Monday, April 4, 2011

The Effects of Using a Smoker While Working with a Colony

People are now asking whether giving the bees a few puffs of smoke is damaging them, getting them too stressed.  Here is my answer...

My long experience is that the smoke is not damaging, if it is done right.  I just give a little puff or two when I lift the outer cover, to let them know that I am coming.  It's the 'door bell' for me. 

When the bees experience smoke their instinct tells them to collect instead of continuing with the daily tasks. This comes as a survival instinct when the forest is on fire. They collect and take in all the honey they can in case they have to leave their home. Of course this does not happened when you do it like I explained above; the bees don't storm to the honey, stressed about a possible fire.  They go on with their work. But they know now that I am coming.

Important: I spend a lot of time in the fall collecting and drying the proper fuel; the fuel I use are dried and chopped up 'weeds' like Sweet Annie,  basil, oregano, catnip, mint etc., we make the smoker fuel very fragrant.  Opening up the hive without the 'door bell' can be more of a stress for the bees.  An alternative to the smoke is a few sprays of honey-tea. This of course has also disadvantages because it gets them a bit wet and sticky. Sometimes I can open up a hive without anything, depending on the time of the day, the season and the weather.