Updated: Oct 13, 2021
What is a bee smoker?
A bee smoker is a device used in beekeeping to calm the honeybees while inspecting the hive.
(See below the smoker we use on a daily basis)
I have trialed by fire (literally) many different materials in my smoker. I have experimented with burlap, various types of grasses, plant matter, wood, and incense. In my findings I observed the above to burn too hot, burn too fast, or not make enough smoke. After many failures, I have found a very convenient and cheap procedure for lighting my smoker and keeping it well lit throughout my hive inspection.
What is my secret smoker ingredient?
Cardboard is made from pine pulp so it will be non toxic to the bees.
(Disclaimer: make sure to remove tape or labels & don't use cardboard coated in plastic/heavy inked cardboard)
My process -
Step 1: Tear a cardboard strip that is about 4 inches wide and about 2 feet long. The width doesn't have to be exact, it just has to be small enough to close the top of the smoker lid.
Step 2: Roll up your cardboard piece into a cylinder with a small enough diameter to fit into the smoker.
Step 3: Light the bottom of the cylinder with a lighter and wait until the cardboard has fully caught fire before placing it into smoker about halfway down.
Step 4: Let it burn with the top open until you start to see flames coming out of the top of the cardboard.
Step 5: Push the cylinder down far enough so the top of the smoker can close and shut the lid. (I recommend using your hive tool to push the cardboard down)
Step 6: Puff the smoker until you see thick white smoke
Long slow puffs do better than short fast puffs
Puff the smoker at least once a minute to keep the fire going
If your smoker starts to go out with plenty of cardboard still inside, open the smoker and allow the fire to breathe, this will help reignite the fire
This method can produce a good amount of smoke for over 20 minutes.
You are now ready to keep your bees calm while you look into their hive!