Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hive Smoke

It was a crazy bee week--again.  I opened both hives and thoroughly went through them frame-by-frame looking for any signs of queens.  The results will follow in my next blog.  Today I want to write about smoking--bee smoking.  I caught the little girls out behind the hive puffing away--no, not that kind of smoking.  Without a smoker, it would not be possible to work with the bees (especially when they are a bit agitated, like when they are queenless or it is a cloudy day.)   My first job, when I plan to tour les hives, is to light up my smoker.  I tried burning different materials until I found out how well it works just to burn pine needles.  And how easy is that?!  I live under way too many white pines.  So, here in the North East, pine needles are the answer.  Shavings from the chain saw are a good, long-burning addition, too.  An occasional pine cone will cool the smoke if it gets too hot.  I was told this week, also, that adding dried bee balm plant actually is a "balm" to the bees.  It calms them and may have some medicinal affects, as well.  My bee balm is all in bloom and will certainly be tested in the smoker.  The idea is the mask the alarm/attack pheromones put out by the bees, not to incinerate the poor girls.  A little good smoking will also kill some varroa mites, always a plus.

The new split out amongst the pumpkins and squash.  Looking good.

I keep my pail full of pine needles that I pick up on the road where they have blown to the sides.
 A small handful in the bottom of the smoker and one match, Voila.   I   use the hive tool to push in
more needles as they burn down.

Puff and puff and keep adding needles.  Careful for the flame ups.  It really takes about 10 minutes
to develop some good hot ashes in the bottom.
Stuff it full and puff.  Close it up and ready to smoke.
Ready to open the hive.   A puff or two at the entrance, open the top and puff in there once.   I try not
to overdo it.   But, certainly, I will not open things up for a big inspection without my smoker.  I can't say
that I like smelling like a campfire when I am done, but that is all part of the process.

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