If you are a beginner beekeeper or if you are aspiring to enter the world of beekeeping, you should know that it is important for you to learn how to properly reuse your beehive frames because you are going to save a lot of money from doing so. At the same time, knowing how to reuse beehive frames the proper way will prevent diseases from spreading from one hive to another. That said, how do you reuse beehive frames?
The best way to reuse a beehive frame is to clean it first using heat and chemicals. Applying heat to the beehive frames will allow you to melt off and remove any remaining wax clinging onto them whilst also killing pests and parasites in the process. Cleaning using chemicals will also kill bacteria, pests, and parasites.
Knowing how to clean a beehive frame can go a long way in terms of what you can do as a beekeeper to not only save money but also keep all of your bees healthy and thriving. After all, the health and safety of your bee colonies should be your prime priority as a beekeeper because keeping them healthy and thriving is basically your biggest job when you are taking care of these bees.
What do you do with honey frames from a dead hive?
Beehive or honey frames are some of the most important pieces of equipment you should have as a beekeeper because this is where your bees draw comb so that they can use the comb for honey storage or for rearing their young. Frames are basically attachments to the hives so that you can extend them and allow more room for the bees to build comb. And the best part is that you can remove these frames whenever you need to harvest your honey or beeswax.
But, then again, there are some instances where the entire colony inside the hive ends up dying as a result of different factors. When the entire colony dies, they still leave behind the honeycomb in the frame. And because there are no longer any bees present, the frames will simply go to waste if you leave them behind in the dead hive without any bees to use them.
So, what do you do with the honey frames from a dead hive? Well, you reuse them, of course. But before we get there, we have to talk more about some of the common reasons why colonies die so that you will know what to do with the honey frames from a dead hive. After all, knowing why certain colonies die is the best way for you to know how to properly clean the beehive frame that the colony left behind in the beehive when the entire hive died.
Why do colonies die?
As mentioned, knowing how the colony died is crucial when it comes to knowing how to properly clean the beehive frames that the colony left behind in the hive. That said, let us go over some of the more common reasons that leave to the sudden death of an entire honey bee colony.
Diseases and pesticides found in crops and plants nearby
Diseases and pesticides are two of the most common reasons why an entire bee colony will end up dying. Something as simple as one disease infecting one bee can easily sweep through the entire honey bee colony because bees tend to commune with one another inside the colony on a regular basis. This can easily allow the disease to spread from one bee to another like wildfire. And, in just a matter of a few days, the disease can actually kill off the entire colony.
Meanwhile, pesticides found in crops and plants nearby can also lead to quick deaths for entire bee colonies. The way pesticides can kill an entire colony is the same as how a disease does that. As such, when bees that are carrying pesticides that they got from crops and plants nearby come into contact with the other bees from its colony, the poison will immediately spread and kill all of the bees in the colony in just a matter of a few days.
Some of the more common diseases that can quickly kill an entire honeybee colony after infecting a few bees include chalkbrood, Nosema, and foulbrood. These are highly contagious diseases that can quickly spread from one bee to another or even find their way to another beehive when one bee from a different colony comes into contact with an infected bee from the infected colony. So, the moment you detect these diseases in one beehive, it is best to isolate the beehive immediately so that you avoid spreading the diseases to the other hives. Meanwhile, we will talk more about what we will do with the infected frames later on.
Extremely cold temperatures
Bees hate it when the weather is too cold for them as these creatures are not built to handle extremely cold weather. As such, when the temperatures are too cold for the bees, such as when the winter tends to become a bit too harsh for them to handle, there is a good chance that you will end up with dead colonies.
Still, as long as you wintered your honeybees and your hives well enough and as long as they have enough honey kept for food, they can survive through a harsh winter. Still, when the bees end up using up all of their stored honey or if the colony is particularly weak in comparison to the other colonies, there is a chance that the bees from that beehive will end up perishing when the winter temperatures get a bit too cold.
Presence of hive beetles
Honey bees have natural enemies such as hive beetles. These hive beetles are actually pests and parasites that can easily destroy or force bees out of their hives as they invade hives and lay eggs in the comb. When the beetles hatch, they can easily cause destruction in the hive and may end up killing or forcing the bees out of their hive.
So, what you should do as a beekeeper is to control hive beetles and minimize their numbers as much as possible. You can do so by making use of traps and by using bee-safe pesticides that can kill hive beetles. Drenching the ground around an elevated beehive can be a good way for you to kill hive beetles as these insects tend to pupate in the ground before they try to invade a hive. You can even drench the entire apiary grounds with pesticides to prevent severe hive beetle infestations from killing all of your colonies.
Similar to hive beetles, honeybee mites are also natural enemies that bees often face on a regular basis. In that sense, they are also problems that plenty of beekeepers have to face along the way when it comes to making sure that their bees are healthy and thriving.
Mites are so widespread that different beekeepers all over the world face them as common problems. These parasites can be so much of an issue that they can end up killing an entire colony as they bite and suck out all of the juices out of a single bee and end up killing it in the process. And when the mites breed inside the hive, they can quickly kill the entire colony.
The way you can control the numbers of these mites involves feeding bees with essential oils that can allow them to keep these mites at bay when the mites try to feed on the bees. Moreover, things such as fogging and dripping oil that has been vaporized can help keep these mites away from your beehives.
There are also other ways that you can keep mites off of bees such as feeding them sugar syrup or dusting them with certain powders. This will allow the bees to remove the mites from their bodies due to certain reasons that are seemingly difficult to explain 🙂 Of course, the larger the bee population is, the better they are at controlling mites because these bees are also capable of helping each other out to keep mites away from the colony.
How do you clean an old beehive frame?
So, now that you know the common reasons why bee colonies end up dying, it is now time to talk more about the frames that you can find in the bee colonies that died out due to some of the reasons stated above. Of course, the first thing you need to do to reuse the beehive frames is to clean them. And the best way for you to clean them depends on the cause of the extinction of an entire bee colony.
Due to pesticides
If the cause of death of the entire bee colony was due to pesticides or anything similar to them such as herbicides or insecticides, then you need to make sure that you clean the beehive frames in such a way that all of the chemicals coming from the pesticides or other chemical treatments are removed so that these chemicals won’t end up killing the next colony that you would use these frames for.
So, first of all, what you should do is to make sure that you remove the chemicals from the beehive frames to prevent them from making contact with other bees, who would also make contact with their fellow bees and cause the chemicals to spread from one colony to another. Be aware that the surface of the frames should be cleaned as thoroughly as possible so that you can remove the chemicals that may still be clinging onto them.
Meanwhile, the honey found in the beehive and in the frames should be presumed to be contaminated with chemicals as well. That means that you should dispose of the honey and the beeswax found on the frames.
However, what you should also know is that chemical treatment can also be necessary for beekeepers to keep pests away from their bees. In that sense, when you are using insecticides to keep certain pests and parasites at bay, make sure to spray at night and to keep the hives closed so that the bees won’t be able to make contact with such chemicals. Some beekeepers also suggest closing the hives for a few days until the concentration of the chemicals found in the surrounding area goes down to safe levels.
Due to pests
Pests such as hive beetles, wax moths, and mites can be very damaging to beehives whenever they are abundant as they can easily kill entire colonies in a matter of weeks or even days. Death can happen in a weak colony in about a week or so. Meanwhile, stronger colonies might not show the damage right away but these pets can still kill stronger colonies when the infestation becomes too much for the bees to handle.
So, when a colony dies due to pest infestation, you should assume that there are still pests and eggs lying around in the frames of the colony. This can be quite common in hive beetles and wax moths as they tend to feed on the wax of a bee colony. As such, it isn’t rare to find these pests inside a dead colony’s hive even if there are no longer any bees present.
Basically, what you need to do first is to clear off any of the old webs, wax, and honeycomb found in the bee frames so that you can make sure that any pests that are clinging onto those are removed. You should also remove the foundation that was used on the frames as well because some pests might be clinging onto them.
From there, you can clean the frame using bleach as this disinfects them and kills off any eggs or micro-organisms that may still be on the frames. Meanwhile, some of the frames that seem to be unaffected by the infestation can be frozen for a few days because this process will kill off any eggs that may be on them.
Meanwhile, the rest of the components of the beehive should be cleaned as well. This includes the bottom boards and the covers. The purpose of cleaning the entire beehive and all of its components is to make sure that you can still reuse the beehive in the future, as bees can still repopulate an empty beehive if you know how to lure them into it.
Meanwhile, when you are using plastic frames, you will notice how easy they are to clean compared to wooden frames because webs and slime coming from the pests are quite easy to remove from something that is synthetic like plastic. You can sterilize plastic frames in a similar way by freezing them as well. Make sure you do not expose plastic frames to extreme heat when sterilizing them as this can end up warping the frames and making them unusable when you try to put them inside a beehive.
Removing mold from the frames
While mold isn’t necessarily one of the reasons that can kill an entire bee colony, it can still occur in a hive and in beehive frames because there are no longer any bees to fan out excess moisture and humidity found in the hive. When there is enough humidity, mold can easily grow in the hive and cling onto hive frames. As such, it is important that you also make sure that you know how to remove mold from the frames because mold can still be dangerous to bee colonies when you try to use moldy frames in a new beehive.
The first thing you need to do when trying to remove mold from beehives is to cut them from the foundation. Mold will often form on the honeycomb, so it is best to remove the honeycomb by cutting it off from the frame. Don’t worry because a moldy honeycomb can still be used later on if you melt it down and kill off the mold.
After removing the mold, clean the honey frames in a similar way as you would clean most bee materials by using mild soap and water. You can leave the frames out to dry after wiping any excess moisture off of them. Keeping the frames in the freezer can also be a good idea to kill off any eggs or micro-organisms and to sterilize the frames before using them again.
Cleaning using the conventional way
In any other case and even if your bees did not die due to any of the abovementioned instances, it still is better to make sure that you clean your frames thoroughly before reusing them because this keeps any bacteria, diseases, or pests away from them before you put the frames in a new hive. Now, let’s talk more about the conventional way of cleaning your beehive frames.
Step 1 of using the conventional way of cleaning your bee frames is to actually clean the surface first before anything else. As such, the first thing you need to do here is to remove any of the comb that may be on the frame. You can do this using a knife that will allow you to cut the comb off from the foundation.
After cutting the comb off, there will still be a few sediments of comb left. While comb in itself isn’t dangerous to bees, what can be dangerous are the micro-organisms that may be found on the comb. That’s why it is important for you to thoroughly remove the comb first by using a power washer that will push the small comb sediments out of the frames. But make sure that you wear the proper safety attire because a power washer can also hurt you.
When using the power washer, be sure to hit all of the nooks and crannies to remove any excess comb sticking onto the frames. There might be times when you won’t be able to remove all of the comb, but around 90% would be seen as a pretty decent result for most beekeepers.
Step 2 involves sanitizing the hive frames. Sanitizing is important because this step will make sure that all of the micro-organisms that can be dangerous to the new bees that will be using the frame are killed off. As such, it’s like using new frames that are clean and sanitary enough for your bees.
One of the things that you can use for sanitizing your frames is lye. You can add one pound of lye to 10 gallons of water. After that, you can put the frames into the container with the lye and water mixture.
When doing the abovementioned step, make sure that you are wearing protective gear because these chemicals can be dangerous to you. This includes wearing gloves and goggles to protect the sensitive parts of your body.
The frames should be kept in the lye solution for about a week. Keeping the frames soaked in the solution will allow the excess beeswax sticking onto the frames to soften up so that they will be easier to remove later on.
Step 3 involves power washing your frames once again after soaking them in the lye solution for about a week. This is an important step because power washing will remove the chemicals sticking onto the frames while also removing any of the excess beeswax or comb found on them.
When using a power washing on your frames, make sure that you clamp them onto some boards so that you can actually power wash them easily without blowing them away. In a similar way, blast away through the frames using your power washer and make sure that you hit all of the different nooks and crannies. At this point, you should have been able to remove most of the remaining comb sticking on the hive frames such that you might have removed at least 95%, which should be an improvement from the 90% after the first power wash.
After the final power wash, what you should do is to air-dry the frames and leave them out in the sun so that they will dry quickly. Maybe a day of leaving them out will be more than enough to make sure that they are dry enough to be used again.
So, with little work, you were able to recycle your beehive frames instead of throwing them out and wasting money. While hive frames are not actually expensive, you want to do your part in helping the environment by making sure that your old frames are not thrown into landfills. After this, you are now ready to reuse your beehive frames as they are now clean enough to be accepted by new bees in a new hive.
Best ways to reuse beehive frames
When you want to reuse beehive frames, there are two ways that you can use them.
Reusing in an existing hive
Reusing the beehive frames in an existing hive basically involves moving the frames over to one of your hives and allowing the bees in that hive to accept the frames and build comb on them so that they can use the frames. Basically speaking, you are giving new life to the frames that were left unused by a colony that had just died.
But the thing you need to make sure of here is that the bees actually accept the frames. You can do so by following these methods:
- Add a bit of sugary water or syrup on the beehive frames before you put or introduce them in a new hive. Sugary water can be a good way to attract the bees of the existing hive because of how anything sugary is deemed attractive to bees.
- You can also use beeswax that has been melted off. Wipe the melted beeswax onto the frames before introducing them to the hive. The smell of beeswax will attract the bees and will make them think that it is alright for them to build a comb on something that already has beeswax on it. If you want to make sure that the bees are attracted to the beeswax you wiped on the frames, make sure to use the wax that came from the bees of the hive you are adding the frame to.
It might take time for the bees to accept the new frames, but once they do, you will notice how quickly they will begin to draw comb on the new frames. And, pretty soon, these frames will end up getting filled with honey that you can harvest later on.
Reusing in the old hive
The second method actually involves reusing the old hive of the old colony that had just died out. Now, using this method requires that you also clean the old hive, which is an entirely different topic. But once you have cleaned the old hive, you can now return to it the frames that you had just cleaned out and then try to attract new bees to live in the old hive. Attracting new bees to live in an abandoned hive is an entirely different topic as well, but we’ll try to cover it in brief:
- Try placing flowers or food sources near the abandoned hive so that foraging bees will actually try to go near the hive. You may also want to put sugary water, syrup, or lavender inside the old hive because the smell of these substances is attractive to bees.
- Once you have attracted the attention of the worker bees, they will begin to go inside the hive out of curiosity. Be patient because it will take time for the bees to actually call the hive their new home. They may go in and out of the old hive to return to their hive but some bees will actually try to relocate to that old hive.
- It will take a few weeks for an entire colony to relocate to the new hive. But once you do notice that the bees are no longer leaving the hive and that they are staying there for the night, that is when you would know that they are beginning to repopulate the old hive and are just slowly relocating to it from their old hive.
This method of recycling and reusing beehive frames should take time but it is also great because you are not only reusing the frames but also the old hive as well.