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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Southern Oregon
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    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 www.oldsolbees.com

  2. #2

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    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
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    "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 03:29 PM.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  4. #4

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    John,

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

    ACETIC ACID

    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
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    Default

    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 www.oldsolbees.com

  6. #6
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    Default

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/hort/Bees/pdf/foulbrood.pdf

    "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 www.oldsolbees.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Liberty, Maine
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    Default

    So, I've got a hive that died and the results came back with a case of Nosema.

    The frames are full off honey (uncapped) and some pollen.

    Would soaking the frames in bleach water be a good idea, just just use them and let the bees do what they need to?

    Thanks,

    K

  8. #8
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    Default

    Open honey and an aqueous solution sounds like a potential mess. Why not try the acetic acid? I have read "...stored honey may still harbor spores and the combs should be extracted before treatment." What kind of world are we living in that bees cant eat their own stored honey???
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  9. #9
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    May 2007
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    Liberty, Maine
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JBJ View Post
    Open honey and an aqueous solution sounds like a potential mess. Why not try the acetic acid? I have read "...stored honey may still harbor spores and the combs should be extracted before treatment." What kind of world are we living in that bees cant eat their own stored honey???
    To be honest with you, most local foks tell me to just use it over as is. Make sure I treat to the Nosema and keep an eye on them.

    K

  10. #10
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    FRASER VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    Default

    JBJ:

    O the West Coast there is Iotron Technologies in Port Coquitlam, B.C. The border issue would probably make it near impossible. On the other hand the electron beam kills everything and bees do great on those sterilized combs.

    There was a very similar thread a month or so ago and one fellow was workeing on an ozone machine. Ozone is a great sterilizer and he was hoping to have something out by march I believe. It was going to be kinda affordable for commercial guys.

    Jean-Marc

  11. #11
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    Jan 2003
    Location
    Kiel WI, USA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JBJ View Post
    "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.
    Ethylene oxide? Not an option for most of us, I realize.

  12. #12
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    Default

    dcross, that was a quote from the article not mine. I also thought it seemed a bit of an overstatement. I have been discussing with some other beekeepers if bleach will do it and many say no, however nobody has been able to point to the study that confirms or denies. I would guess there must be some concentration that would work....whether or not it would be too strong to work with is another question.

    Thanks for the input everybody. I have a few leads I will post on later.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  13. #13
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    Default Javex

    JBJ:

    I'm reading "Elimination of AFB without the use of drugs" by Mark Goodwin and Cliff Van Eaton and in it they quote a study done in 1998 in New Zealand. .5% sodium hypochlorite in water will kill AFB spores in 20 minutes.

    Goodwin,R.M., Haine, H.M. 1998. Sterilising beekeeping equipment infected with American foulbrood disease spores. New Zealand Beekeeper (5)9:13.

    Jean-Marc

  14. #14
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    Default

    Jean-Marc, that is great to know. Do they reference their research? What is the .5% sodium hydrochloride to water ratio? Some off the shelf bleach is more potent than others. Sounds like a promising option for washing combs.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  15. #15
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    Default Javex

    JBJ:

    The reference is Goowin and Haine. As for the bleach, I just saw a jug downstairs at 5% hypochlorite so if my math is right you'd have 1 part javex and 9 parts water to cut it down to .5%.

    I'm not sure how many frames you could do with a fresh solution. Perhaps it's all in that Goodwin and Haine paper.

    Jean-Marc

  16. #16
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    Default Bleach kills Nosema spores for sure

    10% bleach solution will kill Nosema spores after all! One gallon of bleach and 9 gallons of water and soak for "a few hours". From Jan 2009 BC, pg 55

    I would wager a 50:50 solution sprayed on the combs would work well and be faster.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Lancaster CA
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    410

    Default

    Pool chlorine is your best buy. Home Depot $6.00 for 2 gallon of 12% sodium Hyprochlorite. Wil you get air entrapment in the bottom of cells and not get complete coverage? As for radiation treatment, it works great. Bought out a friend who was having health problems. I knew he had great, newer equip, but I didn't know he had a huge case of AFB. Had 400 boxes irradiated at about $8.00 ea inc transportation. Job was completed over night. Boxes with honey in them made a mess in the totes that ran through the lab. After treatment they were steril but still smelled of AFB until the new bees cleaned the smell out. It takes a lot of faith in the process to put healthy bees in a box that smells and looks like AFB.

  18. #18
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    Dec 2008
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    Whatcom Co., WA
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    Default

    [QUOTE=JBJ;385454]10% bleach solution will kill Nosema spores after all! One gallon of bleach and 9 gallons of water and soak for "a few hours". From Jan 2009 BC, pg 55

    This article compared several possibilities for Nosema and found bleach to be the most promising, I believe.

    Curious about anyone's thoughts regarding-- Nosema ...could it be "trapped" inside wax and therefore not influenced by "spray" type treatment with bleach/ acetic (and how this would compare to soaking?)

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