Ever thought about how beekeeping can be a fun, rewarding, and cost-effective hobby? Well, it can be, especially if you’re smart about it! One of the key aspects of beekeeping is maintaining good hygiene, particularly when it comes to cleaning your beehive frames.
Every beekeeper should master the art of cleaning beehive frames. This allows you to reuse the frames, minimizing the risk of disease spread and pest infestation. If a frame gets infected with a contagious disease like foulbrood, it’s best to destroy it by fire. However, there’s no need to discard perfectly good frames that are still in great condition!
It’s not just about cleaning your beehive frames for reuse, but doing it safely. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of beehive frame cleaning!
Why Should You Clean Your Beehive Frames?
Cleaning bee frames is crucial when you plan to move them between honeybee colonies. Remember, even seemingly healthy colonies can harbor disease-causing organisms that can infect a weaker colony.
Don’t procrastinate on cleaning your beehive frames, especially if you plan to use them in another colony. It’s best to schedule and execute your frame cleaning soon after or just after harvesting honey. This allows your frames ample time to dry properly before their next use.
This also gives you the opportunity to repair any damaged frames and replace those that can’t be reused. All these tasks should ideally be completed before the honey flow season to ensure a successful next honey harvest and the health of your bees!
You can clean your frames any time of the year. However, it’s easier to clean frames in winter when your bees are less active. The best time of the day for beehive frame cleaning is early in the morning when your bees aren’t flying.
The cleaning process should start in a safe, sanitary location, like your backyard or a shed. It involves the use of chemicals and heat to remove all wax from your frames and eliminate pests, parasites, and micro-organisms that could potentially harm your colony.
How To Clean And Reuse Beehive Frames Safely
Wooden beehive frames are the most common and are not only easy to assemble but also affordable! They can be reused multiple times and can withstand rigorous cleaning and drying processes.
The easiest way to clean wooden frames is by boiling them in hot water. You can even add chemicals to the water to achieve specific cleaning objectives. After removing your wooden frames from the beehive to harvest honey, cut out any comb that still contains honey. If there’s honey on your frames, you can give it back to your bees.
Once this is done, you can start the cleaning process. It’s a simple four-step process, but make sure to follow it correctly and adjust as per your specific beehive:
- Step 1: Start by scraping off all the propolis using a hive tool. Pay extra attention to the joints, but be careful not to pry them loose.
- Step 2: Some beekeepers prefer to remove the wire from the frames before cleaning. This is, however, up to the individual beekeeper. Wired frames maintain their shape perfectly even when cleaned in hot water. Plus, slackened frame wires can easily be tightened once the frame is dry.
- Step 3: Dip the wooden beehive frames into hot boiling water for two minutes. This removes the beeswax and kills most disease-causing organisms. If you don’t have a large enough boiler, you can boil one half of the frame and then the other.
For large beekeeping operations involving hundreds of frames, large boilers that can accommodate many frames at once are used. You can even add washing soda to your hot water when boiling your frames to soften the water and yield better quality wax!
- Step 4: After boiling the wooden beehive frame for two minutes, lift it out and shake off the excess wax and water back into the boiler. Then place it in direct sunlight to dry as quickly as possible. This method is excellent because wooden frames generally don’t get distorted after this treatment if done correctly.
What To Do When There’s Mould On Your Frames?
When the moisture in the hive gets too high, various molds can grow on the combs. This usually happens when there aren’t enough bees to fan away the moisture. It can be quite confusing as these moldy frames often contain dead bees also covered in mold, making it seem like the mold killed everything.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. Research shows that one of the molds often found on combs is Penicillium waksmanii, which can inhibit certain types of bacteria, including foulbrood.
Other molds, identifiable by different shades of color (blue, white, yellow, or gray), are usually present too. If you find a frame loaded with mold, you might be tempted to discard it, but that’s unnecessary! First, identify and eliminate the root cause of the colony’s weakness.
Next, take your infected frames to a warm, dry place and let them dry out for a few days. The mold may emit a foul smell, so it’s best to place them where they won’t bother you. Separate any frames that are molded together and let them air dry. As your frames dry, the mold will slow down, stop, and eventually die.
As your colonies build up during early spring, place the moldy frame on top of your strongest colony. The bees will clean and polish every cell in just a few days! Worker bees always clean old cells before using them, so you won’t be burdening your bees.
Bees are incredibly thorough, and if you have more than one strong colony, you can divide your frames between them if you have more than one moldy frame. After your bees clean your frames, you can wash and boil them to be 100% sure.
After cleaning and drying your frames correctly, you can reuse them! They’ll be as good as new, with no trace of mold smell or taste left behind.
If you clean your frames correctly, you’ll rarely have to worry about diseases spreading in your hives. To get your bees to accept their new frames, you can spray the frames with sugar syrup.
With a little effort, you’ll have frames that are ready to be used again! While frames may be relatively inexpensive to purchase, it’s always satisfying to reuse something that would otherwise be discarded.
I hope this article has inspired you to not just discard your dirty, old frames, but to research and implement efficient ways of cleaning and reusing your beehive frames!
Title: The Art of Safely Reusing Beehive Frames
Beekeeping is as much a science as it is an art. The hobby encompasses a myriad of responsibilities, including the maintenance and sanitation of beehive frames, the integral infrastructure of the hive. There has been a growing trend among beekeepers to extend the lifespan of these frames significantly by responsibly and safely reusing them.
Reusing beehive frames can save on costs and resources, but requires stringent safety measures to prevent the spread of disease and infestations among the bees. This article seeks to provide you with a comprehensive guide to safely reusing beehive frames.
1. Verify the Health of the Hive:
The first step in safely reusing beehive frames is to thoroughly inspect them for signs of disease or infestation. Presence of pests like Varroa mites, traces of foul brood or other bee illnesses, mould growth, etc., necessitate the disposal of the frames. Only healthy frames should be considered for reuse.
2. Proper Cleaning:
Rigorous and meticulous cleaning is paramount when reusing beehive frames. Remove any remaining beeswax, propolis or honey, and scrape the frames gently to avoid damaging the structure. Soaking the frames in warm soapy water can help loosen up the hardened propolis and wax. Ensure that any frames containing honey are carefully cleaned to avoid fermentation.
Sterilization is an essential component of reusing beehive frames and guarantees the suppression of disease spread from one hive to another. Frames can be sterilized by burning them lightly with a blowtorch to eradicate potential bacteria or spores. Alternatively, one can use a solution of bleach for sterilization, followed by thorough drying.
4. Safe Storage:
Frames that have been cleaned and sterilized should be stored in a dry environment, preferably an airy and well-lit location, hence preventing mold growth. It’s essential to keep the frames away from rodents and other pests, which can destroy them.
5. Right Time to Reuse:
Beekeepers should reuse the cleaned frames at the start of a nectar flow when bees are most active and expanding the brood area. This will also reduce the likelihood of the frames attracting small hive beetles, moths or other pests.
6. Gradual Replacement:
It’s recommended to replace one-third to half of the frames in a hive each year as it prevents any old comb from harbouring diseases or parasites. A gradual replacement also ensures the bees are not overwhelmed by a completely new environment.
7. Seek Expert Advice:
Experienced beekeepers or local beekeeping associations can provide valuable advice and practical demonstrations on the process of safely reusing beehive frames.
Reusing beehive frames is an eco-friendly, cost-effective practise that may help to fight against the global decline in bee populations if it’s undertaken responsibly. It’s not just about keeping the bees happy, but ensuring their health and productivity. If done rightly and safely, it benefits both beekeepers and bees alike.