Why do beekeepers use smoke?

Ever questioned why beekeepers are never stung when harvesting honey or conducting hive inspections?

Beekeepers use smoke to ensure that the bees are calm during hive inspections since bees are extremely vigilant insects. By using one of their primary means of communication which is smell, the smoke helps the bees to keep calm. Additionally, it prevents bees from stinging the beekeeper when conducting hive inspections or honey harvesting. The smoke protects the beekeeper from stings and ensures that the bees are not harmed.

What is the smoke made of?

Various fuels such as pine needles, wood shavings, paper egg cartons, rotten wood, and other natural materials are all used to make the smoke. You’ll notice that these materials can be found in nature.

Because the smoke’s purpose is to calm the bees, it is highly discouraged to make beesmoke from synthetic materials as they can aggravate the bees.

Bees are susceptible to strong chemical smells, so if you notice such a smell, it’s recommended that you purchase bee smoke from another brand or make your own using natural components.

Beekeepers also note the temperature of the smoke. Any warm or hot smoke will burn the bees’ wings or the bees themselves. The smoke should be cold enough to avoid burning you and the bees.

Furthermore, beekeepers burn wood pellets, cotton, burlap, pine needles, and cardboard as natural fuels. Each of these materials has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Some materials generate cold smoke but are difficult to access, whereas others are accessible yet produce hot smoke.

Cotton may not be readily available in certain areas, but beekeepers prefer using it as fuel because it burns more slowly than other fuels and produces cool smoke that is safe for bees.

What effect do these materials have on bees?

Alarm pheromones are released by bees to warn other bees of danger. The pheromones become unnoticeable when the smoke’s smell combines with them, protecting the beekeeper from stings.

Even though the smoke prevents the bees from detecting pheromones, they will regain this ability once the smoke has dissipated.

These natural components’ main purpose is to imitate the smell of something burning, particularly a forest fire. The bees interpret this as an indication of a fire.

Bees start putting honey in their mouths out of impulse. You can think of this as our immediate reaction to gather as many personal necessities as we can the moment we perceive danger.

The bees grow calm and heavy-set due to the honey which prevents them from stinging an “intruder.”

Moreover, depending on the materials you burn, each smoke has a different impact. For instance, combining organic materials like sage, flowers, and pine needles produces a delightful aroma. On the other hand, using only cardboard, wood, and burlap produces an unpleasant odor.

According to USDA research, the fragrance produced by flowers and such can reduce varroa mites. Adult honey bees are frequently parasitized by varroa mites. These parasites weaken, decimate, and spread viruses to honey bee colonies.

Can too much bee smoke harm the bees?

Yes, excessive use of bee smoke can harm the bees. Always keep in mind that everything consumed out of moderation is harmful.

The bees may leave a hive if there is too much smoke as they are worried about their queen, who may be hurt or lost on the grass.

When releasing too much smoke, the bees’ trachea could become clogged. The beekeeper may also suffer from health risks caused by excessive bee smoke.

In addition to making the bees hostile and disoriented, this can also affect the honey’s quality.

Although bee smokers aren’t meant to harm bees, if a beekeeper uses one incorrectly, it could be hazardous.

Aspiring beekeepers should steer clear of the following errors: using inappropriate materials to make smoke and opening the hive immediately after smoking.

One of the most crucial things to remember when making bee smoke is to avoid making smoke using synthetic materials. 

Several rookie beekeepers think that after smoking at the entrance, they can open the hive right away. Bees occasionally exhibit unusual behavior, so it’s better to wait a minute before conducting hive inspections and honey harvesting.

How to use a bee smoker correctly?

Make sure you’ve taken all necessary precautions, such as wearing your bee suit and unloading your vehicle, before doing hive inspections or harvesting.

When using a bee smoker, start by lighting it before reaching the beehive’s entrance. Light your fire starter and place it in the fire chamber while pumping the bellows to create flames.

While continuously pumping the bellows, gradually add fuel to the chamber. Once the fuel starts to burn and smoke, add more fuel and secure the bee smoker.

To keep the smoker going, keep pumping the bellows.

It’s crucial to know how to light the smoker correctly, what fuel to use, and how to ensure that it stays lit because there may be times when it goes out during an inspection or harvest.

To light it properly, add your fire starter in the fire chamber and ignite it. Your fire starter could be cardboard, pine needles, burlap, or a combination of these. 

Once the fire starter is inflamed, add more fuel. It’s extremely crucial to keep in mind that you should not ignite this layer above. This is to make sure that your smoker stays lit.

After the fire starter ignites this layer, you should shut the smoker and check that the smoke emanating from the nozzle is cold and dense.

You can also add more fuel if you see sparks flying from the nozzle.

It’s crucial to conduct your own research when deciding what fuel to use. Identify the materials that are readily available in your location and list the pros and cons of each material. Cotton is highly recommended by certain beekeepers, but it could be difficult to find.

Take note of the temperature and smell. Never use smoke that is too hot, as this can melt the bees’ wings, and stay away from acidic or acrid-smelling smoke.

Use the bee smoker on your hive after making sure it is functioning properly, but keep in mind that it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to smoke the entrance.

Always keep in mind that you shouldn’t directly puff bee smoke into the hive and in between the frames because doing so poses the risk of harming the bees.

To prevent a fire from starting, never leave it close to flammable surfaces like grass after conducting hive inspections or harvesting honey. 


Bee smoke has been used by beekeepers for centuries. Bee smokers are mainly used by new beekeepers, but as they acquire experience and become more conscious of their colony’s mood and hive strength, beekeepers gradually use less and less smoke. Bee smoke has been proven to not harm the bees, but it can be detrimental if used excessively. Therefore, it’s important to understand how a bee smoker works and how much smoke is permitted to use.