Do You Really Need A Honey Bee Smoker?
Umm, yes! This seems like a rhetorical question to the experienced bee keeper. There are a few things in life that you only do once – try to defy gravity, experience the world’s hottest chilli, talk politics at a dinner party or open a hive without the use of a smoker... Seriously though, the honey bee smoker is an essential bit of kit for any bee keeper.
On the flip side, you can also affect your hive if you decide to go kamikaze; if you don’t use a smoker then your precious bees will become extremely aggressive, sting your beesuit and die. You have the potential to cause significant colony damage without one – get the best honey bee smoker you can afford.
What Does A Honey Bee Smoker Do?
You know that feeling after eating a little too much at the Sunday roast? You don’t feel like doing anything but relaxing and having a kip. This is exactly how you want your bees to feel after using your smoker so you can safely extract your frames.
Here’s how it all works.
As you come into close proximity to your hive, the bees sense you as a threat and release an alarm pheromone that alerts all the other bees. Think of this as an ‘instant messaging’ system. Your bees are ready to defend their honey. The use of smoke disrupts this pheromone messaging system – like when the internet goes down. After the smoking process, the bees trigger a bushfire response so they begin to eat honey in preparation to leave the hive if need be. The end result is temporarily confused bees that can’t really be bothered to get off the couch to sting you. Safe for all parties involved.
It’s imperative to note here that you are aiming for cool smoke to be coming from your smoker. Hot smoke can aggravate bees and potentially foul your honey.
Practise first is my tip for beginners.
What Features Do The Best Honey Bee Smokers Have?
We’ve all thought about bodging up our own home-made smoker but trust me, it’s not worth the effort, pain or creating a potential fire hazard. Having a smoker failure during extraction is obviously not ideal and usually ends in a considerable amount of swearing.
Safety first! These things get hot. Make sure your smoker has a sturdy frame to ensure you stay safe and calm.
Efficiency! After a few attempts at smoking your bees you’ll understand the balance between fuel efficiency and the amount of smoke. This is a fine line. You want a smoker that generates a generous amount of smoke and is easy on the fuel.
The bellows – you’ve got few choices here. Leather, vinyl or rubber. Leather is generally more sun tolerant but prone to water damage. Vinyl bellows are generally hard wearing and offer some water resistance. Rubber bellows offer the benefit of being waterproof at the expense of being susceptible to sun damage.
Bee Keeping Supplies – What Is The Best Bee Smoker For My Budget?
Here’s five of the best honey bee smokers on the market at the moment. Pick your budget and you’re good to go!
Okay, we’ll start at the lower end of the cost spectrum. This Honey Bee unit ticks the majority of boxes.
Stainless steel – check!
Heat guard – check!
Vinyl bellows – check!
Reasonable fuel efficiency – check.
Keep in mind this is a cheaper smoker so the fit and finish isn’t military grade but for the coin it’s hard to go past this ripper little unit. Highly recommended for those starting out or buying a backup smoker.
Hoont Commercial Grade Bee Smoker for Beekeeping – Heavy Duty Stainless Steel with Metal Heat Shield and Metal Hook – Superior Airflow Bellow and Excellent Smoke Output
. . . . and the bang for your buck award goes to – Hoont. After you stop walking around saying ‘Hoont, hoont!’ like a broken car horn you’ll appreciate features that don’t really belong at this price point. Granted, it is a bit fiddly to get the spacing correct to optimise air flow and fuel usage but once it’s up and running, the Hoont will continue to do its job, hive after hive.
Agralogix stock a wide range of consumable and durable bee keeping supplies. This medium smoker is a front-runner. Leather bellows, a heavier gauge steel, consistent smoke output and a handy top mounted storage ring are key reasons why many apiarists rate this as the best bee smoker.
As far as a mid-range honey bee smokers go – this unit from Goodland is the best. While a little heavier than some other offerings, the difference in quality is appreciated. Burn time is excellent. Expect a load of fuel to get you around 10+ hives easily! The raised air intake at the bottom of the smoker ensures your fuel stays lit for extended periods. Usually ships with some sage pellets as well – sweet!
You want the best honey bee smoker on the market? Here it is – the Mann Lake HD540. Dad always said, ‘buy once, cry once’ and that’s true for this Mann Lake unit. There are few beekeepers that don’t have supplies from Mann Lake. They are a trusted name in the bee game. The first feature you notice is the rubber bellows. These are very durable, extremely heat resistant and pump consistent and ample smoke. Burn time, ease of use and the replaceable bellows make this smoker a winner.
So bee friends, as you can see there are many brands of bee smoker but they all do the same, very necessary, job for you as a beekeeper. Happy beekeeping!