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How to smoke your bees

You can use smoke as a simple way of calming your bees while you inspect them. The smell of the smoke makes the bees think that their home is on fire and they instinctively start their fire drill. Instead of defending the hive, they start to eat honey in order to prepare to leave and find a new home. After you have carried out your inspection and stop smoking, the bees will return to normal.

How to use a smoker
You should puff a little smoke around the entrance to the hive about 5-10 minutes before you open it. This starts the fire drill and they will hopefully be full of honey and unable to sting when you open the hive. Once inside the hive - you should smoke a little on the tops of the frames as you inspect the colony.

Traditional smokers:
A traditional smoker is simply a metal container with bellows attached in which you light a small fire. The aim is to get the fuel to burn badly - producing lots of thick cool smoke. You can use a variety of materials such a old hessian sacking, dried leaves, cardboard or tightly packed dry grass. It is important that the smoke is cold and does not burn the bees. Mastering the traditional smoker is perhaps the hardest part of beekeeping and you should practise starting and keeping it alight.

Liquid smoke:
If you don't like using a traditional smoker - help is at hand in the form of liquid smoke. There is no lighting required, it is impossible to burn yourself and it will never go out. You buy liquid smoke in a concentrated form and dilute it with water. Liquid smoke is made by condensing the smoke given off by wood as it smoulders. It is completely natural and will not harm your bees. You can then simply spray it from an ordinary garden sprayer. It is easier to use than a traditional smoker but doesn't quite have the glamour of a traditional smoker. However, it is taking off and as John Chapple a beekeeper of 30 years says, 'I wouldn't use anything else.'

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Eileen, 23 May 2023

I found this really interesting, thank you!

Brent, 27 November 2018

@Lawrence... did you check your local grocery store for liquid smoke? It's often something used for preparing dishes without the aid of charcoal or wood chips.

Jerry, 3 July 2017

@Patricia If they are honeybees, look on Craigslist or Google beekeepers in your area. They will come and remove them at no cost to you

Patricia, 18 April 2017

I have a mobile home ( trailer ) that I live in I have a bee hive in the peak of the roof. The hive is up inside to where I can't see it and I can't get to it. I see where they are coming in an out. The bees are starting to coming out of my light fixture in the ceiling. I have a daughter with autism and she is very allergic to them. I'm on a fixed income and can't have anyone come. Do you have any ideas for me. I have to take form to tuck around the lights.

Wilson, 15 January 2017

When I was a teenager in the late 1950's and early 60's, I worked with the engineer at my father's woollen textile mill in the north of Scotland, during school and later university holidays. I would cut the linen threads (with an eye in the middle) from worn out Jacquard weaving frames in the looms (called the heddles), with broken thread(s). If it was just one thread broken they could be repaired but a thread breaking is generally a sign the whole frame needs replacing.These threads were soaked in both natural and added (Ragosine) lanolin from the woollen threads on the weft. This oil soaked linen thread was very sought after by local beekeepers, as being the very best material for gently smoking bees and I made a bit of extra cash selling the thread or swapped it for honey.