Monday, February 27, 2012

Herbal Smoke for the Bees

Butter Powered Bicycle is hosting a month long blog party with the theme of smoke at her blog site, Hunger and Thirst. This is my contribution to the party:)

One day it struck me that instead of hauling my herbal leftovers outside to compost, maybe they would make good bee smoker fuel. The left over stems and not so nice leaves from garbling like Lily is doing in this photo.


Tea balls full of herbal leaves and strained bags of the remnants/marcs of long infusions, decoctions, poultices, and  from alcohol tinctures are all hung on my little mini clothes line hanging over the sink, to dry thoroughly.


The leftover from infused oils is awesome as it really helps to get the fire going quick in the smoker. I often times save these herbal marcs in the freezer and reuse as boo boo helpers with the children, but then off to the smoker bag they go. This is some oil infused rose petal which always smells beautiful!


I sorted through this bag I have in the house from the past month and found I have saved in it all these different plant/herb leftovers/marc. Some from when I did my bi yearly clean out of the apothecary of things that just aren’t up to snuff anymore. In it I found cottonwood bark, sassafras roots, calendula, lemon balm, yellow dock, marshmallow, joe pye weed, mints, bee balm, regular old black Lipton tea bags which my hubby insists is the best:), elder berry and bark and some undefined dried up bits from the tea balls. Quite a gorgeous smell! I move it out to the capped bucket I keep in the bee house when I fill this bag up, so who knows what all is in that!


When my brother Eric and I first started keeping bees about 6 years ago, we did as we were taught and used rotted twines, old dried tree leaves, and cedar chips to fuel our bee smokers. We were never happy at the difficulty of getting it lit, nor with the acrid scent of the smoke. Obnoxious really, and often times we just gave up and worked the bees without it,half way through, as we would be headachy from it, the bees just seemed more agitated and the damn thing kept going out. Using these leftover herbal and wild foraged bits, the smoke is cooler, sweeter smelling, and the bees seem calmer during the whole process. We have yet to use a material that smelled nasty like the old materials we used. I can’t tell you definitively of having a preference for a certain herb or plant yet, as you can see, I just mix it all together. I will keep you posted though if I run across something that I can pin point as being a big no no or really being the best.


my buddy Ron and I last year by my hives.


Big Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


*Ulrike* said...

Leslie, what a terrific idea! I often have lots of lavender twigs left over which I have sometimes used as fire starters in the fireplace. The bees would love this great idea!
Big hugs to you!
Take Care,

Cheryl said...

ooooh they are lucky bees.
I can thing of nothing better than the sweet smell of herbs etc to calm the bees.
I wish there were more people like you out there....
Bless the bees :)

Nicki said...

I have used lavender for about two years. The bees seem to love it, they are very calm and it does smell lovely. I keep the dried stems and the prunings from the bushes hung up in the shed and then break them up for the smoker.

Whispering Earth said...

What a wonderful idea Leslie, I'll remember this when I get to keep bees.
I always remember reading that bees take more readily to their new home when melissa has been rubbed over it.
You are truly ingenious :)

Comfrey Cottages said...

Ulrike, you are right the lavender is awesome for firestarter material in the fireplace! I made my daughter some bundles for hers. Mmmm nice:) big hugs to you my friend! xx
Yes Cheryl! Bless the bees:) big hugs xxxxx thanks for visiting
Nice Nicki! I bet your bees are happy! xxx
You are right Lucinda, melissa, and also anise is very good for helping the bees feel at home:) Thanks dear! xxxxx

Pen at the Little Herb Farm said...

Love the pink and yellow hives!

Comfrey Cottages said...

thanks Pen! I am going to make the next one blue:) xx

Rita M said...

What a good idea Leslie, and I think the bees will love the smell !!
Are you start a third beehive Leslie?
Hugs xxxx

Moon Gazing Hare said...

Sounds lovely, what lucky bees and what beautiful homes they have! I love Ulrike's idea about using lavender twigs as fire lighters, I must try it x

Comfrey Cottages said...

Hugs Rita xxx
Yes, Jackie, it is a great idea isn't it? What a nice smoke comes from lavender! big hugs xxx

ent Oxnard said...

what does this do?

Comfrey Cottages said...

The smoke causes the bees to be easier to work with. When they smell smoke they start filling their bellys with honey thinking they will need to abandon the hive. A full belly makes them too swollen to up to sting you... supposedly:) The herbal smokes does not agitate them as so material does. Some materials makes the guard bees very, very testy!

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Cynthia's garden said...

Thanks for the article.
I just trimmed my raspberry back to the ground (it is winter here) and made sure the cuttings were smoker-sized. I was wndering if it were ok to use... definitely going to give it a go now.
I might trim the lavendar next!