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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Mystic, CT USA
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    14

    Default Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    First, a little back story: I lost a hive over the winter of 2010-2011. In the spring of 2011 I installed a new package of bees which didn't take (absconded). So, I have lots of drawn out comb/honey that I can feed to my new package bees which are due to arrive in the next couple of weeks. I know it is generally okay to use/feed back old combs and honey, and I'm going to put the frames I intend to use in the freezer for 24 or more hours to take care of any wax moth. But the look of some of them makes me a little nervous. Here are a couple of photos (they'll get larger if you click on them):

    photo1.jpg

    photo2.jpg

    I think the white debris is crystallized honey, the yellowish-red pollen, but I'm not sure about the black? Any ideas? Are they safe to use or should I start from scratch?

    Thanks,
    Kelli

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    4,070

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    It would be a wonderful safe asset for a new package! It takes very few brood cycles before new comb becomes black with the cocoons of emerging bees. I seriously doubt this comb has a thing to do with your losses. Unfortunately what newbies do best is buy new bees because they lost the last ones. Don't feel so all alone, it happens to many. It is why I plan on joining the growing ranks of bee supplier next spring God willing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Mystic, CT USA
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    14

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Thanks for answering, Vance! So the stuff in the pics just looks like normal debris to you? Good to know, and I'm glad I can give my new bees a little head start.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,341

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    You have a lot of wax moth feces and webs in it... the bees have trouble removing the webs.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Mystic, CT USA
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    14

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    You have a lot of wax moth feces and webs in it... the bees have trouble removing the webs.
    Thanks for the reply, Michael. Is there anything I can do to make it usable (try to remove as much of the webbing as possible myself?) Or would you just not use them?

    Kelli

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia
    Posts
    392

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Bees build their own comb. Let them. Don't "help" them. Eleven days after putting in a foundationless hive with nothing inside but an empty box and one half-inch hole, we've got five full-sized combs and we're adding space.

    IMHO, the point is: those combs that they're building from scratch are brand-new. There's no vector for any pathogen from any past piece of wax or source of wax. This is always what bees do when they arrive in the hollow of a brand new tree: they start from scratch. They build comb and they fill comb but AFAIK you'll never see them tearing comb from one place and putting it into another. They don't regard existing wax as a valuable labor-saving resource to be reused, even though we humans might suppose that we are "doing them a favor" by supplying it. There must be a reason for that.

    You might well be taking what killed the old hive and putting that death into the new one. They fled that situation en masse, utterly abandoning what we humans might consider "valuable and reusable assets." Obviously, they didn't regard them to be anything they wanted to be close to. There must be a reason for that.

    I personally would take that old comb and the frames they came in and burn them; maybe even the hive itself. Everything that could have been a vector from what killed the old hive, and especially whatever touched the subsequent hive that fled the scene ... destroy it completely.

    I am simply of the un-tutored opinion that, if a vector does not exist in nature, do not create one. If you observe that creatures never do on their own what you are "helpfully" having them do ... you're probably not helping. If a pathway is created where none existed before, a pathogen will take it, if only through random chance; and nothing in aeons of natural selection will prepare for this event. Totally avoidable.
    Last edited by mrobinson; 05-07-2012 at 07:11 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Mystic, CT USA
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    14

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    I'm pretty sure that mice did them in. It was a new package, and therefore pretty weak. When I opened it up two mice and a nest were in the hive and they had really done a number on the frames. Poor bees! So I'm less worried about pathogens-- but you're right, it's something I should consider. There seems to be two schools of though on this issue (reusing old comb/honey).

    Thanks for the reply!

    Kelli

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia
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    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Do you really want to eat that? Bleah.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,341

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    The bees will always clean up whatever you give them. It's just a matter of which is less work for them--to rebuild what you have and remove the webs or for you to tear it out and let them rebuild it. If there is a tunnel running through a comb I just let the bees fix it. If there are lot of tunnels I would cut it out and let them start over.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Mystic, CT USA
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Mrobinson... I wouldn't be eating it. These frames will be in the hive body, not a super! Besides, they've all been in the freezer for a few days as an added precaution.

    Michael Bush... thanks. I will take a closer look at the frames today to get a better idea of the extent of the damage.

    Kelli

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Lee County, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    70

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Several years ago I lost my first colony to wax moths. Your photo looks a lot like what I found...I burned that frames & started over. I agree with mrobinson: let the bees do what they do best & start over.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Mystic, CT USA
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    The reason I was considering using the old ones was this thread. But after reading the responses here, I am thinking I should start over. Thanks for the replies, everyone!

    Kelli

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    4,070

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    Send the stuff to me since it is obviously hazmat. I will use it. Bees clean up worse than that every spring when they move back to the lower box after wintering!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Lake George, CT
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Question About Using Old Comb/Honey

    In reference to using 2011 combs: by now you've probably already figured out the results with good old fasion, trial and error- mold (in your pic) is no match against the bees tongue's, and brain surgeon mandibles! Old frames will look like new in a matter of two weeks... unless of course disease is present, where in your case I suspect not. Wax takes extreme energy, and precious time to build. Invest a couple dollars into, "The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture", by A.I. & E.R. Root. It'll serve better then a hive tool.
    Last edited by Buzzingwithapis; 05-17-2012 at 07:22 PM.

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