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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Utah County, Utah, USA
    Posts
    22

    Default Cleaning old hives and frames

    Complete newbie here. I picked up eight six hive boxes last week (see below) from a commercial beek who has gone out of business. I've heard the cautions against purchasing used equipment, but for me and my finances, it was either this or not do it at all.

    All of the boxes and frames are in pretty rough condition. It is obvious the boxes and frames weren't kept very clean. As you can see there is a thick hard layer of propolis everywhere, the comb is old, black in some places, moldy, and has mouse droppings on it.

    My question is how do I best clean up these boxes? Do I get a putty knife and scrape it off as best I can? Do sand it down? Do I wash it with bleach to remove diseses and germs? How is the best way to clean these up.

    What about the frames (they are foundationless)? Do I get rid of all the old comb, and clean them up the best I can or just chuck them all and buy new frames (I hope not as that's a lot of money)?

    Or, do I just do as the person who sold them to me recommend, and just get bees in them and let them clean them up. What would you recommend?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Portsmouth, NH
    Posts
    92

    Default Re: Cleaning old hives and frames

    If it were me.
    I would scrape all the supers down with a hive tool (works better than a putty knife) to remove the propolis and crud. If any of the supers were damaged, I would try to fix them with wood glue or wood filler. Unless I was 100% convinced there was no AFB in the hives, I would run a blow torch over the inside of the boxes. (this will also loosen up propolis). I would then use liberal amounts of sandpaper to remove flaking paint and left over propolis. Use "oops" paint from the local hardware store (under $5 a gallon) and paint the outsides. A little maintenance before the bees arrive will save you lots of money down the road.

    As far as the frames go:
    I would find $40 bucks and buy new frames. If that is not an option. Cut out all the old wax*, scrape them down as best as possible, use a blow torch to scorch them to kill off AFB, buy a few sheets of foundation, cut it into strips, use the strips to start the bees drawing the comb. If you can afford it, some wire, brads, and an embedder and wire the frames. (see my website for a how to and wiring frame). You can also purchase new foundation if your budget allows.

    Who knows what is going on with the old comb. Old medication, virus, etc. etc. It would be too much of a risk for me.

    *: make a solar melter, melt it down, make candles, buy new frames
    Backyard beekeeping and honey bees.
    www.BlueLineApiary.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Manitowoc WI USA
    Posts
    353

    Default Re: Cleaning old hives and frames

    I also am in this situation. I scraped the hives all down with a hive tool, even the frames, throwing away all of the old combs. After learning more about AFB, I called the owner and told him about my concern and he insisted there was not a problem. Of course, he had kept them in his basement for 10+ years with the idea he would get it going again, but with age his health deteriorated, and I believe him. So I thought why would he keep them around so long if they were infected?

    Still, taking a blow torch to the inside is not to much of a bother and I plan to do it. I have stained the outside of the first ten boxes with $2.50 half can purchased at a ReStore!

    I like those long handles at the top of your hives.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: Cleaning old hives and frames

    I have done some cutting/scraping out of old brood comb to reuse frames- what an icky job! New frames bought in bulk will only cost maybe $1 each- well worth it to start with nice fresh frames. Maybe keep a few of the best old frames w/comb to use in a swarm lure or for emergency. Must be all kinds of yucky residues in the old comb though, I wouldn't even want to melt it and burn it in candles- then I'd have to breath whatever fumes are still in the wax from chemicals.
    You'd be amazed at how nice the old boxes will be after a little scraping and painting though!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

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