Lighting the Smoker Ceremony

2010
05.11

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Your smoker is your best friend at the apiary.  It has your back when the bees are unruly. Be good to it, and it will be good to you.

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Lighting a smoker should be thought of as a ritual. Like the ancient tea ritual of the Japanese, it needs to change your mindset from the herky-jerky of your hecktic day to a calm tranquility so that you move gracefully and slowly among your bees.  However, to get your smoker going quickly, here is my steps:

  1. Using cedar chips that are sold for gerbil cages, i put in 1/2 the volume in my smoker.
  2. I brake out my blowtorch and ignite it AWAY from me.
  3. Tilting the smoker to 45 degree angle, I put the flame to the side and puff the smoker in SHALLOW puffs. It works better than deep puffs.
  4. Once I see glowing red embers, I continue to puff, and shut off the smoker then put on another 1/3 volume of fuel.
  5. I finish out the smoker by stuffing green grass in the remaining volume. This generates a cooler smoke for me.

Remember, that you want COOL smoke that doesn’t hurt the bees. If you see embers or sparks flying out, you need to calm down on the puffing and pack some green wood or grass in there.

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If you don’t have the luxury of a blowtorch, use the same technique except:   #2 Get paper or grass and light it., #3 Drop the lit material into the smoker and puff shallow until it catches the surrounding fuel.  Then continue on with #4.

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As a general rule, I tell beginners that they shouldn’t be allowed a blowtorch in their first year. Even if they own one. It is good to have the ‘lighting of the smoker’ ceremony to adjust your mindset and transition into graceful slow motions. Otherwise, you’ll move to fast with your bees, and they will open up a can of whoopass on you.

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NOTE - Never EVER place a lit smoker in your car, on the bed of your plastic pickup truck lining (i have melt rings to prove it), or on other combustible surfaces. It is a FIRE HAZARD in a big way, treat it with respect, and keep a 2 liter bottle of water in your vehicle for the dual purpose of extinguishing out your smoker at the end of the shift, and as emergency drink after a long bee inspection.

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One Response to “Lighting the Smoker Ceremony”

  1. Tom says:

    Also never put “dead” smoker embers into your trash can. Two years ago, I dumped my smoker that had been out for over an hour into my trash can next to the driveway. My truck was ten feet away. An hour later as we ate dinner my son saw a fire truck drive by the front of the house. A few moments later, I saw flashing lights in the alley along with a beautiful glow. I went out to investigate and found my trash can melted to the ground, all garbage burned, and the tail light on my truck melted into a very interesting shape!

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