I have a hive that will have 3 year old frames this year, should I begin to change them out starting out with 3,5,7? How many can I change out in a season if the hive is healthy? Also, if it makes any difference I dont treat.
The topic of swapping out frames (and the comb of course) is a good one and tends to have a lot of different opinions. I personally like to swap out frames and old comb. I never swap until after the third year. You can look at the method of swapping in a few different ways. For example, if I have a starved dead-out, I'll take advantage of the empty boxes to clear out old frames or to use newer frames as replacements for other hives. In other words, rotate newer frames from the dead-out into active hives, replacing old comb. Obviously, it needs to be broodless or almost so.
For an active colony, I can rotate most of the frames and comb in a season if I want to. For example, I'll move inner frames with brood to the outside position during late spring and summer. In a few weeks, there is typically less or no brood and I can replace the frame with a newer frame / comb or just a frame with foundation.
I rarely ever change super frames or comb. I also would note that most of my hives rarely retain their same frames and comb over multiple seasons. Swapping frames of brood to boost slow colonies and replacing frames with damaged comb from wonky bees or because I damaged the wax carelessly sort of accelerates the introduction of new frames and comb.
Finally, it does make a difference that you don't treat. It just might not make a lot of difference. Bees forage all over and they'll bring back stuff that you just wish they hadn't got into. You won't really know for sure so by not treating, you're reducing...but not necessarily eliminating...chemicals that you don't want in your hive.
Originally I intended to swap out about 1/3 of my frames each year, but in practice it's been less. I started by writing dates with magic marker on the frames, but then I found that some older frames - usually from the outside edges or a deadout - still had new-looking comb, while other frames had dark or mis-shapen comb. So, now I just rotate out frames based on looks rather than age, and probably replace about 1/5 each year.
I heard a lecture by Marla Spivak (Univ. Minn) a couple years ago, and she said that whether you replace on 3-yr, 5-yr, even 10-yr cycle isn't as important as just that fact that you DO replace them.
I guess i'm from the old school,when i work my hives and find dark or black looking comb, i hold it up to the light and if i can't see light through it i replace it with foundation. The dark or black comb is then used to catch swarms.:thumbsup: Jack
I've also started an aggressive swap-out program. I'm going with both plastic and wax foundation, but also quite a bit of foundationless frames.
I'm looking at the color and quality of the old comb rather than a strict dating cycle.
I also started boiling old frames and scraping down the plastic. This took way too much time and got "old" in a hurry. While it goes against frugal nature, it really is easier to simply burn the old frames and replace with new. And with foundationless frames, I save about half the out-of-pocket cost by letting the bees do the drawing work.
I think the hardest battle of converting to a swap-out program is convincing beekeepers it really is more economical in terms of hive health to pull out those old frames and replace them with new.
I don't know just asking, how do you sterilize the plastic foundation after you scrape it, or do you? When i clean up deadout's i spray the empty comb (wax) with a fine mist (i mix a cap full of purex to a gal. of water) on both sides of each frame. I don't know if it helps against diseases or not, but it makes me feel better. Jack
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