A photo of a vee hive smoker on black background

I was testing out my smoker tonight to make sure it was ready for when my bees arrive, and I thought I should explain one of the most basic concepts of keeping bees.

Just about everyone has seen pictures of beekeepers using smokers to smoke the hive while doing inspections, but what is the purpose of using smoke on bees? There are two main reasons beekeepers use smoke on their bees:

Bees assume that the smoke means there is a fire nearby. When the bees sense a fire, they start consuming honey because they think they’ll have to leave their home and find a new place to live. However, similar to humans that have consumed a large turkey dinner, bees become calm and lethargic after gorging on honey.

Smoke masks bee pheromones. Honeybees rely heavily on pheromones to communicate throughout the hive. When bees think their hive is under attack, they release an alarm pheromone to alert other bees which agitates the entire hive. Smoke masks these pheromones and confuses the bees. This allows the beekeeper to work in the hive and keeps the bees calm.

Now you know. (And knowing is half the battle).