Jump to content
Irishoney

Effect of smokers on bees

Recommended Posts

Hello to all.

I have read just two books now on beginning beekeeping.

 

One author says that using a smoker on the beehive disrupts the bee's pheromone signals to one another, while you do your work in the hive.

The other author says that using a smoker on the beehive makes the bees think that there is a fire, then they will busy themselves eating stored honey (before departure) while you do your work in the hive.

 

To me, the first theory seems more credible, can anyone shed any light?

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well now Irish Honey .... we use a smoker most days, particularly when I find I have left my veil in 'The other truck' and have  to go commando.

We burn old coffee sacks or pine needles.

The smoke soothes the bees ..... makes 'em stick their heads in the cells to suck on honey, which apparently soothes their souls and makes them less inclined to take umbrage at being disturbed, and resort to stinging the intruder.

Most days it works.

Perhaps it does also disturb the pheremone..

All I know is that it works.... most of the time ! 

 

Still looking for some work experience ?

Edited by jamesc
  • Agree 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The first author is correct, the other one hasn't really watched what bees do, I wouldn't bother with that book.

 

When working a beehive, there will often be some bees with their head in a cell. However the effect of smoke on bees is instantaneous. We do not have to wait for every bee in the hive to rush off and gorge on honey, we blow some smoke on them and it calms them instantly.

 

The great majority of bees in a typical hive being worked never eat any honey during the process, but are calmed by the smoke.

 

The story that smoke makes bees think there is a fire, rush off and eat honey, then become incapable of using their sting, is a good story. It will never go away there will always be people who believe it, because if something is repeated often enough, it becomes "truth". Never mind the facts.

 

 

Edited by Alastair
  • Like 3
  • Agree 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agree with James.

Both answers are right 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm ..... Christmas time we is celebrating the birth of the Baby Jesus with The Doctor , but if you need a base camp , you is welcome.... just don't try to convert us to Guiness.

 

  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you’re getting nailed by grumpy bees through your suit , smoking yourself does seem to hold them off for a bit .

There may be some truth in the ‘fire’ theory but I’ve never smoked a hive for long enough to give them time to gorge 

 

Get yourself into a hive and see what you reckon 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, M4tt said:

If you’re getting nailed by grumpy bees through your suit , smoking yourself does seem to hold them off for a bit .

There may be some truth in the ‘fire’ theory but I’ve never smoked a hive for long enough to give them time to gorge 

 

Get yourself into a hive and see what you reckon 

Does the type of smoke and whats being burnt make any difference to the bees behaviour ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, kaihoka said:

Does the type of smoke and whats being burnt make any difference to the bees behaviour ?

I’ve no idea. I’ve never tried using THC rich smoke 

  • Haha 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, M4tt said:

I’ve no idea. I’ve never tried using THC rich smoke 

We have tried once, seem to make the bees angry, but not sure why as it was a small yard and all hives got a "smoke"so didn't see any difference from hives not having a "smoke" 

and no I wasn't "smoking"it either we just happen to find a small plant near this site.

The last time i did have a "smoke"i was with my brother and we were driving thru Hamilton's Main st thinking we should slow down so we don't get a ticket, then i noticed people were walking faster than us.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 10

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe a calming affect so bees prepare prior to a fire consuming them. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tried tobacco, in fact ran a thread on it here a few years ago. I'm a non smoker but read somewhere that tobacco was what those "old timers" used, so grew some in the garden and got a very large crop.

 

Dried and put in the smoker but wow it does really stink in a smoker for some reason it was a bit unpleasant, the bees did not respond to it as well as the normal sacking i use.

 

My friend was a roll your own smoker so he tried some of my home grown with me watching, said it tasted fine, but he had to keep sucking on it constantly or it would go out. Must  be cause it didn't have all those chemicals they add to the bought stuff.

 

I still have a large cardboard box packed with dried tobacco leaves.

  • Like 1
  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most  older books quote the smoke\honey and most new books quote the smoke\pheromone. Some books just say they don't know but it works. Misting with a fine spray of water also works but probably has a different effect.Personally I am inclined towards the pheromone disruption. There is no doubt if you have one snotty hive in an apiary, that one snotty hive will upset every other  hive and make the whole apiary more difficult to work. That has got to be pheromones. I can and often do work without a smoker but I prefer to use one whenever I can not just Because it calms the bees but also it drives the bees away from the top of the box so less bees get squashed.Having said all that I use as little smoke as possible to get the job done and I keep the smoker topped up with damp pine needles so that I have a nice cool smoke. Breathing onto bees also causes them to leave the area they are occupying but maybe that's just the garlic I have been eating.

  • Like 1
  • Good Info 1
  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, M4tt said:

I’ve no idea. I’ve never tried using THC rich smoke 

Well if you vote yes in a couple of yrs you may be able to try it .😁😐

  • Like 2
  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, kaihoka said:

Well if you vote yes in a couple of yrs you may be able to try it .😁😐

Never 😉

I will stick to smoking hay 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, kaihoka said:

Does the type of smoke and whats being burnt make any difference to the bees behaviour ?

Not in my experience. Unless your smoke is hot.

 

I usually use pine needles. I prefer kanuka branches because I like the smell.

The most offensive smelling smoke I’ve ever come across was casurarina shelter belts, I wouldn’t even use it if I was desperate now 😷

Edited by Daley
  • Good Info 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Macrocarpa and its relatives produce a smoke which can taint honey and Maritime Pine smoke doesn't seem to worry the bees but it can give you a stinking headache. Sacking can potentially be  contaminated by pesticides so only use it if you know where the bags have come from and they burn better if hung over a fence for a few months in the rain.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was reading an online' how to beekeep' and it offered all sorts of suggestions about smoker fuel - including corn cobs. Quite a while later in the read it mentioned that corn cob smoke was harmful to the bees......

I stick to aged sacking (without fire retardant) and pine needles, and if it can be obtained, wood shavings from a lathe.

  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey now there’s a thought . Excess smoke cant be good for anything .

@frazzledfozzle‘s bees would have suffered through excess smoke with the Nelson fires last summer .

Do you reckon that had any effect on your bees Frazz ? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the research that debunked the 'smoke causes the bees to fill their honey stomachs so they can prepare to leave the hive' was done in Australia.  The issue came down to the time it took them to fill their stomachs with honey - it was shown that by the time the bees would have all filled up in order to abscond, the colony would have burned.  That explanation of why the bees are calmer to work simply didn't stand up to scientific investigation.  I think the accepted explanation now is related to disruption of the phenomenal communication.

  • Like 2
  • Good Info 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 27/09/2019 at 11:49 AM, jamesc said:

Well now Irish Honey .... we use a smoker most days, particularly when I find I have left my veil in 'The other truck' and have  to go commando.

We burn old coffee sacks or pine needles.

The smoke soothes the bees ..... makes 'em stick their heads in the cells to suck on honey, which apparently soothes their souls and makes them less inclined to take umbrage at being disturbed, and resort to stinging the intruder.

Most days it works.

Perhaps it does also disturb the pheremone..

All I know is that it works.... most of the time ! 

 

Still looking for some work experience ?

Hi Jamesc. It's good to know it works - one of the books also said that you can use the smoker on your hands if you are not using gloves. I imagine nobody working hives regularly would use gloves.

Yes I'm still looking for work experience for sure. When does the season kick off in NZ? Would it be as early as November?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Season already kicked off. 😉

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My bees are generally quiet enough to work without gloves but it's a lot quicker to wear gloves and just get on with it. I remember working with hard-bitten old beekeepers back in the days when bees were bees and men were men and sometimes they would be rubbing stings  off the back of their hands like a chippy would brush off sawdust. The odd sting is probably good for you but some of those old ######s paid for it in the end either becoming seriously allergic or ending up with crippled hands.

  • Like 3
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 28/09/2019 at 9:32 AM, Alastair said:

I tried tobacco, in fact ran a thread on it here a few years ago. I'm a non smoker but read somewhere that tobacco was what those "old timers" used, so grew some in the garden and got a very large crop.

 

Dried and put in the smoker but wow it does really stink in a smoker for some reason it was a bit unpleasant, the bees did not respond to it as well as the normal sacking i use.

 

My friend was a roll your own smoker so he tried some of my home grown with me watching, said it tasted fine, but he had to keep sucking on it constantly or it would go out. Must  be cause it didn't have all those chemicals they add to the bought stuff.

 

I still have a large cardboard box packed with dried tobacco leaves.

I think the 'chemicals they add' is saltpetre - potassium nitrate which is also used in fireworks. 🧨

So apart from the smoke tarring up your lungs and the addictiveness of the nicotine, you are inhaling some pretty hot stuff! 

On 29/09/2019 at 8:28 AM, NickWallingford said:

I think the research that debunked the 'smoke causes the bees to fill their honey stomachs so they can prepare to leave the hive' was done in Australia.  The issue came down to the time it took them to fill their stomachs with honey - it was shown that by the time the bees would have all filled up in order to abscond, the colony would have burned.  That explanation of why the bees are calmer to work simply didn't stand up to scientific investigation.  I think the accepted explanation now is related to disruption of the phenomenal communication.

I can remember reading somewhere that they don't fill up their honey stomachs to abscond; they simply retreat into the farthest niche of their colonial cavity (whether cave or tree) and wait until the fire passes over them. Then they come out and begin their nest again - the previous combs having supposedly melted. Has always seemed a little fanciful to me, but could be correct - I don't know who first volunteered to observe a colony in the midst of a bushfire! 

However, I do believe they gorge themselves somewhat somewhat in the presence of smoke, but it definitely mucks up their pheromone communication as well.

Often after smoking, you pull the lid off and a few guard bees might fly up, but never a full-on onslaught. I wonder if that phenomenon might be evidence of the pheromone theory holding more water than the nectar-gorging theory. 

Anyway, it is effective. Even liquid smoke sprayed on mixed with syrup has worked for me when working around dry grass during summer.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 27/09/2019 at 12:38 PM, jamesc said:

Hmm ..... Christmas time we is celebrating the birth of the Baby Jesus with The Doctor , but if you need a base camp , you is welcome.... just don't try to convert us to Guiness.

 

That's a very kind offer, thank you. Who is The Doctor btw?? Don't worry about the Guinness, I drink so much of it of it that nobody in NZ need worry about drinking the bittersweet nectar of the Emerald Isle. I think the All Blacks must drink it though, it must be what makes them so fearsome :-)

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Irishoney said:

Who is The Doctor btw??

(Dr) Speights. That is our local (NZ) poison.  Even worse that Guinness.

Edited by Trevor Gillbanks
  • Like 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...