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What to do with SHB Slimed Combs

6000 Views 8 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Tom Brueggen
I've been at this for two years now in SE Texas, battling beetles (SHB) the whole way. Later in summer we start to really see them increase and in the last few weeks I've lost 2-3 colonies of various sizes because of them.

I don't run any chemicals so I rely on big strong colonies to manage beetles themselves. If something happens to stress the bees the beetles can take over quickly, which then causes the colony to abscond and the beetles finish destroying things.

Now, if the beetles really level the colony, there's nothing left to do but feed the chickens and try to clean the boxes of the smell.

But I've had a few where the beetles don't destroy the combs. They slime them, but I manage to air out the boxes and stall the process. The combs still look slimy and have a little smell to them, but are still well intact and I think could be reused. Is there a way to clean them up so the bees will use them? I was thinking just soaking in water as this would wash away the slime, but then if there is bee bread in the cells I think would make a bigger mess. Not sure though. I wanted to put this out there for ideas before I tried anything.

Also, for cleaning boxes of the smell, do you just use bleach water and scrub or what? I've found if I can set the boxes out in sun/air for a while (several weeks) I can reuse them. But if I put bees in a recently slimed box that still smells, the bees abscond.

Any ideas for cleaning up and reusing boxes, frames and combs would be great. Like I say, I haven't thrown anything away because of it, but I do have stacks of stinky boxes waiting on time to make them usable again.
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Take em to a car wash and or use a pressure washer. I've done it and it works great. Then I 'll use a 1/4cup of bleach in 5 gal buckets and wipe em down with that. Then let ol sunshine beat on em for a week or so.
Far as the frames, I start over and wash them same way. Remove whats left of comb.
And the SHB, well that battle goes on and on. My home yard is in full sun, with bare ground, and my entrances are pinched way back and only 3/8" tall and the biggest is 4" across. Lots of guard bees help. I also plan on this winter making more mineral oil trays with screen bottom and 1/4" X3/4" slats in line with bottom of brood frames on top of screen to give the bees an edge when they chase them to the screen. Any cracks or crevice are sealed with warmed up propolis on my part.
Its hot here and humid and I have always used a full width entrance in the summer time but no more.
You may try traps outa that old brood comb in a bucket and at night take the bucket to the freezer and freeze kill the beetles.
Good luck and kill as many as you can!!
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Thanks a ton! I had not thought of about pinching the entrance that much, but I suppose it would help. I've removed huge colonies from soffits (under hot roofs) and all they had was a 3/4" knot hole for their entrance and ventilation and were doing just fine. I do run solid bottom boards, not screens, and no oil pans. I've tried the beetle blaster inserts and they just get in the way later and tick me off. I'm looking at these new Beetle Baffles and might give them a go just to see if it makes a difference.

But again, I'm trying to salvage the slimed combs, so power washing is a no-go. If I just were to rinse the combs with maybe a soapy water or bleach water solution could I then let them air out and the bees would re-use? Or is that smell so stuck in the combs that the bees won't accept? Likely it's a matter of how long they've been exposed. I've come across some colonies with capped honey, where the frames look slimy, but the wax cap is still intact. I set these out in the open for the bees to rob out, and they will still take it. I think they just don't like that smell IN the box.

Funny, I've thought about your trap idea. I actually thought about hanging the bucket in the chicken coop so when the maggots crawl out the birds get them. But if they all come out at night the birds are cooped up. Still they'd learn to scratch under the trap the next day to find the maggots. Then I also intend to just let the birds run in the bee yard. Still the real goal is to keep the adults from ever creating the maggots in the hive in the first place!
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Try the washing task and give it a try. May just work but I would always be leery of using it. I just wouldn't spend the time or effort and would just remove the old comb and then wash the frames for reuse.
The key to all this is strong colonies, reduced entrances so the guards have a chance, and selective eliminating the larvae, beetles and mess they cause.
When I started in this the wax moths were the biggest enemy of the bees. I hardly even think of them anymore. The mites just do their thing and I try and do splits in late spring and summer and thinking of doing some in sept or oct to interrupt there lives.
But the SHB is a nasty nasty pest and I do all I can to eliminate them.
I live south of you and they are bad also, and fixin to get worse. Just stay at them.
I saw a video with the Fat Bee Man about cleaning up frames that had been infested with wax moths.
He said to stir up a fire ant hill and lay the frame in it. The ants will eat everything but the wax and the wood!
They will tear those larvae up! I would try box and all. You live in Texas, so it may just work!
I've lost one hive to SHB and one to Wax Moths. arg! But, we are learning.
I've seen that by FBM as well. The fire ants consume the proteins, so remaining larvae, bee bread, and SHB larvae. But I don't know if they would clean up the slimy mess all over the frames that the beetles left behind. Going back to my earlier comment, most times SHB damage is complete loss, the combs fall out of the frames (if foundationless anyway) and there is nothing left to do but scrape out the mess. But I have some where I find the early stages of sliming. Combs are still intact, maybe just empty, or maybe even still holding capped honey. I want to know if I can rinse the slimy mess off the outside and still use those combs in other hives.

Maybe I'll just do some tinkering and see what happens. I'll try to remember to let everyone know. I just thought it was an interesting bit to put out for public opinion.
Okay sure. I would be interested to know as well. Good luck!
I have just rinsed the frames and comb off with water and reused after letting them dry. Let the water fill the cells and give a shake to get it out , couple of times. It has always worked for me , no soap, no power washing.
I have just rinsed the frames and comb off with water and reused after letting them dry. Let the water fill the cells and give a shake to get it out , couple of times. It has always worked for me , no soap, no power washing.
Sweet! See, that's what I was hoping to hear, something as simple as that. Man these beetles have really gotten to me in the last couple weeks. I feel like I'm losing colonies faster than I'm gaining. That sucks! It's like they are systematically destroying the bee yard, laying up one hive and then moving to the next. Nah, really not that bad, but I have lost at last three colonies to slime now. And they've all been weaker colonies anyway so I'm not too concerned just yet.
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