Before we work with a new package of bees, we spray them with a 1:1 ratio of water and dissolved sugar. Spraying helps calm the bees and allows you to more easily maneuver them into the hive.
It’s not a good idea to use a smoker with a new package because you want to encourage the bees to accept their new home. If they sense that there is a danger of “fire” (the smoke coming from the smoker) they may flee the new hive and all will be lost.
I was thinking about how we use the sugar spray only when placing a new colony, and then after the bees are established, we switch to the smoker. I began to question why we don’t use a sugar spray for hive inspections other times of the year.
A sugar spray might be great for people who are sensitive to smoke, like those who have allergies or asthma, or people who live in dry climates and are worried about starting a fire.
After a bit of research, I discovered that people actually do use sugar spray as their primary bee calming solution, but there are some risks involved.
More on sugar water
When you spray bees with sugar water they begin cleaning themselves frantically. This activity keeps the bees busy while you work with them, as they’re too distracted removing the syrup from their bodies to sting or defend the hive.
- The sugar water is easy to mix up
- You don’t have to worry about finding fuel to burn
- You also don’t have to worry about keeping the smoker lit while working with the bees
- You can’t burn the bees with sugar water, and it’s not a fire hazard
- No smoke for people who are sensitive
- The biggest downside with using sugar water is that you have to open the hive to begin spraying. With a smoker, you can begin at the entrance and crack the lid and give a few puffs to distract the bees.
- You also run the risk of missing bees with the sprayer. If a bee isn’t sprayed there’s no reason for it to not become defensive.
It might be helpful to use both methods when you’re out in your beehive. You could initially begin with the smoker and then as you work with the colony occasionally spritz them with the sugar water. This would keep the bees distracted on both accounts and you don’t have to worry about keeping your smoker lit throughout the session.