A bear by his thick fur does not bother bees. Perhaps a prehistoric candy -pikking bear brought people the idea also to rob honey from bees. Wild colonies can be found especially in hollow trees. In Spain near Valencia and La Aranas are found cave paintings of bears and people robbing honey 8,000 to 14,000 years ago. (Unfortunately You tube was not available yet.)

BijenkorfMaskerTo make bees calm and disrupt their communication for the removal of honey smoke is still used.
Baskets were sulfured out, but by sulfur fumes bees were slain.
For former beekeepers a colony was like livestock. A 'fat' beehive was slained. The killing of the animals was part of it.

By burning sodium nitrate bees are intoxicated, but not slain.
Nitric acid (fertilizer) sometimes mixed with tobacco in the smoker provides nitrous oxide that also was used, but shortens the life of bees.

Finely sliced ​​puff ball (Bovista plumbea), and Birch mushroom (false tinder) are also suitable, as are the dried inflorescence of hemp (cannabis).

As fuel are also tobacco, corrugated cardboard, jute, rotten wood, dried lavender, fruit fluff of the velvet tree, wood shavings... used to smolder in the smoker.