Lighting a smoker plus a few other smoker tips

I recently discovered that wood shavings are the best long lasting fuel for a smoker. If there are any toxic fumes in the fire starters I use, they are long gone by the time I use the smoker on the bees.

Someone made a comment on youtube about toxic fumes. Is any smoke free of chemicals? No matter what “clean fuel” we use in our smokers, we wouldn’t want to breathe it in ourselves. Therefore we should only give the bees enough smoke to do the job we want the smoker to do.

Have you tried hessian Jeff? I used all manner of other material until someone got me onto hessian coffee bags. It’s not so much that they burn, but they smoulder and generate a consistent amount of smoke.

The issue I had with other fuels like leaves and pine needles was the sap/residue build up in the smoker.

I cut the hessian into squares roughly the size of a coke can diameter, and then pile them in… this provides enough space for the air to move around.

Thanks for posting the video.


Hi Sam, thank you, I have used hessian & as you said it leaves no tar residue, however I found that it doesn’t seem to last as long as wood shavings for some reason. I’m sold on wood shavings for the time being. A half a bucket full is lasting me for ages.

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I normally chuck in 2-3 dried honkey nuts (red gum nuts, me thinks) at the bottom of the smoker. It smoulders magnificently over a long period

Great tip from my mentor!


Can’t get away from the old marri. These “honkey” nuts are the seed pods of the Marri (@Webclan) and are about 50mm (2") long and 35mm (1 1/2")wide. They stay on the tree growing for 12 months (when the blossom starts) and when ripe shed the seeds. Just before they are ready to shed and still green the White Tail and red tail cockatoos come in and extract the seeds leaving the ground littered with these nuts

You can see where this one has been Cockatooed.


Your Honkey Nuts have been Cockatooed? Oh my…

Too funny, I don’t care kind of Wood Pecker you are!


Actually dried poo (from a herbivore) is probably not a bad idea… cow dung is a major fuel and burns quite clean apparently.

One thing about smokers I recently read in our bee society newsletter: it should blow cool smoke and burns for hours if properly packed.

Lately what I do is get a small amount of material burning well at the bottom- then cram in a huge load on top. I’ve been using hessian, pine needles, palm fronds, dried grass- basically whatever’s to hand

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Sure if you need it to burn for a couple of hours. Most hobby beeks wouldn’t need it lit for more than an hour.

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I know- I have never needed a smoker to be lit for more than an hour- but the point is- when it is packed very well- the smoke is cool and there is never any risk it will run out mid-inspection. I think a lot of people would make a mistake having very hot smoke coming out of their smoker and there is a fire risk if it burns too hot and the hot smoke agitates and angers the bees. Also the smoker itself becomes very hot and there s a burn risk.

Even though it is wasteful I pack the smoker like I want it to last for hours- then I put a stopper in when I am done to put it out and clean out all the unburned material. It is better to have an overpacked smoker than an underpacked one.


An interesting comment came through Youtube. A bloke used some nacho chips because he couldn’t find any dry fuel. He reckons it smelt alright.


A smoker used in bee keeping isn’t the same as a meat smoker, as you say you have 33 bee hives can you show photos of you using a meat smoker on your bee hives.

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I’m going to try that. I have several lifetimes worth of gum-nut supplies here.

I usually chuck in some cardboard and dried leaves, and have a yellow pages handy for starting the fire.


In northern hemisphere a chunk of wood punk was my favourite but I don’t see any right stuff around here :confused: I get away with untreated pine shavings this days.