31 March 2024 · Secrets of the smoker.

So far the Easter weekend has given us two days of really good weather. We got out to the apiary at a point in the day when it was 13°C and sunny. Dan got there first and shouted back at me that there was a lot of activity in front of every hive. A couple of weeks ago, Dan expressed concern about the state of one of the brood boxes, so today we constructed clean frames and put them in a new brood box and replaced the whole section. While putting the hive back together, we had a look at some of the frames from the upper brood box, the one we hadn't replaced. Brood was abundant and in all stages. A healthy, active queen was wandering over the comb. They were surprisingly docile and it felt a lot like those sunny, unhurried, relaxed inspection days in the woods that I remember from last summer had already returned.

At the house, Dan had cleaned up some rusty old ammo tins that we bought in the local army surplus shop. The plan was to use them as smoker boxes. Their rubber gaskets mean their lids have an air-tight seal and so they keep the smoky odour in. We've always had what we considered bad luck with our smoker, with it going out within minutes of us setting out to the apiary. It turns out we were doing it all wrong, and there's better ways to light a smoker than to just point a lit blowtorch at some wood chips. Today, as an experiment, we lightly packed some dry grass into the fire box, lit it, and then slowly added wood chips. The smoker lasted for hours and we barely needed to use the bellows.