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The Practical Beekeeper
Beekeeping Naturally

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Smoke

The most common smoking mistakes:

  • People have the smoker too hot and burn the bees with the flame thrower they are wielding
  • People use far too much smoke causing a general panic instead of simply interfering with the alarm pheromone. One puff in the door is enough. Another on the top if they look excited is ok and after that having it lit and setting nearby is usually sufficient.
  • People don't light the smoker because they think smoke upsets the bees, probably because of one of the above reasons.
  • People blow the smoke in and immediately open the hive. If you wait a minute the reaction will be completely different. If you’re doing something not too time consuming, like filling frame feeders or something, it’s a good plan to smoke the next hive before you open this one. That way the minute will be up when you open that one.
  • People don’t smoke because they have the idea that it is either bad for the bees or somehow unnatural. Their exposure is only a puff or two once every week or two. People have been smoking bees for at least 8,000 years that we have documented for one very good reason. Nothing works better at calming them.


"A single puff at the entrance if the smoker is going well, or two or three puffs if it is yet scarcely under headway, notifies the guards that they needn't bother to come out if they feel a little jar. The cover is cracked open the least bit at one corner by the tool, then the other corner is cracked open and the cover lifted. it could be lifted without using the tool twice, simply prying up one corner enough but that would jar the bees more and excite them. The desire is to get along with the smallest amount of jar and smoke possible, for the queen is to be found, and too much smoke or jarring will set the bees to running so the queen cannot be found. As soon as the cover is raised, a little smoke is blown across the tops of the frames, not down into the hive. While it is bad to use too much smoke, it is also bad to use too little, for if the bees are once thoroughly aroused it takes more smoke to subdue them than it does to keep them under in the first place."--C.C. Miller, Fifty Years Among the Bees

Michael Bush

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