This is a question that beekeepers each have an opinion on. New beekeepers often buy the pellets because that’s what is in the catalogs next to the smokers. But I have yet to meet a seasoned beekeeper who uses them, though I’m sure there are some. I’m more of a “rumage-through-your-car” type beekeeper so I often use old school papers, scraps of the manual from my skill saw, or a ripped up Trader Joes bag (even if I have to take the groceries out to get it.) These things, of course, will get your smoker lit, but what do you use to keep it smoking?
Here is a list of things you can use in your smoker to get it lit and keep it lit.
- Pine needles
- Rolled up cardboard
- Wood chips (mulch or smoker chips)
- Wood shavings for animal bedding
- Pine cones
- Packing paper, wadded or rolled up tight
- Burlap (soaked in mineral oil or not)
- Packed, dried leaves
- Dried up and unusable cotton hammock rope (Richelle’s discovery)
- Old cotton towel pieces (also Richelle)
- Dried plant material like sage, creosote, herbs. (Don’t use poisonous plants like Oleander)
Note: If you live in the low desert areas of Arizona you may want to try to add some Creosote (Chapparal) in with your other burning material. Creosote is a highly medicinal plant and some beekeepers find it to be useful for Varroa control. Of course there are no studies on it, but it’s worth a try and the bees don’t seem to mind.
Be Smart About What You Burn
The only materials you really want to look out for are plastics and other things that may have toxic chemicals. Other than that, be creative. Recycle when you can, and don’t spend money on smoker fuel if you don’t have to.
Recycle when you can, and don’t spend money on smoker fuel if you don’t have to.