Monday, February 27, 2012

Heresy - Let's not always smoke the Honeybees

Haven't stirred the pot in awhile so I thought I'd ask the unaskable question. 

Do we always need to smoke the honeybees before entering the hive?

For those of you that may be just joining us, this is considered heresy.  Let's go to Wikipedia to get a full understanding of heresy.

Heresy (from Greek αἵρεσις, which originally meant "choice") is an accusation levied against members of another group which has beliefs which conflict with those of the accusers. It is usually used to discuss violations of religious or traditional laws or codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment. In some religions, it also implies that the heretic is in alliance with the religion's symbol of evil, such as Satan or chaos.[1] It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause,[2] and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion.[3] The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch, while individuals who espouse heresy or commit heresy, are known as heretics.

Efficiency asks "What is the best way to do something?"
Effectiveness asks "Do we need to do it at all?"

Clearly we are in the realm of an effectiveness question.

Above is a picture of the smoker I currently use.  From an efficiency point of view it is great.  I can load pine needles and smoker fuel and go about my business with my bees.

  1. When smoke is blown into the hive first, however, the guard bees' receptors are dulled and they fail to sound the pheromonious alarm.
  2. Conveniently the smoke has a secondary effect in that it causes the other bees to instinctively gorge themselves on honey — a survival instinct in case they must vacate the hive and recreate it elsewhere. This gorging has a tendency to pacify the bees.
Cons for using a smoker:
  1. It is a bad idea to dull the senses of one of natures most sensitive olifactorily endowed creatures.  Honeybees can smell a flower burp a mile away.
  2. Like the idea of smoking? Let's go to your house and light up.  Bet you'll run for the exits and gorge on honey too. :-)
Observation of an astute mechanic:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem better be a nail!

So how about this for middle ground?

Let's not smoke every time.
  • If we are just putting in sugar water in a Mann Lake hive top feeder and not going into the hive, why smoke?
  • If we are putting on sugar fondant on a cold day, let's not smoke.
  • If we are doing a quick inspection, the bees are happy and not pulling EVERY FRAME, let's not smoke.
So what is smoke good for?

  • When you need to move bees from something, smoke clears them out/away.
  • If we are going deep and need to do a detailed inspection and the bees are cranky, smoke can calm things down a bit. (Really it just confuses them and covers the attack pheromones. )
Can we still be friends even if I ask the unaskable?

If you have a different opinion, I'd love to hear from you.

The Bee Boy out.

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