There’s no smoke without fire.
That’s usually considered to be an idiom.
Unless you are a beekeeper, in which case it’s probably also a proverb 1.
A large, properly fuelled and well-lit smoker will produce smoke for a very long time. The right sort of fuel and a few puffs on the bellows, perhaps with an infrequent top-up, will keep a smoker going for several hours.
A smoker that’s “gone out” can often be resurrected with a few vigorous puffs. Indeed, after finishing in one apiary, stuffing the smoker nozzle with a twist of damp grass and driving to another apiary, it’s not unusual to be able to restart it without relighting it.
Which, when you think about it, isn’t very safe.
Too hot to handle
Most half-decent smokers have some sort of heat shield or cage. These stop you inadvertently melting your gloves or burning your fingers. Some heat shields are better than others but, frankly, none are really good.
The cage on the Dadant smokers I use is ‘barely there’ underneath the smoker. Polystyrene and Correx roofs are easily melted if you’re stupid enough to stand the smoker on them.
I am 🙁
And that also means that car upholstery can be damaged if you don’t ensure the smoker has cooled down before packing it away.
I’m reasonably careful about this, but it’s easy to overlook things when in a hurry or distracted. In the past, through inattentiveness, I’ve returned to the car to find it filling with smoke 2 and periodically stories circulate about a beekeepers setting their car/van alight when transporting smokers 3.
Abelo smoker box
All this explains why I was so grateful to receive the gift of a smart metal Abelo smoker box when I recently gave an evening talk at a beekeeping association.
The box is well designed and amply big enough to take the larger of the two Dadant smokers (which is one of the largest smokers on the market). It has a fold-flat handle on the top and a small, but secure, catch to hold the lid closed.
The base of the box (not shown in the pictures) is recessed by about half an inch. This means that a hot smoker cannot directly transmit heat through the metal to whatever the box is sitting on.
Finally, the inner rim of the lid has a strip of draught sealant around the edge. A lit smoker placed in the box should go out pretty quickly due to lack of oxygen.
Could it be improved? Smokers go out faster when laid on their sides. In this box (unlike the one used by Ron Miksha) the smoker stands upright … unless I lay the entire box on its side I suppose.
It’s midwinter. It’s a month since I last opened a box of bees and it’ll be at least another three months until I fire up the smoker again and inspect my next colony.
However, when I do I’ll be able to transport my smoker safely between apiaries.
There’s no smoke without fire was first used in the 14th Century, appeared in collections of proverbs from the mid-16th Century and remains current today 4.
- The meaning of an idiom cannot be determined from the words alone, whereas a proverb is an old but familiar phrase that gives advice.
- It permeates everything and the car smelt like a bonfire for weeks afterwards.
- I’ve seen beekeepers transporting a lit smoker short distances between apiaries by hooking them onto the outside of an electric window, which is then gently raised. This is pretty secure and probably contravenes all sorts of traffic rules and regulations.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, available online in Google Books, page 308.