Breaking into the hives today gave me a chance to try out a new smoker fuel. I have always used pine needles as they are free & abundant here. The problem with needles is the tar they give off when burning clogs up the smoker. The smoker must then be cleaned with a propane torch. Also, the bees hate the smoke. I say that because they always attack the smoker & me.
So I bought a bag of those small wood pellets from Dadant. I hoped the pellets would be better and they are. The smoke from the pellets is cool & moist. I don't know how it's moist but it is. Some water dripped out from under the cap while it was lit. The smoke was less noxious than the pine needles smoke as tested by my eyes. The pellets stayed lit all day. I put a cork in the spout to smother the embers after I was finished messing with the bees.
I'll leave the unburnt contents in the smoker until I need it again. Then I'll relight it with a propane torch. I tried it once tonight to see how hard it was. It lit up in a second. Some squeezing on the bellows got it the rest of the way.
The biggest test is how it affected the bees; namely, Myrina. At the first puff Myrina's girls came out as usual to kick someones butt. Unusually, though, they did not directly find me. They buzzed around looking but only a few could locate me. Contrast that with the pine needles where they all come out directly at me.
During the inspection the bees spent more time in the hive than outside being defensive. Again another improvement. The best part is when I would give them a good blast of smoke they would actually move deeper into the hive as appose to attacking the smoker & me.
All in all the bees were calmer today than they have been since I got them; by Myrina's standards. If this behavior continues I will be sold on these pellets, or at least hardwood fuel vs. pine fuel.