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How to reuse beehive frames (safely)

Beekeeping isn’t only a rewarding and fun hobby, but it can be relatively cheap… if you are smart enough! Good hygiene is a crucial factor in beekeeping. In a beehive, the frames are one of the most important items you should clean.

All beekeepers need to know how to clean beehive frames. They can then reuse the frames in their beehives with little to no risk of spreading diseases and ensuring they control pests. When frames get a contagious disease from bee colonies such as foulbrood, they are best destroyed by fire, but there is no reason to destroy your perfect frames if they are still in great condition!

Not only is it essential to clean your beehive frames when you are planning on reusing them, but it is even more important to do so safely. Stay with me as we go into the world of cleaning your beehive frames!

Why Clean Your Beehive Frames?

It is important to clean bee frames when deciding to move them between honeybee colonies. It is good to remember that some colonies may appear healthy at first, but they can cause harbor disease-causing organisms that can infect a weak colony.

Do not put off cleaning your beehive frames, especially if you are planning on using them in another colony. It would be best to schedule and carry out your frame cleaning soon or just after harvesting honey. This gives your frames enough time to dry out properly before you need them again.

You will then also be able to repair any damaged frames and replace those that cannot be reused. All this should be done before the honey flow season and will benefit your next honey harvest and the well-being of your bees!

You can clean your frames during any season of the year. It is, however, easier to clean frames in winter because your bees are much less active. The best time during the day to carry out your beehive frame cleaning would be early in the morning when your bees are not flying.

The process of cleaning your beehive frames should start at a safe, sanitary location, such as your backyard or a shed. The cleaning process involves the use of chemicals and heat. This helps to remove any and all wax from your frames. It also kills 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 type of frames to use in beekeeping. They are not only the easiest to assemble, but they are affordable as well! Wooden frames can be used repeatedly in the beehive and withstand harsh treatment during cleaning and drying.

Wooden frames are cleaned the easiest by boiling them in hot water. Chemicals can even be added to the water to achieve specific cleaning objectives that the beekeeper needs. After removing your wooden frames from the beehive to harvest honey, cut out any comb that still contains honey. If there is honey on your frames, you may give it back to your bees.

Once this is done, you can start with the process of cleaning the frames. This can be done in only four steps, make sure you follow them correctly and make any changes according to your specific beehive:

  • Step 1: Cleaning wooden beehive frames start with scraping off all the propolis. You can do this using a hive tool. Make sure to pay more attention to the joints while at the same time taking care not to pry the joints 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 will keep their shape perfectly even when you’re cleaning them in hot water. Additionally, 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 will remove the beeswax and will kill most disease-causing organisms. If you do not have a boiler big enough, you can boil one half of the frame and then the second half.

Large beekeeping operations where the cleaning of frames involves hundreds of frames have large boilers that can take many frames at once. You can even add washing soda to your hot water when boiling your frames to soften the water and give you a better quality wax!

  • Step 4: Once the wooden beehive frame has been in the boiler for two minutes, you can lift it out and shake all the excess wax and water back into the boiler. It would be best if you then placed it in direct sunlight, where it can dry out as quickly as possible. This is an excellent method because wooden frames do not generally get distorted after this treatment if you do it correctly.

What To Do When There Are Mould On Your Frames?

A variety of molds will grow on the combs when the moisture in the hive gets too high. The moisture in your hive will get too high when there are not enough bees to fan it away. It can be pretty confusing because these moldy frames frequently contain dead bees that are also covered in mold, so it looks like the mold killed everything.

This, luckily, is not the case. According to research, one of the molds frequently found on combs is Penicillium waksmanii, which can inhibit certain types of bacteria, including foulbrood.

Other molds are usually present, as evidenced by the different shades of color, generally blue, white, yellow, or gray. If you have a frame loaded with mold, you might be very tempted to discard the frame, but it is unnecessary! Instead, you first have to decide how the colony became weak and eliminate the root of the problem.

Secondly, you will need to take your infected frames to a warmish and dry place where you can let them dry out for a few days. It may smell foul, like all things containing mold, so it would be best to put 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 die.

As your colonies build up during early spring, you can place the moldy frame on top of your strongest colony, and the bees will clean and polish every cell in just a few days! Worker bees always do the cleaning of old cells before using them, so you will not be placing a burden on your bees.

Bees are extremely 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 cleaned your frames, you can wash and boil them to be 100% sure.

You can clean your frames as you usually would, or you can use the step-by-step instructions I have stated above. After you have cleaned and dried your frames correctly, you can reuse them! They will be good as new, leaving no taste or smell of mold behind in your frames.

Conclusion

You will rarely have to be concerned about diseases spreading in hives if you are sure you clean your frames correctly. To get your bees to accept their new frames, you can spray the frames with sugar syrup.

With a bit of work, you will now have frames that are ready and in shape to be used again! Frames may be relatively inexpensive to purchase, but who doesn’t enjoy the fact that they can reuse something that would normally be discarded?

I hope this article has helped you as it has helped me not just to throw away my dirty, old frames, but rather to do some research on cleaning and reusing my beehive frames efficiently!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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