Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em – Secrets of Lighting a Bee Hive Smoker

This is a reblog from last year. Just in time for Bee Season!

The secret of lighting a bee hive smoker is burlap. Who knew?

When I first started beekeeping, I learned that you lit a smoker using a layer of newspaper, some twigs and some fuel such as baling twine or dry leaves.

First you light the newspaper, then add the twigs. After the twigs are on fire, you add the fuel, which catches on fire and makes the smoke.

Sounds easy, right? It wasn’t for me. I could never keep my smoker going for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

Then I found a post written by Karen Edmundson Bean of the Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey Blog.  She had the same problem. I wasn’t alone!

Karen learned from a fellow beekeeper that the secret to keeping a smoker lit is using burlap. That’s pretty much it!  No newspaper, no twigs. Just burlap.  For the details, see Karen’s post.

Commenters agreed with this advice:

MikeRoberts says:

I do a similar thing, but I just light the burlap directly (I get it from the local coffee roasters), get it going well, then stuff it down in there, give it a few more puffs, then add a handful of freshly pulled green grass on top. I’m told this makes the smoke cooler. Hasn’t failed on me yet ..

willowbatel says:

I use burlap in my smoker, because it’s cheap and easy, and stays lit for a long time. The key to getting it started is lighting it outside of the smoker and letting it burn for a little bit until there’s a large flame. I usually fold the burlap up loosely, and leave a little thin corner out to start the flame on. Once that corner is lit, turn the burlap so the flame is at the bottom, then put the whole mass into the smoker. Don’t force it all the way to the bottom of the smoker, because the flame almost definitely will go out, even if it acts like it won’t. I pump the bellows a few times, slowly, to get the flame really going. Once thick smoke starts coming out of the top, you can push the burlap a little farther down (do this on one side, not in the center, so the burlap gets a little more spread out) and then close the lid. I’d recommend a long stick or a pencil to shove the burlap down.
It takes a few tries before you figure it out, and even then, sometimes it just goes out. If you forget about it while your working and don’t pump it every so often, it’s very likely to go out. I’ve found this out the hard way dozens of times. For multiple hives you’ll definitely want to have multiple bunches of burlap ready for use. When I did my split I used one clump for the first hive, and then added the second clump before moving on. I had more smoke than I needed the whole time, and it kept the bees calmer as a result. The smoker was going so well that I rarely had to worry about it, because it was angled so that wind was constantly blowing in from the back and pushing the smoke over the hives/ through the clouds of bees. Working with the wind is an important thing!
So now I know the secret of successfully lighting a bee hive smoker!  I hope this helps some other beekeepers out there as well!
Related articles

Poetry Month – William Wordsworth’s “The World Is Too Much With Us”

My selection criteria for poems to post are simple:  Either I know all or part of the poem by heart or it must be somehow related to bees.  Or both.

This poem is one of the former, and one of my very favorites. I hope you enjoy it too.

800px-Westminster_Bridge_(1878)_-_De_Nittis

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Beautiful Beehives Of The Day

Hives at Kew Gardens in London

Hives at Kew Gardens in London

Kew Gardens has an educational bee habitat as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the need for a more bee-friendly planet.

Beautiful Beehives Of The Day

017

The beehives on the roof of Fortnum & Mason in London may be the most beautiful in the world. I took the picture above when I visited them in London last year.

Before the hives were installed on F&M’s roof, they were showcased in a Chris Beardshaw-designed garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Fortnum 4 Fortnum bees 3 Fortnum-2 (1) Fortnum-2

Whether you prefer formal or rustic, there are endless possibilities for beautiful beekeeping!

Girl History Month – Helen Duncan, Britain’s Last Jailed Witch

duncan and boat

Helen Duncan (1897-1956), was the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735.

Duncan, who had demonstrated psychic ability throughout her life, got into hot water when she performed a séance in Portsmouth, England in November 1941 and accurately revealed that a battleship, the HMS Barham, had been sunk.

Wartime censorship meant the catastrophe was known only to relatives of the casualties, so the authorities were particularly alarmed at Duncan’s “inside” knowledge. The authorities’ biggest fear was not of Duncan’s connection to the “other side” but that she might reveal military secrets.

The séance lead to the Scots-born spiritualist being charged under section 4 of the Witchcraft Act 1735 for fraudulent activity. She was also charged under the Larceny Act for taking money “by falsely pretending that she was in a position to bring about the appearances of the spirits of deceased persons”.

helenarticle

An interesting misconception about the case is noted on a BBC website:

“… the Witchcraft Act was originally formulated to eradicate the belief in witches and its introduction meant that from 1735 onwards an individual could no longer be tried as a witch in England or Scotland. However, they could be fined or imprisoned for purporting to have the powers of a witch.”

The Old Bailey jury trial caused a stir in wartime London and attracted much media attention. During the trial Duncan was barred from demonstrating her power as part of her defense against the Larceny charges. She was eventually found guilty under the Witchcraft Act (but not guilty of charges under the Larceny Act) and sentenced to nine months in Holloway Prison.

After the trial, Prime Minister Winston Churchill complained to the Home Secretary Herbert Morrison about the “obsolete tomfoolery” of the charge and waste of court resources.

winston

She died at her Edinburgh home a short time later. A campaign to have her pardoned continues today.

Duncan was the last person in Britain to be jailed under the act, which was repealed in 1951 and replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act. However, she was not the last person convicted under the Witchcraft Act. Jane Rebecca Yorke received a lenient sentence due to her age (she was in her 70s) and fined in late 1944.

Girl History Month – Dr. Eva Crane, Tireless Honey Bee Researcher

Photo of Eva Crane

Photo of Eva Crane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eva Crane (12 June 1912 – 6 September 2007) was a researcher and author on the subjects of bees and beekeeping. Trained as a quantum physicist, she changed her field of interest to bees, and spent decades researching bees, traveling to more than 60 countries, often under primitive conditions.

The New York Times reported that “Dr. Crane wrote some of the most important books on bees and apiculture” and noted “Her older sister, Elsie Widdowson, who never retired either, helped revolutionize the field of nutrition, showing similar energy chasing seals on ice floes to study their eating habits.”

Born as Ethel Eva Widdowson in London she earned a Ph.D in 1941 in nuclear physics. She became a lecturer in Physics at Sheffield University. She married James Crane, a stockbroker serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, in 1942. Her husband died in 1978.

Her interest in bees began when she and her husband received a beehive as a wedding present; the giver had hoped that it would help supplement their wartime sugar ration.

Crane wrote over 180 papers, articles, and books, many when she was in her 70s and 80s. Honey: A Comprehensive Survey (1975), in which she contributed several important chapters, and edited, came about because she told the publisher (Heinemann Press) that a book on the subject was sorely needed. Although now out of print, it remains the most significant review on the subject ever written.

A Book of Honey (1980) and The Archaeology of Beekeeping (1983) reflected her strong interests in nutrition and the ancient past of beekeeping.

Her writing culminated in two mighty, encyclopaedic tomes, Bees and Beekeeping: science, practice and world resources (1990; at 614 pages) and The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999; 682 pages). These distilled a lifetime’s knowledge and experience and are regarded as seminal textbooks throughout the beekeeping world.”.

She died at the age of 95 in Slough.

Homemade Honey Marshmallows – For Medicinal Purposes Only!

Marshmallow Apothecary

Marshmallow Apothecary

My UK friends Emma Sarah Tennant and Emily Heath posted on Facebook about their recent visit to the Marshmallow Apothecary, a popup medicinal marshmallow shop in London.

Yes, you read that right. Medicinal Marshmallows. Who knew?

robin6

For just two weeks,the Marshmallow Apothecary opened its doors in Carnaby Street, offering free consultations and marshmallow prescriptions to visitors.​  The delicious marshmallows contained herbal remedies for ailments ranging from the common cold to a lack of libidinousness.  As Mary Poppins was wont to say, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

robin5

It turns out that the marshmallow probably first came into being as a medicinal substance.  The Egyptians concocted them with honey to treat sore throats.

egyptian-mallows

That of course gave me an idea. Why not make my own medicinal Honey Marshmallows?

Let me tell you, they are so delicious, it’s almost worth being sick!!

They Are More Medicinal When You Make Them Pink!

They Are More Medicinal When You Make Them Pink!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1 cup water

2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Food coloring, if desired

Directions

Dust an 8 by 12-inch baking sheet generously with confectioners’ sugar.

Place 1/2 cup of cold water and the gelatin in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Let stand for 30 minutes.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the remaining water, sugar, honey, salt and vanilla. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. If necessary, wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals clinging to the side of the pan.

Raise the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F. Remove from the heat and, working quickly, add the egg whites to the bowl of the electric mixer and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour the syrup into the bowl, making sure the stream remains between the whisk and side of the bowl. If you want to color the marshmallows, add the food coloring at this stage, until desired color is reached. Increase the speed to high again and whip until the mixture has at least doubled and becomes thick and fluffy.

Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly using a spatula. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and let it sit out overnight, uncovered, to dry. Invert the marshmallow mixture onto a cutting board and, using a hot knife, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch squares. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar.

Prescription:  Eat them until you feel better!