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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to Hold a Smoker Contest

I've never been to a meeting where there actually was a smoker lighting contest.  At the Tara Beekeepers there was such a contest today at the annual picnic, so I am sharing how to run a smoker lighting contest, now that I've been present for one.

Basically each contestant has three minutes to light his/her smoker with the provided fuel.  The smokers have to be empty at the start of the contest.  The smoker has to be lit with provided matches - these were strike-anywhere matches.  After the smoker is lit and the three minutes are up, the winner is determined by how long the smoker continues to smoke without anyone squeezing the bellows.  It's a last-one-standing contest.

The judge has a difficult job.  She has to make sure equal supplies are given to all, has to time the lighting, and then has to keep an eye on the smokers for the length of the contest.  Our judge, Fran Lane,  periodically went over to see which smokers were still burning.  She turned the ones that were out onto their sides.  At the end of the picnic (and the end of the contest), she had to determine a winner from the three that were still burning.

The slide show is below and there are captions for each photo explaining how the contest is set up and run.  Click on the slide show to see the captions and to view it full screen.

This event inspires me to learn to work my smoker better.  I can light the thing but it takes me forever, and I certainly don't have the art of packing it properly down.  Makes me want to drive down to Forest Park and take a lesson from PN!  At the very least I am going to work on improving my smoker lighting.

Since I use hive drapes, I rarely use my smoker, but I do light it and need it to stay lit through all of my inspection.  Instead I am always needing to relight it or add fuel.


  1. Anonymous6:44 AM

    What a fun post! I was thinking of suggesting this for the honey harvest festival, I think I will. It looks like a blast.

  2. I recently read The Hive and the Honeybee by Langstroth and he talked about spraying 1:1 sugar water instead of smoking (I had heard of that before but didn't pay much attention to it). Anyway, this year some of my bees seem to be very sensitive to the smoke (I'm using untreated burlap and dry pine straw) so I decided to try the sugar water. It worked! The bees are way calmer than with smoke and much more easy to manage. Although I lit my smoker as a backup, I haven't had to use it and I think I may even abandon it.

  3. I always light one and puff a couple of puffs at the door to tell the bees I'm coming in. Then I rely on hive drapes and don't use the smoker during inspections. However, sometimes I'll do something that makes the bees upset (like drop the hive tool or mishandle a frame) and I'm glad to reach down, grab the smoker and puff a little, so I always want it available. But I think hive drapes are MAGIC!


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