work.
Be sure to apply the smoke from either behind the hive or around the sides. You need to give the bees a place to escape the hive so it makes perfect sense not to smoke all sides.
So, it’s best practice to avoid the front of the hive, keeping yourself away from the departing colony of bees is a good idea!
As mentioned, just a couple of short puffs on the smoker is enough to calm the bees. Too much and you run the risk of choking them, so go gentle and add smoke sparingly.
You’ll soon get an idea of how much to use on your hives and how much tolerance your bees have with the smoke. Working without smoke on docile bees can often be tempting but using a smoker is always best, as it helps to drive out any bees in hiding or any that are just unwilling to move!
Lighting a smoker is considered quite an easy process if you fully understand how they work and what each part of the smoker is used for. The simple design allows for easy operation and handling.
The two main focus points of a beehive smoker are the canister and the bellows. The fire is started in the canister and the bellows are used to pump oxygen through to the fire, this airflow from the bellows then pushes the smoke up and out of the lid through a spout or similarly styled outlet.
The one thing to make sure of is that the connection between the bellows and the bottom of the canister is not blocked, this is most commonly caused by packing the smoker material too tightly at the bottom of the canister.
The ideal process of lighting your smoker is to use three types of fuel in stages, starter, kindling and smoking, using this three-stage process allows for the fire to grow smoothly and in a natural manner. The starter fuel is used to spark the fire into life, it should be the sort of material that can catch fire easily and long enough for the kindling to catch fire.
Effective starter fuels are small rolls of cardboard, scrunched up balls of newspaper or even pine cones. The aim is to light the starter fuel and place it in the bottom of the smoker, from here the kindling is laid on top. Starter fuels are not always used, experienced beekeepers often skip this part and head straight for the kindling, but using the three-stage process is recommended for beginners.
It gives you time to get used to the lighting process and to learn how different materials react with each other.
The kindling fuel works best when it is small and thin and of course, dry! Pine needles are great, as are shavings of wood, straw and dried out leaves.
Always be careful not to use synthetic materials as these produce the type of smoke that will harm your bees. Lastly, the smoker fuel is what we have already looked at earlier on in this article.
It needs to be something that smolders for a long time, for example, cotton balls, hardwood pellets, wood chips or any other types of larger sized kindling fuel.
Once you are finished with your beekeeping duties and you’ve successfully tended to your bees, there are some best practices to follow when you are putting your smoker away.
A lot of people tend to throw away the leftover smoker fuel in, what we hope, is a safe place! But, there is a better way to reserve your fuel and save it for your next beekeeping duties.
We recommend that you suffocate the fire by placing some non-burnable material between the canister and the lid, this should block the flow of air and stop the burning fairly quickly.
The upside to this is that your fuel will be reusable for next time, it will also light up a lot faster as well. It’s win-win for you and your fuel!
However, in the long run, and after months of use, your smoker will start to become dirty and you’ll probably notice a lot of soot starting to build up inside the canister.
But don’t fear, we’ve got a trick up our sleeves to help make your smoker look clean and new(ish) again, and it’s 100% natural, so there is no chance of chemicals or harmful substances being passed on to your beautiful bees!
Beekeeping is an exciting hobby with great rewards but there are dangers and possibilities of injury when working with bees, it’s just something that comes with the territory. Equipping yourself with the right tools will ensure you stay safe and enjoy your hobby, else what is the point? People don’t carry on with a hobby if it’s causing them injuries or discomfort!
Choosing the right bee smoker and smoking fuel is an important part of beekeeping that you need to consider, choose wisely and your hive inspections and honey harvesting will become so much easier and more enjoyable. Your bees will be calm, you will be confident and both parties will go about their business with the least amount of hassle.
It comes as no surprise that a well looked after smoker will end up lasting longer, so even though it’s just a steel canister make sure you treat it with the same love as you do with your bees!
Your choice of fuel will make or break your relationship with your beehive smoker, there are many factors to consider but the most annoying thing for any beekeeper is to be constantly relighting their smoker.
Choosing a fuel that will gently smolder and create cool, calming smoke for an extended period of time will make your life so much easier. Your bees will be safe and you will have a hobby (or profession!) that you enjoy. I’m not sure if this is even a real motto but “Happy Bees, Happy Keeper” rings true for us!