I'm seriously considering taking up beekeeping as a hobby, so I can have honey and wax for various uses. There is a nearby community garden where bees have been kept before, and an unused box beehive (with supers, I think) that is available. What I'd like to know is if there are any special steps that need to be taken with a previously used hive before new bees are introduced. Do I need to worry about mites already being there, for example, and how to I treat the hive? I'd appreciate any insights.
I don't know where you are (state or country), but this is what I would do here in Maine. First, the issue of mites; if there are no bees currently alive in the box, then there are no mites. Mites are a parasite. If the previous colony has died off, then the parasitic mites would also die. Now, for the next issue of AFB and EFB (American FoulBrood and European FoulBrood). Here is what is highly recommended here in Maine. Call your state/local government offices to get the phone number for the state bee inspector. Ask the inspector to come to the hive boxes and verify that they do not contain AFB or EFB. These diseases will remain within the frame and wax even though the previous colony is gone. While attempts are currently being researched to find ways of treating infected hives without destroying them, the age old technique for treating an AFB or EFB infected hive has been to completely burn all the equipment (including the bees). So, you probably don't want to assume that you can grab the equipment cheaply and start a hive. It would be a shame to spend your time and money to start a new hive and then to have to destroy it. Normally, the state bee inspectors are very knowledgeable and are happy to inspect equipment prior to purchase/acquisition without charge.
I'm in the state of Arkansas and haven't yet talked to anyone at the Apiary Board about it, but I'll do just that.