Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of food production, and was well established in Egypt around 2600 BC. In 60 AD, a beekeeper named Comella invented a bee smoker. His design is still used today. Over the years, pottery hives gave way to straw skeps and, in the 1650s, Rev. William Mew developed a wooden octagonal hive. It became the standard for all future hives.
The British Beekeepers' Association says smoke is effective with bees because years of evolution have taught them to fear fire above all else. Once they sense smoke, it drives them to eat as much honey as possible should the hive need to be abandoned. With the bees focused on this, beekeepers can access the hive.