Calming bees with smokers is the traditional method for managing angry or defensive bees. The use of smoke triggers the bees' emergency response, causing them to gorge on honey in preparation for evacuation to a new site. Although smoke is effective for subduing bees, it causes them to rapidly eat stores of honey that must be replenished. Caution is necessary to avoid fire hazards when using smokers, and fire-prone areas may prohibit their use.
Spraying the bees with a fine mist of cold water helps to calm the hive. Misting is not very effective for chasing bees away or controlling the direction of their movement. Water can be combined with other substances to increase the potency of the mist. Using essential oils in the misting solution can calm bees and combat mite infections. Other popular solution ingredients include agave, peppermint, wintergreen, sugar and cider vinegar.
Beekeeping suppliers have developed several products for use as smoking alternatives. For example, Liquid Bee Smoker is a liquid smoke product that is diluted with water and misted onto the bees. It effectively calms bees and has a smell similar to smoke. The liquid's coloring can leave stains on wood or comb if used consistently. Another type of manufactured product is Fabi-Spray, which is manufactured in Europe, and is an aerosol spray that causes bees to quickly retreat. It can be useful for quick jobs in and around the hive and is also a convenient solution for emergencies since it requires no preparation. Honey-B-Healthy is a multi-purpose concentrate that can be used as a feeding stimulant and calming solution.
Sprays made with anesthetic chemicals can be used for exceptionally angry or vicious bees. Honeybees raised in apiaries are generally preferred to be docile in nature, and beekeepers often kill problematic bees in order to propagate calmer colonies. If a hive is too aggressive, an anesthetic solution of one part methylated spirits, two parts ether and two parts chloroform can be used. The solution will slow the bees' movement and reduce their ability to fly and attack the beekeeper.
Skillful beekeepers can recognize the mood of the hive and work without disturbing or irritating bees. These skills take years of experience to perfect, but it is possible for beekeepers to work with bees completely unprotected without receiving stings. The keys to peacefully working around and in the hives are timing and technique. The best time to approach a hive is during calm, warm afternoons when the highest number of bees will be away collecting pollen. In addition to the generally calm nature of a colony in a warm hive, the reduced number of defensive bees produces an opportune period for hive inspection or harvesting.