Lighting a beekeepers smoker must be one of the simplest things to do in beekeeping but I have seen so many struggle to light one and then keep it alight. Some beekeepers say they are not needed but I like to keep my ladies nice and calm while I am inspecting the hive.
A smoker is just a tin can with a hole in the top and a pair of bellows on the side to feed air into the main chamber. I have seen folks stuff it full of paper and whatever material they are using and then try and light it from the top, sorry, but it is just not going to work.
The way I do it is to make sure my smoker is empty keeping any bits of unburned fuel. I then fill it with newspaper, I don’t use glossy magazines as it doesn’t burn too well. Having got the paper burning really well and I will have flames coming out of the top. Oh yes, for this job I usually wear my thick gardening gloves then I don’t have to worry about getting my fingers burned. Ok, the paper is well alight now and I start feeding in the fuel. This could be dry wood chippings, hay, dry leaves, fir cones etc.
As you do this keep pumping the bellows adding the new fuel and any unburned fuel until the smoker is full to the top and is quite firmly pushed down. By now you should have a good fire going at the base so close the top of the smoker but keep pumping the bellows until you have a good plume of smoke coming out of the nozzle.
It is important to keep plenty of fuel in the smoker in order that it is cool smoke that you are puffing out at your ladies. If you start puffing hot smoke at them it is likely to have the reverse affect than what you are looking to achieve. You can test the temperature of the smoke by holding your hand in front of the nozzle and puffing some smoke at it.
The smoker should now stay alight for as long as you need to use it. When finished doing your inspections just stuff grass into the nozzle of the smoker and lay on its side on the ground and leave to go out before putting it away.