Okay, I’m filing this under “infrequently asked questions,” but about five years ago my doctor asked me this exact question and I’ve been mulling over it ever since. I’ve never actually seen anyone fill a smoker with marijuana, but that doesn’t mean anything. And the doctor was from Texas, which probably explains everything.
I find it amazing that so many beekeepers use a smoker. It’s even referred to as the “beekeeper’s best friend.” But the day I gave mine up was the best beekeeping day of my life. So what’s wrong with a smoker?
For starters, it makes me sneeze. I’ve tried all kinds of fuel, including burlap, sisal twine, wood chips, and smoker pellets, but they all make me miserable. Also, I don’t have enough hands to manipulate the smoker, the hive tool, the lid, and whatever else I have with me. While klutzing around with it, I’ve ignited brush fires, scorched wooden equipment, burned holes in my bee suit, blistered my fingers, and killed a lot of worker bees. Half the time I forget to bring something to light it with, and the rest of the time I can’t get it lit regardless of which incendiary device I use. And once it’s lit, it always goes out before I’m done.
Then there’s the question of the honey. When exposed to smoke, bees tend to fill up on honey. This is the very thing that “calms” them down. To get the honey they will tear open sealed comb, if necessary, and make a mess of it. If you are trying to produce comb honey, a smoke-crazed bee is the last thing you want. Sometimes, too, flecks of ash can land on the comb, or the comb takes on the smell and/or taste of burned fuel. For those producing extracted honey or just pollinating, these honeycomb problems are pretty much a non-issue. But like I say, how you keep bees is very dependent on what you’re trying to accomplish.
In any case, if you don’t want to use a smoker, then don’t. The bees can be a bit irritating at times, but you get used to them, or you can spray them with a light mist of sugar syrup. I find the bees way less annoying than the smoker, and going without means fewer distractions in the field as well. So, while I don’t know why beekeepers are so addicted to their smokers, maybe the good doctor was onto something.