Abelo smoker box

Small Dadant smoker

Small Dadant smoker

There’s no smoke without fire.

That’s usually considered to be an idiom.

Unless you are a beekeeper, in which case it’s probably also a proverb 1.

A large, properly fuelled and well-lit smoker will produce smoke for a very long time. The right sort of fuel and a few puffs on the bellows, perhaps with an infrequent top-up, will keep a smoker going for several hours.

A smoker that’s “gone out” can often be resurrected with a few vigorous puffs. Indeed, after finishing in one apiary, stuffing the smoker nozzle with a twist of damp grass and driving to another apiary, it’s not unusual to be able to restart it without relighting it.

Which, when you think about it, isn’t very safe.

Too hot to handle

Most half-decent smokers have some sort of heat shield or cage. These stop you inadvertently melting your gloves or burning your fingers. Some heat shields are better than others but, frankly, none are really good.

The cage on the Dadant smokers I use is ‘barely there’ underneath the smoker. Polystyrene and Correx roofs are easily melted if you’re stupid enough to stand the smoker on them.

I am 🙁

And that also means that car upholstery can be damaged if you don’t ensure the smoker has cooled down before packing it away.

I’m reasonably careful about this, but it’s easy to overlook things when in a hurry or distracted. In the past, through inattentiveness, I’ve returned to the car to find it filling with smoke 2 and periodically stories circulate about a beekeepers setting their car/van alight when transporting smokers 3.

Abelo smoker box

All this explains why I was so grateful to receive the gift of a smart metal Abelo smoker box when I recently gave an evening talk at a beekeeping association.

An ideal Christmas gift for a beekeeper

An ideal Christmas gift for a beekeeper

The box is well designed and amply big enough to take the larger of the two Dadant smokers (which is one of the largest smokers on the market). It has a fold-flat handle on the top and a small, but secure, catch to hold the lid closed.

The base of the box (not shown in the pictures) is recessed by about half an inch. This means that a hot smoker cannot directly transmit heat through the metal to whatever the box is sitting on.

Finally, the inner rim of the lid has a strip of draught sealant around the edge. A lit smoker placed in the box should go out pretty quickly due to lack of oxygen.

Could it be improved? Smokers go out faster when laid on their sides. In this box (unlike the one used by Ron Miksha) the smoker stands upright … unless I lay the entire box on its side I suppose.

It’s midwinter. It’s a month since I last opened a box of bees and it’ll be at least another three months until I fire up the smoker again and inspect my next colony.

However, when I do I’ll be able to transport my smoker safely between apiaries.


There’s no smoke without fire was first used in the 14th Century, appeared in collections of proverbs from the mid-16th Century and remains current today 4.


  1. The meaning of an idiom cannot be determined from the words alone, whereas a proverb is an old but familiar phrase that gives advice.
  2. It permeates everything and the car smelt like a bonfire for weeks afterwards.
  3. I’ve seen beekeepers transporting a lit smoker short distances between apiaries by hooking them onto the outside of an electric window, which is then gently raised. This is pretty secure and probably contravenes all sorts of traffic rules and regulations.
  4. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, available online in Google Books, page 308.

13 thoughts on “Abelo smoker box

  1. Roger

    On a recent trip to Chicago I picked up a couple of Dadant smokers (far cheaper than buying them through Thornes) and brought them back in my hand luggage. I prepared myself for the inevitable explanation at security at ORD, but I was disturbed to find that two large steel clinders, which must surely have shown up on the X-ray, attracted no attention. I sailed through security without a moment’s hesitation, for once.

    Could it be that people exporting Dadant smokers are such a regular occurrence that they do not bat the proverbial (and clichéd) eyelid?

    1. David Post author

      Hello Roger

      Your comment prompted me to look at the UK vs. USA costs of the large Dadant smoker … £60 compared to $46 (£36 … unless the pound has fallen yet further 🙁 ) which makes your smoker smuggling perfectly justifiable. I’ve done similar on international trips – fishing rods and Metz capes for fly tying and, most recently, two very large polythene containers for (of all things) bread making. These were about £3 in Malaysia and ten times the price in the UK.

      Of course, come the 30th of March next year we’ll be able to negotiate some fabulous new trade deals … making all this stuff even more expensive 😉


      1. Roger

        State sales tax and delivery within the US narrow the delta, but only slightly. I am back to Chicago at the weekend, so have just ordered a copy of ‘Mating biology of honey bees’ by Gudrun Koeniger. Even with expedited shipping (because I did not get my act together earlier) the bill is $42.45 (£34 even with a collapsing pound) whereas the cheapest I can get it inthe UK is £59.95.

        It is therefore self evident that it will be worth all that chlorinated chicken, hormonal beef and lower safety standards cars that will come with our promised free trade agreement, just so that we can get (some of) our beekeeping books cheaper.

        I am just slightly concerned in case someone in the office opens the package to find out what sort of books I read.

      2. Roger

        …and another thing.

        I have just discovered that the Barbie Beekeeper doll is $13.97 in Walmart and £32.45 at Amazon UK. Now I just need to find someone to give one to. I wonder if I could contrive to photograph my other half’s face on opening the package on Christmas day…


        1. David Post author

          Unfortunately Barbie Beekeeper is incompatible with UK beekeeping as all the kit that comes with the doll is for Langstroth ‘honey boxes’ 😉

          Having followed the link I suggest you don’t bring back a suitcase full of them to flog to UK beeks.

  2. Peter McFadden

    A hot smoker will burn through a bee veil very easily, as I’ve found to my cost. Always best to keep them well apart in the vehicle.
    Our Seasonal Bee Inspector uses an Abelo smoker box.

    1. David Post author

      Good advice Peter … if I’m moving between apiaries I’m still in the suit and if I’m transporting ‘leaky’ nucs I’m probably wearing the veil 😉

  3. Kate Atchley

    Good to read this David. I bought one of these after nearly setting my car on fire! It’s done great service for 3 or 4 years and I intend to keep it in action for a long time yet!

    Kate Atchley

    1. David Post author

      Thanks Kate
      I’ve seen others use metal buckets, but this has the advantage of being all enclosing. I’m looking forward to using it in the coming season.
      Best Wishes

  4. Fred

    Also have apiaries a few miles apart and popped boot to find ‘no smoke without fire’ …constantly amazed that at inverse law of smokers…when you want them to extinguish,they rise up again yet when you want them to puff along they quietly wait til you not watching and the bees are getting twitchy and they simply exhale and pass away…….like the image of smokers riding side saddle tho….next season

    1. David Post author

      Thanks Fred
      Yes they do have a sort of Jekyll and Hyde personality … meekly expiring when needed or being near-impossible to extinguish when you’re in a rush to pack up and get home.

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