I had a couple of hives set up at a farm which died out at the beginning of last year. Being in a somewhat remote location, not close to home, I left the boxes where they were and ignored them until recently. I was planning to visit the site this spring to clean up the boxes and then move a couple of splits up to replace them.
A few weeks ago the farmer called and said that a swarm had moved into one of the hives. This past weekend I made a visit to the farm and cleaned out the unoccupied hive. What a mess, webbing and wax moth cocoons everywhere. Two of the three mediums were a total disaster and I had to cut out all the comb that was left.
The surprise came when I inspected the colony next to it which the swarm had moved into. It had to be in the same condition as the hive I had just cleaned up, but all 3 mediums were clean as a whistle. New comb, a box and a half of brood. I was stunned. In 3 weeks they turned a nasty webby mess into a perfect hive.
Anyone ever see this happen? I'm still shaking my head. It's a first for me, I usually never let my boxes go unattended like this. I can't believe how quickly they cleaned it up.
You would be surprised how well bees can clean up their new diggs. Doesn't take long either, maybe a day or two. I leave my trap outs up for a couple of months or better. Some get real nasty with the drawn comb. A swarm moved into one of them that was real bad. Within a week they had it spotless. I have to get that trap now that I mention it. lol
They are great at cleaning out equipment they live in. I put a few frames that were sliced with SHB and they made it look new. Sliced frames are a dilemma. The SHB larvae completely ruin the honey and there are many hundred thousand in a slimed frame. The best way is to freeze/thaw/hose off nasty leftovers but you can take frames and place them in a super strong hive and they will make them new in a couple of days. I'm not recommending this.
If hives are left out wax moths are not the only critters that feast on the combs. Ants, earwigs, flies, and I am sure hundreds of other creatures clear out the comb. What might be left is webbing which I would think is no big deal for the bees to clean out. I would think a slimmed up box would be a big deal. But I doubt if there was much slime left after so long.
I've hived swarms on comb that had so much wax moth damage i was planning to toss it, and as you are seeing they fixed it up like new by the first inspection. Comb has to be really bad to warrant throwing away except shb dammage. They will clean up and use slimed comb but it will be the first frames to get infested again. I think the slime makes it repellent to bees over the long term and they only use it when they don't have any other space. Kinda like carpet with cat urine.
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