Question of the Month

Some of you may have wondered what "smoking" is when it comes to beekeeping, and why beekeepers perform this practice as well as how it affects bees themselves. Wonder no more!

Why do we smoke bees?

Smoking bees is an old and necessary practice for beekeepers to be able to safely work with honeybees and, particularly, honeybee colonies bursting with activity as well as potentially danger. One may think that we use smokers because it confuses and blinds the bees, but they are not like humans and smoke does not affect them in the same sense that it can affect us!

Bees have been around much longer than us humans, and after eons of residing in forested habitats they have evolved to react very specifically and intelligently to forest fires. When bees smell smoke, they instinctively begin gorging honey in their preparation to abandon the colony, and move to somewhere safer where they can rebuild.

As the smoke trigger is a powerful behavioural reaction which represents an existential level threat, beekeepers can use this to distract the colony to perform inspections and other manipulations. Used properly, this distraction is very temporary and the bees will reset to "All Clear" very quickly to resume regular hive activities (and the beekeeper is permitted to depart the situation alive!)

Silver metal bee smoker emitting smoke with beekeeper in background.

The smoker depicted here is basically a metal can with a bellows attached, with the conical spout affixed to the top to direct the smoke precisely where you want it to go. Typical fuel is straw, pine cones, wood chips, wood stove pellets, and grasses.

More questions about this or other bee related things? We'd love to hear from you!