There are two types of metal hive tools used to pry apart hive parts that bees regularly glue together. The traditional hive tool resembles a prybar with a flat end and a bent scraper end. The other tool is called a frame lifter (or Maxant tool) because one end is inserted under a frame end bar while resting on the adjacent frame. The downward motion of the tool uses leverage to loosen that end of the frame. These work very well to remove the first frame during an inspection.
A smoker is a very useful tool, allowing the beekeeper to produce smoke that “calms” the bees. A smoker has a cylindrical chamber with a bellows attached, topped with a hinged lid formed into a spout. The chamber, where a fire is built, is made of metal, usually stainless steel.
When the lid is closed,and the bellows compressed, a stream of smoke can be directed wherever it is needed. We suspect the calming effect occurs because smoke causes bees to engorge with honey, then they are less likely to be defensive. In addition, the smoke may disorient and confuse the bees by interfering with sensory reception, especially for odor.
Smoke can also be used in small amounts to direct bee movements. For example, a few small, wellplaced puffs will cause bees to move away from the end bars long enough for the beekeeper to remove the frame without crushing a bee or two in the process.
Excessive smoke disrupts the colony, causing too much bee movement on the frames. This makes some activities, such as queen finding, much more difficult. Pine needles, wood chips or shavings, dried grass or leaves, burlap fabric or cotton cloth may be used as fuel in the smoker. Use what works best for you and is readily available. If you use burlap or cloth, make sure it hasn’t been treated with any pesticides or other chemicals. Do not use materials of animal origin, such as wool fabric, fur or feathers.
Source: Skinner, Parkman, Studer, and Williams. 2004. Beekeeping in Tennessee. University of Tennessee Extension PB1745. 43p.