Results 1 to 18 of 18

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Southern Oregon

    Default Comb sterilization

    This seems to be a hot topic. I assume the most desirable technique would render contaminated combs usable without destroying them. I have heard several options discussed:

    Radiation (gamma & EBR)
    ethylene oxide
    80% acetic acid

    I have not seen bleach discussed. Could dunking or spraying combs in a strong solution of bleach sterilize them? I know several old timers who claim that they actually spray a 50:50 solution of household bleach to H2O on heavily infested live chalk brood colonies and the bees actually live through it and eliminate a ton of trash from the hive afterward and produce healthy brood patterns. Bleach is bactericidal and anti fungal (Nosema is a fungus), why not dunk and air dry equipment? It seems that the anecdotal reports suggest that bees tolerate chlorine well and most of it would volitize out of the combs during the drying process.

    What all pathogens does the acetic acid treatment eliminate? I have heard chalkbrood and Nosema, but does it effect AFB or EFB spores?

    I have seen some studies showing gamma radiation was extremely effective for sterilizing hives. Who provides these services, specifically on the west coast?

    If we could find an affordable technique of comb sterilization that eliminated pathogens and pesticide residues it would be a great benefit to our industry; especially in light of the vast quantity of "CCD" dead outs.
    John B Jacob

  2. #2


    I am not sure where you would find a facility to irridate your combs, I imagine that there are several facilities in CA that could do that kind of work. I know David Hackenberg, one of the original CCD beekeepers ran some of his dead out equipment through a facility here in Florida, I am wondering what the results were. From my reading on Acetic Acid, I find no indication that it kills AFB spores. It is supposed to kill Nosema Apis, and other type infections. I have used bleach to clean shb frames, works real well, and I know that it works on chalkbrood also. But haven't used it on any other type of issues.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Southern Oregon


    "I know David Hackenberg, one of the original CCD beekeepers ran some of his dead out equipment through a facility here in Florida, I am wondering what the results were." PBM

    From the data I saw presented at the conference in Sac; it appears that the irradiated comb produced exceptional results. I do not have the data in front of me, but from what I recall the bees on irradiated comb performed as well as the bees on brand new combs.

    There must be a study somewhere that confirms or denies whether or not 80% acetic kills bacillus spores?

    Panhandle would you be willing to elaborate on your technique of cleaning shb frames? Do you spray, dunk, or scrape down to the foundation?

    There is a lot of decent straight used comb out there...if it could be economically sanitized.
    Last edited by JBJ; 01-19-2008 at 04:29 PM.
    John B Jacob

  4. #4



    Here's some information that I have gleaned on Acetic Acid treatments. It is out of the UK, hence the pounds instead of dollars.


    The practice of using 80% acetic acid to sterilise empty comb, both brood and super that are temporarily out of use, has always been recommended because it kills EFB, Nosema, Amoeba and wax moth. The current prevalence of EFB (new cases are still being found in the area) clearly makes it even more important than usual. For many years one of our members always kept a stock of the acid in a glass carboy and was able to supply local beekeepers with small quantities as required at a reasonable price. However, I now have a considerable number of boxes to treat and have had some difficulty in locating suitable suppliers. Thorne's normally sell it at nearly £35 for 2.5 litres (and you have to collect it from Wragby) but generously offered a price of £25 if I bought 10! Enquiries through Beefarmers' contacts located a wholesaler in Southampton offering 2 litres for £10.87, but with £7.95 carriage - and all plus VAT. Eventually, I found a source in Warwickshire at a sensible price, but had to take my trailer to collect it as they would not let me use any vehicle without a bulkhead to separate the acid from the driver's compartment. I now have 50 litres in stock, which should last me for some years, but will be willing to supply Association members at £10 for 2.5 litres (I will also supply safety data sheets).

    The method of sterilising boxes is given in detail in many of our library books but, briefly, involves placing a pad of old rags or cotton wool on top of the frames and pouring approximately 1/4 pint (142 ml. if you must!) of acid on to the pad. Further boxes are added and the hive is then sealed for a week; combs should then be well aired before use.

    Using Bleach, if I have a number of boxes that need cleaning after a shb infestation, I fill an old 55 gallon drum about 2/3 the way to the top with water, and about a quart of regular bleach (I get it from the local Dollar Store), I want a good chlorine smell to the water. Then I dunk the boxes into the drum, weight them down and let them sit in the water for 30 minutes (I usually have other tasks going on, and don't time it exactly), If the frames/boxes still have shb larva in them the larva swell up, die off, and usually float to the top, adult shb float to the top, all of them die quickly because the bleach dries out the shb skin/carapace. Also you will get a nasty film on top of the water, usually the color of dirty motor oil, this comes from the slime, honey, pollen, and cocoons. After I pull out the boxes, I give them a thorough rinse with clean water, garden hose etc.. then let them air dry, The bleach and water mixture will loosen up old brood coccoons, and I have had old dark brood frames turn back into light colored wax. If cleaning just a few combs, I use a rubermaid tub, and just soak the frames.

    I just do normal scraping of the frames to get rid of burr comb

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Southern Oregon


    Thanks panhandle! Sounds like EFB may be killed by the acetic, I am still looking for data on AFB. Bleach sound like a reasonable way to clean things up, but at 30 min per box it would take a while to do a truck load.
    John B Jacob

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Southern Oregon


    "Chemical sterilisation
    There are no chemicals that have been shown
    to be fully effectve for the sterilisation of
    stored combs against foul brood. The spores
    of AFB in particular are strongly resistant to
    virtually all sterilising agents. Combs can,
    however, be sterilised to destroy the spores of
    chalkbrood (and Nosema disease of adult
    bees), using acetic acid vapour. In general it is
    better practice to melt down or burn old
    combs and replace them with new frames
    fitted with foundation.
    Brood boxes, supers, queen excluders and
    other bee-keeping equipment, which has been
    thoroughly cleaned, of all wax and propolis
    can be effectively sterilized by using
    commercial disinfectants (e.g. bleach, Virkon S
    and others). It is important that the
    manufacturer’s instructions are complied with.
    Irradiation of equipment
    Equipment such as stored supers and empty
    combs which may have been associated with
    colonies infected with foul brood, but do not
    show any disease signs, can be sterilised by
    gamma rays from a radioisotope of cobalt.
    This will kill the spores of the bacteria that
    cause disease without damage to equipment.
    Infected combs must not be irradiated if scales
    or other disease signs are present as these
    would remain indistinguishable visually from
    infectious untreated disease signs. Firms
    specialising in irradiation use 25 kiloGrays
    (kGy) to kill Paenibacillus larvae (AFB) and its
    spores on combs and hive equipment.
    Currently there is no recommendation for the
    treatment with irradiation for Melissococcus
    plutonius (EFB), but it is likely that 25 kGy is
    sufficient to kill Melissococcus plutonius."
    John B Jacob


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts