The biggest thing that I think helps people understand, is that you actually have to make a fire in your smoker and snuff it out to create a nice fluffy, white, cool smoke.
So the way that Im going to do that is Im going to build my fire with paper. Just plain old newspaper. The best way to make a fire and keep it lit is a lot of airflow. So don’t pack everything in.
The next layer should be something like some dry straw.
Once you have the crumpled newspaper and straw in the smoker, use a long skinny lighter to get down into the bottom of the smoker and light the tinder. You want to get the fire lit from the bottom.
Once the paper is ignited use the bellows to get some air flowing. I do want to actually see some flame.
Once the fire is going, add more tinder like straw. Use your hive tool to adjust and push the straw and tinder down. (don’t light your hand on fire!)
Give it a lot of air! It really works. Thats why you have a bellows on your smoker.
Make sure you have enough airflow to get it really going.
So now that its really lit, I can ad a secondary fuel like wood chips. An alternative would be the industry standard pressed cotton you can get from beekeeping supply stores.
At this point we have lots of smoke, our fires going, everything great, but the smoke is really hot. What I don’t want to do it scorch the bees. So on the top layer I’m going to add something a little fluffier. You can add dried grass or pine needles. I like to use dried lavender prunings. I feel that it smells really good and the bees probably like it.
The last thing I will do to keep the smoke cool for the bees is to add some fresh green grass. Because again, I don’t want to scorch their wings. I just bundle it up and put it in as the top layer. This is going to act as a diffuser and cool the smoke. The smoke should be nice and cool, you should definitely be able to put your hand in front of it and not feel much heat.
Now your smoker is lit and ready to go. Please remember that it is a lit fire. Don’t leave it lying in dry grass or anywhere where you could potentially start a fire. Keep your eyes on it.
This smoker with that much fuel in it should stay lit long enough to work two full hives or longer. You can always add more fuel as you go to create more smoke.
It is always a good idea to have your smoker when you are working your bees, even if you don’t use it very much. If you need it its going to take a long time to get it lit!
So light it ahead of time.
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