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Do You Need A Smoker For Bees?

It’s quite often that people (even beekeepers) think that smoke makes bees sleepy. This isn’t accurate, as the smoke merely masks the bees’ alarm pheromones. When you smoke your bees, they prepare to leave their hive because they believe it’s on fire.

The type of smoke that a bee smoker emits is used to calm your honey bees, thus, preventing them from getting too hostile towards you. Bees are dangerous insects when not handled with care, so caution has to be taken. When beekeepers smoke their bees, they can perform hive inspections without getting attacked by their bees.

When you smoke your bees, they begin to eat a lot of honey, thinking they need all their energy to find a new home. Smoking your bees will not harm them as long as they smoke isn’t too hot. Is a smoker a necessary tool for handling your bees?

Some Beekeepers Prefer To Not Smoke Their Bees

Whether or not to use smoke to calm your bees can turn into quite a controversial subject. There are several factors to consider when you decide to handle a hive without the help of a smoker.

Although it is an individual choice based on comfort, some beekeepers refuse to use smoke because they believe it can affect the taste of the honey and combs. Other beekeepers tend to look for an alternative method to calm their bees down because smoking tends to be messy with a strong smell.

What Should You Do When Handling Your Bees Without A Smoker?

It doesn’t matter whether you are thinking of handling your bees for the first time without a smoker or if you have previously tried and failed. You can do numerous things as a beekeeper to try and keep your bees calm when doing hive inspections or harvesting honey. Read more below.

Always remain calm!

Remaining calm is probably the most crucial thing you can do when handling your bees without a smoker. Many new beekeepers find it difficult to stay calm when they open their hives, and I know I did! However, being anxious at first is completely natural and will get much easier to do with a little practice.

Did you know that bees are very intuitive to your energy? They will likely respond the same to you if you approach them with fear and anxiety, much like a horse or a dog. Breath and try to relax when you open and work on your hives.

If you are an anxious beekeeper, I will advise you to wear a beekeeping suit. Wearing a beekeeping suit helps many beekeepers because it will protect them from any potential stings and give them peace of mind. Knowing that you won’t feel a bee sting will help you stay relaxed and focused on the task.

If you prefer not to wear a beekeeping suit, you can wear low contrast and light-colored clothing, as darker colors will provoke your bees.

Always wear clean clothing.

If you are wearing a beekeeping suit or any other type of clothing, you should make sure that they are freshly washed. It is of utmost importance to keep in mind that you should always avoid wearing unwashed clothing during your last hive inspection.

If you wear a beekeeping suit in a prior inspection and it still contains stings in the fabric, it will release an alarm pheromone to your hive. This will alert your bees, and they will think that there is a treat close by and get aggressive.

Move slowly and quietly.

Bees dislike vibrations strongly, so it would be best to keep your movement slow, but steady when handling your hive. If you can, make sure your neighbors aren’t mowing their lawn and avoid dropping any objects close to the hive.

It would also be best to avoid talking loudly around the hive, as this will alarm your bees and make them defend their hives.

Breathe through your nose.

As mentioned before, bees are extremely intuitive and, therefore, equate hot breath to predators. Did you know that bees have learned to react defensively to carbon dioxide?

If you learn to remain relaxed and calm, you can also pay close attention to how you breathe around your bees, as funny as it may sound! Do not exhale heavily when working around your hive. Instead, try to condition yourself to breathe lightly through your nose.

Always be aware of how you smell.

Bees do not like the smell of old sweat at all, but for some reason, they are attracted to fresh sweat because of the certain minerals it contains. Do not be scared if you notice your bees trying to drink your sweat. It would be best to shower prior to opening your hives and avoid putting on any perfume or other strong smells before interacting or working with your stinger friends!

Try your best not to crush your bees.

It is unfortunate to know that by not using a bee smoker, your bees will be much more active, leading to a higher risk of them being crushed while you are working on their hives.

You have to try your absolute best not to crush and of your bees. Bees release a strong alarm pheromone when they are crushed, clearly indicating to their friends that something is wrong, sending them into defense mode.

When Is The Best Time To Open Your Hive Without A Smoker?

Mid-morning is the best time of the day to open your hives. Your bees can be grumpy and more aggressive if you choose to work on your hives during dusk or dawn.

 Bees are also generally very active during the mid-morning, which is a good thing for you as the beekeeper, as most of the forage worker bees will have left the hive. This means that when you open your hive, fewer bees will be waiting for you.

If the weather conditions are not suitable on the day you plan to work on your hive, it would be beneficial to reschedule for a day that is a bit more suitable.

What Are The Best Weather Conditions To Open A Hive Without A Smoker?

Sunny, dry, and quiet days.

The best type of weather to open your hives would be sunny, dry, and quiet days, meaning there is no wind. You want to make sure that your weather conditions outside will come close to the temperatures inside of the hives.

Ideally, it should be between 85°F. Never attempt to open your hives right before thunderstorms or heavy rain. Bees tend to be very stressed before a storm, and most of the colony will remain on the inside of the hive.

  • Winter.

Your honey bees will be extremely docile during the winter, so if you do not want to make use of a smoker, this will be a great advantage. Bees form a cluster in order to remain warm, and they will rarely break apart to sting you or defend their hive.

Conclusion

The easiest answer is that it is safer for both the bees and the beekeeper to use smoke when attending the hives. Allergic reactions from bee stings could be life-threatening, so you should prevent them from happening as much as you can. Plus, it encourages routine inspections as makes working with your bees a more enjoyable experience.

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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