Bee Informed Partnership By: Dan Aurell May 16, 2019
We’ve all experienced a smoker going out just when we need it. Sometimes we may simply forget to pump the bellows for too long while we are getting some other things ready; sometimes we may make the mistake of stuffing the fire chamber too tightly with fuel before the fire has a good chance to catch. At other times our smoker may go out during travel between bee yards. Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
The Traditional Method
So, when your smoker goes out for the umpteenth time, what do you typically do? You could re-open the smoker, dig in there, take out some fuel, burn your fingers in the process of making room for a flame, light the fuel from the bottom and cross your fingers so it stays lit this time? Let me save you the embarrassment, there is a lazy way to re-light it!
The Tried and True Easy (Lazy) Method
First, if you do not already own a propane blow torch, it is well-worth your time, energy and money (~$40) to procure yourself one. Once you have a propane blow torch, you can simply blast the flame at the outside of the metal smoker while pumping the bellows, and voilà! The heat transfer through the metal will re-light most smoker fuels. Don’t be afraid to heat the metal red-hot: smokers are seemingly built to withstand such high heat for long periods of time. For example, commercial beekeepers will keep their smoker lit for a long time while loading a semi truckload of bees or working colonies in a big bee yard. If you are concerned about wear and tear, I can report that after a year of relighting my smoker with a torch, the metal on one part of the fire chamber is a little bumpy, but otherwise totally fine.
Even though it is shielded by metal on most models, be aware that there is an air valve on the back side of the bellows that could be damaged by flame or heat. The same goes for fingers…
The Lazy Man is a Safe Man
You read that right – this lazy method has an upside beyond convenience. At times and places with an elevated wildfire risk, this method may be a safer way to play with fire in the bee yard. Since it doesn’t require you to pull out the contents of the smoker, which often are still smoldering a little and with a slight breeze can blow sparks across a dry field, you too can prevent wildfires!