What to Look for in a Bee Smoker
A bee smoker isn’t a torture device we humans use to oppress the bees; it’s merely there to distract them. The smoke will mainly put a damper on the guard bees’ alarm pheromones, so they don’t alert the colony to treat you as a threat.
A bee smoker’s design is quite simple. If we look back to the early days, a bee smoker was a mere tin can with holes. Of course, the bee smokers that we know today have come a long way since then. The can has evolved and today it has bellows, plus a spout for easy aiming.
Most of today’s bee smokers come with a number of standard features. Here are a few things to look for:
- Quality: A smoker that’s made of high-quality, strong stainless steel will last you much longer.
- Mounting hook: The hook allows you to hang the smoker on the side of the hive to keep it nearby.
- Durable bellows: You will usually have two choices—either leather or rubber. Further down in our top six we’ve included both.
- Heat protection cage: This is a metal cage surrounding the smoker, keeping your fingers away from the burning hot can. It can also protect the smoker if it happens to fall.
- Ease of use: Look for a product that’s relatively easy to operate, particularly considering you may only have one hand free to use it at times.
Best Bee Smokers
Bee smokers are plentiful, but it’s important to find the one that ticks the right boxes for you. If you’re new to beekeeping, make sure you look for one that’s simple to use.
First, let’s look at our top six recommendations, followed by a small section on what fuel to use and a couple of products. Finally, we’ll go through the general operation of bee smokers.
In our first spot for today, we have a bee smoker from Mann Lake. This smoker looks fantastic—it grabs your attention from afar.
One of the things that we really love about this model is that Mann Lake created it using high-quality stainless steel material. The company actually made a full transformation from the design of its previous smokers, and this is the result.
From head to toe, this bee smoker is made to last. The bellow bracket is stronger, as well as the heavy-duty hinge. It’s very easy to use and will continue to burn and produce smoke for quite a while.
Because it’s easy to use, it’s excellent for beginner beekeepers and pros alike. The heat shield sits a little lower on this model, but it will still keep your fingers protected.
The rubber bellows are a great feature. These are top-quality and will stay with you for years to come. If, however, you need to, they’re replaceable.
I’d also like to mention the last valuable feature, namely the large fuel chamber. The whole smoker is approximately 10 inches high and has a 4-inch diameter. Because of its size, it’s fuel-efficient and you can use it for quite some time before needing a refill.
- High-quality stainless steel material—it’s durable and long-lasting
- Rubber bellows
- Relatively easy to use—great for beginners
- Large size which means more smoking time
- The lid doesn’t fit very well
This bee smoker from CO-Z weighs approximately 1.64 pounds and measures 12 inches in length.
It features a large heat protection cage that actually spans most of the metal, ensuring that no fingers get burned. The cage also sits at a comfortable distance from the scorching metal, so you can easily grab onto it if needed.
A great feature is the large hook. This will allow you to hang the smoker almost anywhere. It could even fit on the thicker frames of the beehive.
CO-Z constructed this bee smoker using sturdy stainless steel. It’s easy to keep clean and will stay with you for years to come. The mouth of the smoker is angled which, in turn, helps with precision when aiming at the beehive.
This smoker was made for efficient airflow. The base plate is actually perforated which allows more air into the smoker, thus, maximizing the air distribution. The base plate is also removable if extra air isn’t needed.
CO-Z made the bellows from vinyl as opposed to leather. The vinyl is high quality and durable, again making for effective airflow to the firebox.
One of the things that we love most about this smoker is just how efficient it is. It creates a lot of smoke with less fuel, so you could probably work more than one hive before refueling. Just watch out where you stand on windy days, though, so you’re not the one getting smoked.
- Very effective—creates lots of smoke using less fuel
- Vinyl bellows for those who prefer not to use leather
- Made of sturdy stainless-steel material
- Sharp angled mouth allows for high precision aiming
- Comes with a removable, perforated base plate for extra airflow
- The heat protection cage is large
- Large metal hook for easy hanging
- The lid is somewhat fragile and might loosen if you handle it too roughly
- There’s no instruction sheet which may make it difficult to use for beginner beekeepers
The first thing you notice about this bee smoker is the rounded lid. Many beekeepers believe that the rounded or dome-like lid helps to create more smoke. Besides the lid, this smoker looks amazing.
Goodland Bee Supply made it of stainless steel that’s both welded and polished. To top it off, there’s even a laser-carved logo included. One of the reasons that we recommend this bee smoker is because of its manufacturer.
Goodland Bee Supply has gained a good reputation in the apiary sector. The company has supplied beekeepers with high-quality equipment for decades.
This smoker does not disappoint. It’s excellent at holding heat and smoking for longer thanks to its large size. It has an 11-inch smoke chamber, with a width of 4 inches.
The mouth of the smoker is smaller than the ones above, which results in even more precision. It’s excellent for getting the smoke into the right areas without accidentally smoking up the whole hive.
The bellows are made of high-quality leather and are easy to use, even with one hand. Inside, there is a perforated pellet stand that you can quickly remove if needed. This also makes the smoker very easy to clean since you’re able to remove all the parts that are otherwise hard to clean.
The heat protection cage is very large and so is the hook. The cage is sturdy and can easily withstand a few trips to the ground without damaging the smoker itself. The hook is rounded and can comfortably fit on any side of the beehive.
Thanks to Goodland Bee Supply, you’ll also get three smoke logs. The main ingredient in these smoke logs is mugwort. It acts as a safe bee repellent, keeping the bees at bay while you do your job.
- Beautifully designed bee smoker
- Very efficient—creates much smoke which lasts longer
- Large heat protection cage and hook
- Comes from a reputed manufacturer
- Made of welded and polished stainless steel
- A small angled mouth that helps with precision
- Perforated pellet stand that’s easy to remove for cleaning
- You get three mugwort smoke logs
- The hinge at the top is a bit floppy which makes it difficult to place the lid right
- There are no instructions included, so some parts may be difficult to figure out
- It’s a bit heavier than other models, at around 2 pounds
If you’re looking for a bee smoker that can produce a lot of smoke with little fuel and effort, then look here. This example from Agralogix is capable of producing a large amount of smoke.
It’s made of heavy-gauge stainless steel, ensuring that it will stay with you for quite a while. Like the ones above, this model also has a heat protection cage, however, this is a bit shorter. It doesn’t reach as high as some of the others, but this is, of course, not always necessary.
The bellows are leather and marked with the Agralogix logo. This bee smoker also has a removable perforated pellet stand, making for better airflow inside the fuel chamber.
This smoker is one of the larger models the brand has produced, but that only means more smoke. It’s also very easy to use and great for both the beginner and pro.
- Large size makes for extra smoke
- Heavy-duty stainless steel material
- Removable pellet stand for better airflow
- Heat protection cage is short
This bee smoker from Honey Keeper is top quality. Honey Keeper is another top-notch brand, worthy of your consideration.
The high-quality stainless steel material makes this bee smoker one that will last. It’s resistant to abrasion and rust, making it durable for years to come. It also has a heat shield that’s quite large, to help prevent burned fingers.
The heat shield is also well secured and it doesn’t feel wobbly in your hand, which improves your overall experience. It also has that standard mounting hook that allows you to place it securely wherever you need it.
This bee smoker actually comes with another pretty cool feature. It has a heat aerator. This additional feature will provide a much better airflow which leads to long-lasting smoke.
The whole smoker measures about 11 inches in height and roughly 10 inches when the bellows are open.
- High-quality material
- A reputable brand
- It has a large heat shield
- A heat aerator for better airflow
- The base plate inside the fuel chamber sits a little loose and may flip over
- The lid is a little loose
Our last example for the best bee smokers is this model from Vivo. This bee smoker is very attractive both in terms of design and use. It’s made of the standard high-quality stainless steel material, ensuring a long-lasting product.
The smoker is about 13 inches tall from bottom to nose, with a diameter of 4 inches. There’s lots of room to produce large amounts of thick smoke to calm your bees.
It has a heat protection cage, however, the bottom gets very hot, due to the perforated fire base which increases airflow, so it’s basically open at the bottom. So don’t place it on dry grass.
- High-quality stainless steel
- It’s large and roomy, excellent for producing much smoke
- The air holes at the bottom create better airflow
- The bottom air holes make the base really hot and dangerous if placed on a flammable surface
What Fuel Do Bee Smokers Use?
A bee smoker can’t operate without fuel, but luckily they don’t require a whole lot. Some beekeepers keep it simple and use dry twigs and leaves they find in the yard. Others will purchase specially made bee smoker fuel.
To create smoke, you need fire, therefore, it’s important to understand the basics. You will need two or three materials: a starter, kindling, and fuel.
Never use fuel that contains oils, hair, feathers, or chemicals. These can be aggravating for the bees.
A good smoke starter is a material that lights quickly and remains lit until you get the kindling going. The ideal material would be something that has air pockets within flammable materials. This could be a pinecone for example.
The main purpose of a starter is that you light it and then place it in the can to start up the smoke. While it’s smoking up inside, place the kindling at the top to keep it going. Make sure the material you use has enough air pockets so the fire doesn’t get smothered.
If you’re short on starter materials, don’t worry, you can just go straight to kindling. It can, however, be more difficult to get a good smoke going.
Kindling has to be something that lights easily but also has to have a little longer burning time than the starters. Pine needles and natural Hessian wood are a favorite kindling among many beekeepers.
Some materials that are great for kindling are wood shavings. You could even purchase a bag of hamster bedding if you’d like. A few suppliers will also sell a type of lint, which resembles laundry lint. The problem with this is it tends to burn rather quickly.
We do not recommend using your own laundry lint. This could contain synthetic fibers from clothing that will melt instead of burning. In turn, this could clog up your smoker or even cause toxic fumes to build up.
The ideal fuel for a bee smoker lights quickly and creates lots of smoke without needing too many puffs of the bellows. The fuel also needs to have more body compared to starters and kindles. It has to be able to burn for a while so you don’t need to stop and restart while dealing with bees.
A few examples of fuel that you can retrieve from your backyard: wood chips, twigs, or even more kindling. Preparing the smoker with the starters and kindling is important for the fuel to get a good start.
Best Bee Smoker Fuel
Even though you can find good fuel sources in your yard, it may not be possible for all beekeepers. There are lots of options out there for beekeepers who wish to purchase ready-made smoker fuel. Keep reading to see our two favorites.
The Quality smoker fuel is very simple. It consists mostly of cotton fibers with a few wooden materials in the mix. These aren’t pellets, but rather a loose cotton material.
They are quite easy to light and will keep burning for a long time. This fuel creates a more cool and calming smoke for the bees. Many beekeepers report being able to smoke for up to an hour.
This fuel is best used with either a starter or a kindle at the bottom of the smoker. This is just to get the heat going and help get an even burn started quickly.
- Lights quickly
- Stays lit for a long time
- Keeps the bees very calm
- Requires a kindle or starter to get an even burn quickly
These fuel pellets have one purpose only: to make hive inspections quick and simple. The pellets can be used as fuel or as a starter. The smoke is very calming for the bees, but it won’t last for long.
Many beekeepers have reported only having a few minutes of smoke. One thing you can do, though, is use it as a starter. Light one or two pellets, toss them into your smoker and then use another type of fuel to keep the flame going.
- Lights quickly
- Simple to use
- Odorless smoke
- Can be used as a fuel for quick inspections, or as a starter for longer hive visits
- Large supply, you get about 100 pellets in one bag
- Short burning time
- Becomes very hot
How to Light (and Put Out) a Bee Smoker
When you’re dealing with aggressive bees, you need smoke, and you need it fast. Fumbling around with your bee smoker is definitely not ideal. If it’s your first time, make sure you’re prepared and have everything you need within reach.
As we discussed above, you will need at least a kindling material followed by a fuel. Ideally, you would begin with a starter to get a quick and even burn, but this isn’t absolutely necessary.
You will need one important tool to get the first flame going: a lighter. You can easily use matches, but we would recommend using a long grill lighter. These make it much easier to light the first flame inside the smoker.
Another great helper is a hive tool or another long tool. These are great at stuffing the fuel into the smoker without sustaining a nasty burn.
Lighting the Smoker
It’s important to remember that you have to first light a fire at the bottom of your smoker. If you place all the unlit fuel at the bottom and then place a kindle on top, it won’t work.
You see, heat rises. If you light it from the top, the fire will burn quickly and then die out, since it’s unable to reach the materials at the bottom. If you start at the bottom, the heat will rise and burn the rest of the materials, giving you the smoke you need for your hive.
Step One: Light the Starter
Get your starter fuel and place it at the bottom of the smoker can. Light the starting fuel and wait for it to get an even burn, meaning it’s strong and doesn’t die. If you don’t have a long lighter, light it using matches and then toss the starter fuel into the smoker.
Step Two: Add Kindling
Once the starter fuel has a good even burn, pump the bellows just a few times to get the fire going even more. Once you’ve done that, add the kindling. Start with a small amount and then add more if needed.
Use your tool to pack it down, do not use your fingers. Don’t pack it too hard either, this could smother the fire. Keep pumping the bellows until you have a nice fire going, and keep adding more kindling as needed.
Step Three: Add the Fuel
Once the fire is going well, it’s time to add the main fuel. As above, add as much as you need and keep packing it down. Remember to keep regularly pumping the bellows to help the smoke get started.
Once the smoker is full and you see a cool, white smoke coming out, you’re good to go. Close the lid on the smoker and then begin to smoke the hive.
How to Put Out the Smoker
Many beekeepers will just find a safe place to dump the burning fuel. This should be away from anything dry and flammable.
The proper way to put out your smoker, however, is by suffocating the fire. Seal all the openings of the can. Doing this will prevent any air from entering the can and the fire will slowly die out.
Fire can’t burn without oxygen, therefore, it will die. Putting your smoker out this way also means that you can reuse whatever fuel is left in the can. Partly used fuel will sometimes light quicker as well, so you could save effort and time.
Maintenance & Care
Maintaining your bee smoker is crucial. A well-cared-for smoker will last you a long time and work at an optimal level. If you haven’t cleaned your smoker, you may begin to notice a limited amount of smoke coming out.
Cleaning it is definitely the most important aspect and you might need a few tools to clean it thoroughly. We prefer to have one or two screwdrivers in various sizes available. A hive tool or scraping tool will also come in handy.
Step One: Clean the Lid
Check the inside of the lid; you can use either your hive tool or a screwdriver to scrape the grime off. Removing buildup inside the lid will help to make it open and close much easier. It’s important to maintain the smoke vent as well—use the same method of scraping.
Step Two: Scrape the Inside of the Can
Once you have removed the majority of crud in the can, take out the grate from the bottom. Getting the grate out can be a little tricky. You may need a long tool with a hook at the end that fits into the grate holes.
If you inspect the grate, you may see that many of the holes are blocked by soot. You will have to scrape this off using a tool. It’s essential to get all the holes clean; you can easily use a corner of your hive tool, or even a screwdriver that fits.
Check the inside of the can, underneath the grate. You will most likely find fuel debris and more soot, which also has to be cleaned out. Some of the debris may just fall out if you turn the can upside down, if not, you will have to scrape it off.
Step Three: A Clean Air Tube
To properly clean the air tube, you will first have to remove the bellows. Before removing the bellows, examine the screws. Take a good look at them, if they’re rusty you may need to use a penetrating oil to help remove them.
A penetrating oil or fluid is great at getting rusty screws out without damaging them. If you turn too hard on a rusty screw without the oil, you might strip the screw. If that happens, you may not be able to remove it.
Once you get all of the screws out, separate the tube from the bellows. Inspect the tube; you might find it’s partially or completely plugged. Even a minor plug can cause the smoker to perform badly.
Clean the pipe by removing anything that might be causing a blockage. You can use your screwdriver or hive tool for this as well.
Step Four: Inspect the Bellows
It’s important to check the bellows as well, particularly for any leaks. To do this, place one or two fingers over the air outlet, then pump the bellows. It’s completely normal that a little air will leak; however, if you notice a significant amount, the bellows will have to be replaced.
If you need the smoker but can’t replace the bellows just yet, duct tape works fine as a temporary fix. It won’t last for long though.
Step Five: Reassemble
When you’re all done, it’s time to assemble the smoker again. Start by placing the grate inside of the can. Then place the tube and bellows together and tighten the screws.
You can use a bit of oil around the screws. This will also make the process easier next time, as they will be less likely to rust and easier to remove.
Risks & Precautions
Having a good bee smoker is crucial to becoming a successful beekeeper. Bee stings are painful and can, in some cases, be fatal. Allergic reactions from bee stings can result in anaphylactic shock.
Bee smokers will get hot when smoking, due to the fire you started in the can. Always wear gloves and hold the smoker by the handle or safety cage, never hold the can directly.
Some fuels burn much hotter than others. Pellets, for example, tend to create hot smoke. Push the trigger a few times until the smoke is white and cool, never blow hot smoke on your bees.
If you choose to use items from your yard, make sure you think it through. You don’t want to burn any materials that contain chemicals. Cardboard, while great as a starter, can contain a few chemicals depending on where it came from.
Once you’re done smoking the hive, never dump the contents near flammable objects. Keep it far away from dry grass, hay, or any other dry materials. The best thing to do is to follow our guide (above) on how to safely put out the smoker.
One of the biggest myths about bee smokers is that it’s harmful to the bees. The smoke, however, will only put a damper on the bees’ senses, making them calmer and less likely to sting.
Having a good bee smoker is essential, but it’s also important to take good care of it. We hope you found our guides and reviews helpful in your quest to become a great beekeeper.