Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Does Size Matter?

Yesterday, I had the a delightful conversation with a bee buddy, and the issue of smokers arose. He wanted to know what kind of smoker I was using because he was considering purchasing one for himself. Since there isn't much going on for me in my bee life right now, I thought the question would make a good blog entry.

This past spring I got a large smoker (4"x10") with a pointed top and guard. I chose this larger size/shape based on some comments I'd read. Basically, the consensus seemed to be that smaller smokers (4"x7" and smaller) are harder to keep lit. Also, someone mentioned that smaller dome-top smokers go out more frequently due to condensation that forms inside the smoker. Nobody commented on taller smokers with domed tops.

BTW, here is my favorite comment from that online discussion:
There simply is no comparison between the amount of smoke you can lay down with the larger smokers. The smaller ones can't compare, in that they just don't put out enough smoke, are more difficult to keep lit, run out of fuel more quickly, etc. 
Here's a quick test - can you, in less than 30 seconds, put out enough smoke that the entire top of the hive can no longer be seen? If not, you needed a bigger smoker. There's times when you want to lay down that much smoke. Situations like a "dropped box". Yes, it will happen.
Wow! That guy is talking about making some serious smoke! I haven't tried that test yet, but I think I'm going to have to because it will totally impress my boys.

Since I have only one smoker, I can't provide any useful comparisons. However, based on my experiences this past summer, I'm glad that I got a big one because if it's not very tightly packed, it does have a tendency to burn out too quickly. (Though if it's properly packed, it will smoke all day.) I can only imagine how much more quickly a smaller one would die out.

There are several types of smokers available, though most of them seem to be variations on a theme. Probably the coolest one I've seen is the imker pfeife, aka German bee pipe, which is a mouth-held smoker. The video above shows a bee pipe. Apparently, those German bees are quite docile!

For those who want smoke without a smoker, some companies like Brushy Mountain sell Liquid Bee Smoke (though I've heard of people simply using liquid smoke from the grocery store), which can be mixed with water and applied with a spray bottle. When I see this product, it kind of makes me go "Hmmmm....," but since I have no personal experience, I'll refrain from any other comments. If you've tried this stuff, what do you think of it?

Of course, Sam Comfort doesn't use a smoker either. He just puffs a couple of times across a smoldering leaf. (BTW, I have been accused a number of times of "having a thing" for Sam. I would like to set the record straight -- the rumor is kind of true. LOL! ;-)  

If you're reading this, I hope you'll weigh in on the question of what makes a good smoker. What kind of smoker do you use? Are there any features you think are important to have? Have you ever hacked a smoker? I'd love to hear what you think!



  1. I've been told that rubbing liquid smoke on your hands makes it easier to avoid gloves - Matt

    1. Cool! I never would've though of doing that! Thanks for that tip!


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!