The effect of smoke on the bees is very noticeable. It repels them by sending an alarm signal that their colony is on fire. They gorge themselves with honey, preparing to survive during flight while escaping. Beekeepers say the bees become content, finding it difficult to bend their abdomens around to sting on a full stomach. Gentle puffs of smoke are all that is required, experience will teach you how much is needed.
The smoker should produce cool white smoke so not to burn the bees. Dried leaves, bark, grasses, pine needles, decayed wooded, old hessian (sacking) produce this type of smoke. The fuel in the smoker ought to smoulder not flame. Substances that make the bees unconscious (such as tobacco) should not be used, these have an adverse effect on the bees and the chemicals are absorbed into the honey. 15th century beekeepers used sulphur to kill the bees in skeps while harvesting honey and drive bees out from their nests in hollow trees and logs.
Light the smoker with a small amount of paper and fuel. Add little amounts of fuel while puffing on the bellows to build a small fire base, once established top up the smoker with the remaining fuel and fix the lid. Allow 2-5 minutes of puffing as some fuels establish a base quicker than others. Too much fuel in the smoker may make it go out. The steel case of the smoker will become very hot so follow any fire regulations for your area. When finished ensure the smoker completely out. Beekeepers have lost vehicles and honey sheds to smoker accidents. Take care.