A bee smoker is an essential tool to assist the beekeeper in managing the bees. This device produces smoke that has a calming effect on the bees in the hive, allowing the beekeeper to work efficiently and worry about the possibility of swarming or stings. Like many other aspects of hive management, this is an activity that requires some practice to learn just how much smoke is enough and not too much. Choosing the right bee smoker is the first step.
1. What Is a Bee Smoker?
A bee smoker is a device used by beekeepers to manage the activity of the bees when the beekeeper needs to work on the hive. The bee smoker usually is an upright canister with a base that holds the fuel and provides for good air circulation to allow for a long, slow burning fire. A smoker can use a variety of fuels. The bellows allows the beekeeper to keep a low level fire smoldering and then direct the smoke into the hive.
2. Why Is a Bee Smoker Important?
Bees don’t like to be disturbed. But it is important for the beekeeper to perform a number of functions to take care of the bees and to harvest the products of the hive. Injecting cool smoke into the hive has a calming effect on the bees and enables the beekeeper to work without fear. Using a good bee smoker with the right kind of smoker fuel gives the beekeeper control of the hive. The smoke itself also may help to control some of the microorganisms that can invade a hive.
3. What Makes a Good Bee Smoker?
Safety, efficiency and ease of use are important considerations. A stainless steel canister is standard on high quality smokers. The bellows may be leather, rubber or a synthetic material. There should be a hook, so the smoker can be hung for storage, and a heat shield to protect the beekeeper from the heat. Some people like to hang the smoker at the end of a hive when they are doing a lot of work. This enables them to take a break with the smoker still functioning and close at hand.
4. How Does a Bee Smoker Work?
The beekeeper ignites the smoker fuel, with a piece of newspaper or other material that will help to start the burning action. Then the fuel should burn at a low level to produce a cool smoke that will calm the bees without harming them. Most of the bee smokers in our review are operated with a manual bellows made from leather, rubber or synthetic material.
The bellows are used to pump the smoker to keep the fire smoldering. The smokers are basically pretty simple pieces of equipment, but the smoking process itself is a delicate one that requires some practice to perfect.
5. What Kind of Fuel Do Beekeepers Use in the Smoker?
There are a number of options for smoker fuel. Many beekeepers like to do as much as they can themselves and may choose to gather some natural materials such as bark, pine needles or other fuel. Chemical and petro base fuels should be avoided, as they may be toxic to the bees and will burn hotter than the desired smoke temperature. Smoker fuel products are available from the same companies that sell the smokers. These include an interesting range of cotton based materials produced in a way that will burn slowly and smolder; producing a cool, bee-friendly smoke.
6. What Does the Beekeeper Need to Know to Use a Smoker?
The experienced beekeeper will be very familiar with the techniques of effective smoking, but for the beginner, there will be a lot to learn. The differences between gently smoking the hive in a way that lulls the bees into a calm state and getting too much smoke or smoke that is too hot, or smoke that is not congenial to the bees, are subtle differences. The smoker equipment itself is not difficult to use. Most of the smokers are quite lightweight and easy to load and ignite. Developing the right touch to inject the right amount of smoke into the hive will just take practice.
How We Reviewed the Best Bee Smokers
The products we reviewed all meet the basic criteria for a good bee smoker. They are made of stainless steel. They have a structure that provides a heat shield to protect the beekeeper from being burned. We identified the models produced by leading manufacturers of beekeeping equipment. Many beekeepers have favorite suppliers and will opt for equipment from one of them. We also sought out the opinions of both beginning and experienced beekeepers to learn what features they expect from a bee smoker.
Overall Price Range of the Smokers
The bee smokers we reviewed range in price from around $15 to around $65. The $, $$, $$$ price rating reflects how each smoker compares with the others in this review. All are available through Amazon.com, and the more expensive smokers tend to be made of more durable materials.
The Bee Smokers We Reviewed
The Vivo Stainless Steel Bee Hive Smoker has a stainless steel canister with a four-inch diameter and measures 11 inches from top to bottom. It has a protective shield all around the canister to prevent burns and a metal hook for storage. It is lightweight and easy to handle. The bellows are leather. The bottom has a perforated fire base to provide good air flow and help to keep the fire smoldering. This smoker has the capacity to hold a quantity of smoker fuel and produce cool smoke. This is a low-priced smoker that is good for a beginner or beekeeper with a small operation.
The Mann Lake HD540 Stainless Steel Smoker is a premium tool that measures ten inches in height and has a four-inch diameter. It has a hinged lid and rubber bellows; a feature that many beekeepers prefer. The bellows can be replaced. It has a sturdy guard around the canister to protect the beekeeper’s hands while using the smoker. This smoker comes from a company that is highly respected for all of its beekeeping products. Although it is a more expensive smoker than some of the others in our comparison, beekeepers have confidence in products from this company.
The Co-Z Bee Smoker is a stainless steel smoker with a durable vinyl bellows. It is intended to be suitable for use by beginning beekeepers. It has the protective guard around the canister to prevent the beekeeper from being burned, and it has a perforated base to provide good air flow for the fire. The canister is 12 inches high with a five inch diameter. It is lightweight and easy to handle and has a hanging hook for storage.
The Goodland Bee Supply Stainless Steel Bee Hive Smoker is 11 inches high and has a four inch diameter. This smoker is easy to clean and made of quality stainless steel. It has a protective heat shield and a hanging hook. This smoker comes with three smoke logs. The main ingredient of the logs is mugwort. The beekeeper places one of the logs on the perforated pellet stand and ignites it to produce smoke. This smoker has a leather bellows. It is easy to use and is recommended for both beginners and experienced beekeepers. Goodland is a highly regarded supplier to beekeepers.
The NAVAdeal Bee Smoker is part of a six-piece starter set of basic and essential tools for the beginning beekeeper. The set includes the sturdy stainless steel smoker with protective heat shield, an extracting scraper, a mini entrance feeder, a synthetic bee hive brush, an uncapping fork, and a bee hive frame grip. It comes with a lifetime 100% satisfaction guarantee. This is a very reasonably priced set that gives a beginner the tools needed to perform a number of basic tasks in the bee hive.
The Hoont Commercial Grade Bee Smoker is made of heavy-duty stainless steel and has a stainless steel heat cage to protect the beekeeper. It has a heavy duty oxygen tray that makes it easy to light the smoker. It comes with excellent directions and information about how to use the smoker and suggests it is also effective for use by deer hunters to cover the human smell in their clothing and gear. It has a good quality vinyl bellows.
The Blisstime Bee Hive Smoker comes with a tool kit set of six basic beekeeping tools that includes an uncapping fork, a bee hive frame grip, a synthetic bee hive brush, a mini entrance feeder, a hive scraper and the stainless steel smoker. This smoker is compact and lightweight.
The Muduoban Electric Bee Hive Smoker is unique among the bee smokers in this review. It is battery-powered rather than having a bellows. It uses four AA batteries. It has a large, sturdy plastic handle and stainless steel canister. It has a stainless steel heat shield and a mounting hook. This smoker provides a good option for people who like electric gadgets or want a smoker that requires less manual operation.
The Agralogic Bee Smoker is a heavy duty stainless steel smoker with a high quality leather bellows. It has a removable firebase plate. This smoker is made in the U.S. It is slightly heavier than some of the other smokers, but it is very well made. The canister, lid, and heat shield are stainless steel.
All of the bee smokers in our comparison meet the criteria we set out from the start as essential for a good bee smoker They all are made of high quality stainless steel. They all have a structure that provides protection from the heat for the beekeeper. They all have a mechanism to allow for the smoker to be hung for storage or while in use in the hive. The prices of these smokers range from around $15 to around $65. They are similar in size although some have a slightly larger fuel capacity.
Some Smokers Come With Kits
Beginning beekeepers will need to learn how to control the smoke they are inserting into the hives. It shouldn’t be too hot, and there needs to be just the right amount. Too little smoke and the bees will not be affected. Too much smoke can cause serious harm to the bees. The fine points of different smokers will be appreciated once the beekeeper has some experience. Some of the smokers we compared come with complete basic tool sets. This makes them an attractive starter kit for beginners but will be of less interest to experienced beekeepers who will already have an assortment of tools.
Bellows Make a Difference
The style and material of the bellows is an important factor in choosing a smoker. Beekeepers have definite preferences once they have tried different styles. The option of an electric battery operated smoker may be a good way for a beginner to focus on the smoke itself with less manual function to worry about. Our selection of bee smokers has excellent options for both the beginner and the experienced beekeeper.
The Final Word
In the end, our favorite was the CO-Z Bee Smoker. It has features that will appeal to beginners and old-hands alike, and the price is just right.