The smoker fuel solution - hessian sacks

Beekeepers love a good argument about the most minute details of beekeeping, and smoker fuel doesn’t escape the debate. You will see all sorts of fuels mentioned from wood chips and leaves to grasses and pine needles… but from experience, the recommendation to use hessian sacks has been the best smoker fuel advice to date.

The great thing about hessian is that it smoulders for a long time, doesn’t cause resin/residue build up in the lid of the smoker (like pine needles) and is easy to light.

If you are looking for hessian sacks/bags in Canberra, head to your local coffee roaster/wholesaler. When picking out hessian sacks make sure they aren’t interwoven with nylon/plastic strands (often used to increase strength) and also check that any printed sections aren’t using rubberised/plastic screened inks.

I find the following weave thickness works well

Cut the hessian sacks into strips about the size of a hive tool

Pack the strips firmly down into the smoker leaving some space for air to move throughout

Light a small section of the hessian and wait for the flames to build up, fanning with bellows if required

When the majority of the strips are alight, close the lid so the hessian starts to smoulder and then enjoy trouble free smoke for your next hive inspection!

I tried hessian last week and it works. Excellent series of pictures as well Eric, well done!



I’m happy to take the credit for the photos… but I’m Sam, not Eric :wink:

I have found that hessian burns hotter and is much more pungent. In fact I have had a couple of times when working with stroppy hives where it seemed to upset the bees more than calm them. But a trouble with this observation is same bees but at a different time, always a problem with comparisons.

I read somewhere (and I’m sorry to be vague) in relation to hessian sacks, that these can sometimes be treated with a preventative insecticide to stop pest insects chewing them…is there any way of knowing what treatment a sack may have had?

I am comfortable using hessian sacks as they are used to carry food products that are consumed (especially those used for organic certified coffee beans). I personally haven’t seen any adverse effects from using them with my bees.


Wider conversation on the topic here from more beekeepers (perhaps where you originally read the information?):