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Smoker Fuel

 
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 11:57 pm    Post subject: Smoker Fuel Reply with quote

I have a background in permaculture, and I've trained myself to find multiple functions for all sorts of things that I use on a regular basis. I have been thinking about the possibility of tailoring the fuel I use in my smoker to achieve different effects. I intend to document the results of a series of experiments I will carry out starting sometime next week.

The first experiment I will be carrying out is using dried nettles as major fuel component in the smoker. Nettles contain a wide variety of organic compounds, formic acid is one of the best known ones. As some of you may be aware, formic acid is also a component of many varroa treatments used in commercial beekeeping. I intend to insert sticky boards under the hives for 2 hours before the inspections and 2 hours after and make a note of the varroa drop during each interval.

In the future I would also like to try using a variety of other plant materials. Some possibilities include dried rhubarb leaves (oxalic acid), dried citrus peel (limonene plus many more) and dried thyme/mint (thymol).

If anyone here is aware of any previous attempts to quantify the effects of different smoker fuels, I would be very appreciative of a pointer to any records that might exist of these experiments. If anyone else thinks this is an interesting experiment and they would like to get involved in it, I would be very happy to discuss the matter in more detail.

thanks,

johno
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

will be interesting to see your results, good luck
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Monitoring a 2 hour drop may include a lot of other variables skewing the result. Under normal circumstances the longer the monitoring period the better.
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an interesting comment trekmate. I actually put a lot of thought into how long the monitoring interval should be, and I choose 2 hours for precisely the opposite reason that you state. There are good reasons to have a long monitoring period and there are good reasons to have a short monitoring period, I tried to find a compromise in the middle. My thinking is that conditions will not vary very much over a 4 hour period, whereas they could vary significantly over a 24 or 48 hour period. I usually do my inspection close to midday, and the ambient conditions in the morning are very often the same as they are in the early afternoon here. It will be almost impossible for me to find conditions that are similar during the day before and the day after an inspection. I will be recording ambient temperature, wind speed and humidity along with other variables anyway.

On the other side of the equation, I know that the minimum interval has to be large enough to record a non-zero varroa drop, at least some of the time. IMHO that is the primary incentive to increase the length of the monitoring interval. I can't do any meaningful statistical analysis on a collection of counts that all add up to zero. I have done 3 varroa counts in the last 2 months. Each interval was about 10-15 hours. I still haven't seen a varroa mite on my tray. However, I am a new beekeeper, and I only have 2 small hives. Over the course of a few years, the total observed time will grow to a useful level. I'm not thinking short-term here, this is just the start of the experiment. (So sorry Dexter, but you will be waiting a few years before I can tell you anything.) There is a chance that this will continue for as long as I have bees. The more beeks and the more hives that are involved, the faster the data will accumulate.

Finally, I am looking to measure the effect of certain types of smoke on varroa drop. The interval before the inspection is to get a baseline drop. The interval after the inspection is to determine the change in that baseline during a period when the smoke is still lingering around. I think that the smoke will have pretty much dissipated after a couple of hours, and the measurable results will be diluted by merging with normal hive conditions if I extend the observation interval beyond that.

Could you expand on what other variables you think should be accounted for? What do you mean by normal circumstances?
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Manuel Robert
Guard Bee


Joined: 04 Dec 2011
Posts: 73
Location: Bischofsheim, Rhön , Germany

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would keep in mind that too much smoke is a stressor for the bees, alterning the hive scent ect and in the worst case could cause the bees to abscond.
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AugustC
Silver Bee


Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 613
Location: Malton, North Yorkshire

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting experiment and I would love to look at the results. If you want any help handling the stats I would be happy to help with that too.

I would say though that although the fuels you have stated do contain those compounds they are in massively lower levels than the commercial treatments you are speaking of. I think it is in the region of 1,000 - 10,000 times less. Much of the effect of thymol is as a result of it being a volatile oil, by burning it you are further reducing the concentration and mostly converting it to carbon. The actual amount of oil present in the plants would also vary wildly between each bushel, the time of year you harvested it, and how long it was dried for etc.
It may provide more meaningful data to assess the use of a water sprayer with the essential oil added to the water. This will allow you to provide a known measured dose of the oil on the colony.
For smoker fuel you could consider adding a copper salt since this has mitocide activity, the copper will remain intact after incineration, and using a salt will allow you to add a measured amount to your smoker each time.
Keep us informed.
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

johno wrote:
I usually do my inspection close to midday, and the ambient conditions in the morning are very often the same as they are in the early afternoon here.

You're luckier with weather than here in Yorkshire then!

"Normal circumstances" - a routine Varroa drop check to assess colony condition.

I think many of the short term variables would be weather related - number of bees in the hive (foraging?), their activity (grooming or not), hive temperature - which you've considered. Recording weather too will help assess any variation.

If you have a drop of 10 per day, for instance, on average you may (or may not) see one Varroa drop in two hours. You'd need a very significant drop to be sure of seeing a true reflection over a two hour period. So significant you'd need more than smoke to deal with them - if that's your intention.

For a control you should also check using your "usual" smoke fuel.

AugustC wrote:
It may provide more meaningful data to assess the use of a water sprayer with the essential oil added to the water. This will allow you to provide a known measured dose of the oil on the colony.

I add one or two drops of Thyme Oil to a litre of water to do that. I've never checked drop before or after use. I use varying amounts of spray depending on what I'm doing and the bee's behaviour so I feel any count would be unreliable. With smoke or spray you'd need to quantify how much you use.
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's great to see a bunch of responses to my post, and a variety of opinions too.

I agree that quantifying the amount of smoke used is going to be extremely difficult. I also agree that using smoke is a stressor for the bees, and there is a danger of overusing it. I don't believe that the concentration of the active ingredients is 3 or 4 orders of magnitude lower than the commercial treatments. Certainly not when the time frames are taken into account. 300 seconds of smoking during an inspection, versus multiweek (millions of seconds) applications of feed supplements. I haven't run the numbers myself, but I believe that the concentration of oxylic acid in rhubarb leaves is already dangerously high.

However, despite some drawbacks, I feel that this is a worthwhile avenue of exploration. I'm not trying to convert the sugar-dusting beeks or the treatment-free beeks. However there is an overwhelming majority of beeks out there that use smokers and pharmaceutical treatments on their hives. Pretty much all of the beeks I have met face-to-face fall into that category. If there is a chance that I can get some of them to think outside their little head-boxes, perhaps they can be weaned off their prescribed behaviours in the long run.

Keep the comments coming, they are very valuable to me.

johno
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

trekmate wrote:

You're luckier with weather than here in Yorkshire then!


I live right beside the largest estuary in western Europe. The weather is pretty bad at times but the volume of water here prevents it from changing rapidly.
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking forward to seeing your results!

Good luck and I hope it goes well.
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