Found an abandoned hive
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  1. #1
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    Dec 2018
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    South Dartmouth, MA, USA
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    Default Found an abandoned hive

    Hello, newbie here. I recently moved into a large property and I found a Langstroth hive (screened bottom board, 2 deep hive supers, a medium honey super, inner cover, and outer cover). It is completely abandoned and overtaken by mice. The hive has probably been abandoned for a number of years (5+). There are ten frames each in the deep hive supers, and eight frames in the medium honey super. The 20 deep hive super frames are a mix of plastic (12)and wood (8). The honey super frames are all wood (8).

    I took the hive apart this past weekend and purged all the mice nesting material. Everything is structurally intact, but I'm not sure whether I can reuse the supers, or the frames. Are they so compromised by mice dropping and urine? Can or should they be cleaned? Should I just get all new frames ($$s)? Can I reuse the boxes if I were to do that?

    Here are a few pics. (hive disassembled and spread out, brood super showing mice nest, honey super showing mice nesting material.) Any help/advice would bee appreciated.
    Hive all.png
    brood box.png
    honey super.png

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Quote Originally Posted by SNRbeekeeping View Post
    Hello, newbie here. I recently moved into a large property and I found a Langstroth hive (screened bottom board, 2 deep hive supers, a medium honey super, inner cover, and outer cover). It is completely abandoned and overtaken by mice. The hive has probably been abandoned for a number of years (5+). There are ten frames each in the deep hive supers, and eight frames in the medium honey super. The 20 deep hive super frames are a mix of plastic (12)and wood (8). The honey super frames are all wood (8).

    I took the hive apart this past weekend and purged all the mice nesting material. Everything is structurally intact, but I'm not sure whether I can reuse the supers, or the frames. Are they so compromised by mice dropping and urine? Can or should they be cleaned? Should I just get all new frames ($$s)? Can I reuse the boxes if I were to do that?

    Here are a few pics. (hive disassembled and spread out, brood super showing mice nest, honey super showing mice nesting material.) Any help/advice would bee appreciated.
    Hive all.png
    brood box.png
    honey super.png

    I would sweep/scrape all junk away.
    Then use a propane burner and torch all the wood (boxes and frames).
    Like so:
    TorchingHiveInside.jpg
    Then reuse it.

    Plastic - toss, I guess.
    Try torching it too just for fun first and see?
    Never tried this one. Maybe it works too.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Jackson, Ohio (SE Ohio) USA
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    817

    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Question is, what do you want to do? Order a package or Nuc in the spring and get into beekeeping? You should be able to scrape and paint the boxes, SBB, and top, that's part of beekeeping anyway. Foundation should be tossed, whether the frames could be saved or just replaced is up to you. Foundation isn't that expensive, neither are frames for that matter. Shipping can be gruesome though.

    I don't have an opinion on the mouse urine question. I have seen swarms move into abandoned hives which probably had mice at some point.

    You do have a "hive" minus frames and foundation, now you'll have to add cost of bees, $100+ depending on your location, equipment, smoker, gloves, veil, suit, hive tool and whatever else you think you'll need. Wild guess, you're about $300+ away from having a working hive in the spring. Is there a local bee club or someone who could advise you through the first years? It is definitely not a matter of providing a hive and stuffing a package of bees in there, then collecting honey.

    Good luck,

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    South Dartmouth, MA, USA
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Thanks. Yes, there is a local club. They meet once a month so I thought I'd try and get some advice here and maybe start on the cleanup over the winter. I'm thinking a Nuc would make the most sense for me ($160 through the club). I could use one of the brood supers to house that, I assume. Buying the remaining new frames.

    I'm definitely in it for the hobby and not just collecting honey. Bee school is offered in February (my September class I was registered for was canceled.)

    Thanks again for the advice.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    South Dartmouth, MA, USA
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Thanks. I may give the torching a try. Might save myself the 16 wooden frames I have.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Jacksonville, Morgan County, IL
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Quote Originally Posted by SNRbeekeeping View Post
    .I took the hive apart this past weekend and purged all the mice nesting material. Everything is structurally intact, but I'm not sure whether I can reuse the supers, or the frames. Are they so compromised by mice dropping and urine? Can or should they be cleaned? Should I just get all new frames ($$s)? Can I reuse the boxes if I were to do that?
    Toss the frames, you can NOT get the mouse urine out of them, it has soaked into the wood.

    Scrape out the boxes (inside) then scorch with a propane torch with one of those flame-spreader attachments on it.

    Or if you feel really adventurous, do the gasoline-burn....stack the boxes with a spacer under the bottom, pour in a cup of gasoline, toss in a match...let it burn for 30-40 seconds, then kick the pile over, that kills the up-draft and the flames will go out.

    At least that's the theory..................never had the nerve to try it !

  8. #7
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    Dec 2018
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    South Dartmouth, MA, USA
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Thanks for the input. Not sure I'll be playing with gasoline and fire either. I'll see if someone from the local club might have the torch.

  9. #8
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    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    The reason to torch the boxes is not to get rid of the mouse leavings. It is to reduce the possibility of starting your new bees in equipment contaminated with deadly brood diseases. Anytime a hive dies, before it is reused, it should be examined by experts to determine if brood diseases were the likely cause. The evidence would have been on the wax of the combs, though don't feel too bad, the mice probably would have destroyed the evidence by now.

    In many states hive equipment contaminated with American Foul Brood must be burnt up and buried. European Foul brood is somewhat amenable to the torch process for boxes, though the intricacies (and plastic material) of frames would keep me from trying to salvage them at all.

    I've had EFB in my hives, and the work and enormous trouble of it would not encourage me to try and save less than $100 on the woodenware to use as a home for my new $160 bees.

    The other option is getting your boxes irradiated at a gamma radiation facility. You need a dose of 15KiloGrays to sterilize EFB, but just 10 KG for AFB. There is an annual gathering in south Jersey for this in March. Perhaps someone else from your area is taking a load down for that and you could send your boxes down, as well. The cost per box is less than $5/box or item. (You could salvage the frames and foundation with gamma radiation, no extra charge as they go through the machine with frames installed in the boxes.)

    The most likely cause of the bees' death is varroa mites and the diseases they spread. But the foul broods are not unknown and they are getting more common now that routine antibiotics have been banned. And the most common way they are spread by beekeepers is through contaminated gear. AFB spores remain highly infectious for going on 100 years. Nasty stuff.

    Oh, yeah, welcome to beekeeping, etc., etc. It's actually a ton of fun and I can't imagine my life without bees. But it has some pitfalls, as well. And I, to my deep regret, know one of them intimately.

    Nancy

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Another method of killing AFB spores is bleach solution.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_foulbrood

  11. #10
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    NW Florida
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    For the cost of buying or building some boxes, I wouldn't risk a pathogen getting through the cleaning process. Personal choice.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  12. #11
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    Apr 2018
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    Hampshire County, MA USA
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Quote Originally Posted by SNRbeekeeping View Post
    Hello, newbie here. I recently moved into a large property and I found a Langstroth hive ... Any help/advice would bee appreciated.
    Welcome!

    I would advise to not use most of it. One study ("Disinfection of wooden structures contaminated with Paenibacillus larvae subsp. larvae spores" Dobbelaere, et al. Journal of Applied Microbiology 2001, 91, 212-216) showed heat >140C for two hours was the method that left zero viable spores. Paraffin dip was good but it had to be really hot, and bleach did not do so well even with concentrations not readily available to the consumer. Scorching only killed spores near the surface and was unsatisfactory. Unless you have an oven that is not in your house* or access to irradiation, I'd literally burn the boxes, frames, and inner cover. I would scorch and paint the inside of the outer cover and same for the bottom board; that's my own personal comfort level in this situation.

    *Why not use the oven in your kitchen? Because the toasted wood smell along with the smell of stuff burning off the woodenware at 300F for 2 hours makes the house smelly. That smell lingers even when baked with the kitchen windows open and a whole house fan running. $100 vs. considerable effort and days of irritated family members... NOW I know which of those I would choose ;-)

    Check out a club; sometimes people are getting out of beekeeping and they offer their equipment through club channels at low/no cost. That way you know the history of the equipment and have no worries.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Clean it all up, repaint, and torching does work , I'd torch, then bleach, let dry and install new foundation. Good luck with the Bees!!!

  14. #13
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    I too would simply strip the hive down, clean it up, torch the internal woodwork, repair/renovate/paint as needed, then install your bees. It's one hive after all, and you'd be very unlucky indeed to run into any disease problems.

    If it were me, and if I was starting out with zero equipment, then I'd cut-out the combs from those frames and put them somewhere safe, and maybe visit them at a later date - there's no case for burning frames at this stage. Bin the wax.

    Don't worry about the mice stuff - I've even seen bees drinking urine from a cow pat - it's the salt they're after. Insects operate very differently to us humans.

    Suggestion - between now and Spring - make-up a couple of swarm boxes and see if you can't catch yourself some free bees next year ! Plenty of info re: doing this, both here (Search button) and via Google.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Welcome to Beekeeping! Ask a question and get seventeen answers, all "more or less" right. Now you have to decide what makes sense to you in terms of work and $$ required. :-)

    IMHO, chat with the folks in the local club to see if EFB or AFB are around. You'll need smoker, veil, etc. plus foundation and probably some frames so you should easily reach the $100 free shipping at Mann Lake, Dadant, etc. Try cleaning up some of your frames to see how bad they are. Old frames can be challenging to clean up enough to accept new foundation due to hardened wax and brittleness of wood.

    You said it's a hobby, so have fun.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    I try to remember that I will be eating honey that comes from my equipment. If it is so gross that I wouldn't want to eat off of it, I don't use it... Just saying...

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Quote Originally Posted by f650cs View Post
    I try to remember that I will be eating honey that comes from my equipment. If it is so gross that I wouldn't want to eat off of it, I don't use it... Just saying...
    Once torched well, nothing wrong with it.

    Well, I would use those boxes as-is and no torching even - directly into swarm trap pile.
    They are perfect traps with only a little scraping.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Quote Originally Posted by f650cs View Post
    I try to remember that I will be eating honey that comes from my equipment. If it is so gross that I wouldn't want to eat off of it, I don't use it... Just saying...
    Strange - I was thinking about this exact issue only the other day ...

    We 'first-world' humans have now become so picky about our food and our lifestyle generally that we are more-and-more coming to live in an 'antiseptic' world: dust-free and dirt-free centrally-heated houses, with blemish-free food on our plates, and so on ...

    The result of all this pampering is that the number of children suffering from allergies has exploded. What we need is more dirt in our lives and more childhood infections so that our human immune systems have something with which to work. (*)

    And as for blemish-free food ... seconds after it's been swallowed it becomes a yucky amorphous slurry. I'm sure we've all seen human vomit (including our own) - well, that's what the pristine dish of whatever you've just eaten immediately becomes !

    Apologises to anyone who's eating their breakfast as they read this.
    LJ

    (*) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46302780
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    ... What we need is more dirt in our lives and more childhood infections so that our human immune systems have something with which to work. (*) And as for blemish-free food ...
    ................Apologises to anyone who's eating their breakfast
    LJ
    +100.

    No need to apologize.
    For the breakfast I dumped a dash of my own "not-so-pretty-looking" perga into the oatmeal.
    When you mix perga with honey (better for storage), it looks even less attractive.
    That's the real-deal nature's supplement.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    LJ
    I liked your last post and agree with the thoughts put forth in it. It reminds me of the five second rule where if you drop what you are eating and can pick it up in five seconds, just brush the big stuff off and eat it. Don't worry, be happy.
    Cheers
    gww

    Ps What I like about honey is that most times if you let it set, the bad stuff either floats to the top or drops to the bottom and the stuff in the middle is usually self cleaning.
    zone 5b

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Found an abandoned hive

    Rodent urine can contain the hanta virus which is not very good for humans. As far as the spores....Scorching works well as there will be no spores on the interior of the wood. Ala, burning to ash is not needed. You can scorch and be pretty certain. If you would like to go farther, dip them in wax. The frames I would certainly get rid of not worth the trouble and too cheap to simply replace.
    Last edited by thesecurityeagle; 12-05-2018 at 09:11 AM. Reason: spelling....

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