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Reusing Beehive Frames: A Complete Guide

Reusing Beehive Frames: A Complete Guide

Whether you are a beginner beekeeper or you are thinking about beekeeping, there are important things to learn about properly reusing your beehive frames. By doing so, you will save yourself a lot of time and money.

You must keep in mind that cleaning the beehive frame first by applying chemicals and heat is the best way to reuse a beehive frame. By applying heat to your beehive frames, you will be able to melt away any wax that remains on the hives thus killing parasites and pests in the process. When you use chemicals to clean the hives, you will kill all parasites, pests, and bacteria remaining.

Being educated on the proper way to clean a hive frame will help you tremendously in the future. Cleaning your hives the proper way will keep your bees thriving and healthy. Your main priority should be to keep your bee colonies healthy and safe at the end of the day.

Discarding Honey Frames

Some of the most important pieces of equipment that you should always have when you are taking care of bees are honey frames or a beehive. These tools will enable your bees to draw comb, so you can use the comb to store honey or to feed their young.

Honey frames are attached to the beehives and can extend to make more room for the bees to build combs. Whenever you need to take the frames apart, you can if you need to harvest your honey or wax.

On the flip side, there may be some times when the entire colony inside a beehive dies due to varying factors. If this happens to be the case, honeycomb may still be left behind in the frame. The frames will go to waste since there are no more bees alive.

If you need to know what to do with the honey frames from the dead beehive, you can reuse them. But you must first know what varying factors may cause an entire colony to die because you are educated on what to do with the remaining frames.

A frame of honey covered in bees

What Causes Colonies to Die?

Before you are educated on the proper way to clean beehive frames that the colony left behind, you must first know the many reasons that can cause a colony to die.

 Pesticides & Diseases

Two of the most common reasons why an entire bee colony can die are due to diseases and pesticides. One disease alone can infect another bee, and before you know it, the entire bee colony becomes infected.

This can happen because bees commune with each other frequently while they are inside of the colony. This can cause the disease to spread easily like wildfire. In just a couple of days, the disease can take out the entire bee colony.

Additionally, pesticides that are found in plants and crops close by can result in sudden deaths for an entire bee colony.

Pesticides can kill a colony the same way that a disease can. If any of the bees are carrying pesticides that they picked up from plants and crops and then come into contact with the other bees within their colony, it will spread right away and kill the bees in just a few days.

A few of the most well-known diseases that can kill a colony in its entirety after just infecting several bees are known as Nosema, foulbrood, and chalkbrood.

These diseases are extremely contagious that can spread like wildfire or even make their way to another hive if one bee from an infected colony comes in contact with another bee from a different colony.

The best way to save your beehive is to isolate the beehive right away the moment any of these diseases are detected to jeep from spreading the disease to another hive.

Hive Beetles

Hive beetles are natural enemies to honey bees. Hive beetles are considered a pest or parasite that can take bees out of their hives as they take over the hives and lay their own eggs within the comb. When the beetle hatch, they can cause damage to the hive and may kill the bees or force them to leave their hives.

As a beekeeper, you must keep the number of hive beetles down as much as you can. You can do this by using traps and pesticides that are safe to use around your bees.

Mites

Mites are similar to hive beetles and are also natural enemies to bees. They are a huge problem to beekeepers because they can get in the way of maintaining the safety and health of their bees.

Mites, just like beetles can kill off an entire colony by sucking or biting the juices out of one bee, causing it to die. Mites can also take over a hive, breed, and kill an entire bee colony.

The best way to keep mites at bay is by making use of essential oils that you can feed to your bees. Fogging can also help keep mites away as well.

Cold Temps

Since bees don’t do well in cold weather, they may end up dying since there is a good chance that they won’t survive harsh winters.

However, you can winter your honeybees and hives well enough to make sure that they have more than enough food to make it through a cold winter.

A hand pointing at a bee hive frame

Cleaning Beehive Frames

Once you have familiarized yourself with some main reasons why a bee colony can die, you can move on to the actual frames that you can clean and reuse.

Before you can even reuse them, you must make sure that you clean them very well. The method of cleaning you choose really depends on what caused the bee colony to die off.

For example, if it was due to pesticides, you need to make sure that you get rid of all the chemicals that are present in the frame so that they won’t kill off the next colony you use the same frames for.

Make sure that you remove all chemicals from the hive frames to keep them from spreading to a new colony. Remember to clean the surface of the frames as well since some chemicals can still be present on them.

Additionally, the honey that was found in the beehive and frames should be discarded since it is safe to say it has been contaminated with chemicals.

If your colony died off due to pests such as hive beetles, wax moths, or even mites, you must assume that there are still eggs lying in and around the frames within the colony. This is because most of the invaders will lay their own eggs, so this may be more challenging to clean.

First, you should clean any wax, webs, or old honeycomb that you can see in the frames to ensure that there are no remaining pests still attached to them. Be sure to take the foundation as well that was used on the frames since there may also still be pests attached to them.

Second, you can begin cleaning the frame thoroughly using bleach since it will not only disinfect but kill off any remaining eggs attached to the frames.

Any remaining components of the hive should be cleaned as well including the covers and boards. The entire beehive should be cleaned thoroughly to ensure you can still reuse the beehive in the near future. Bees will need a clean and disinfected colony so that they can repopulate.

Cleaning Mold From the Frames

Mold is not a reason why an entire bee colony can die off. However, mold can still be present within a hive since there are no longer any remaining bees to air out any moisture and humidity within the hive. Mold can thrive in any environment where there is not any humidity.

Mold can attach to frames and grow inside the hive as well. This is why you should know how to properly remove any mold that you see present since it can still present a danger to bee colonies.

When you first try to get rid of mold from the hives, you need to make sure that you cut it off from the frame. Once all mold has been removed, you can move on to cleaning the frames the same way you would clean other bee equipment.

Make sure you use water and mild soap for cleaning purposes. To keep excess moisture off of them, leave the frames outside to air dry. You can also store the frames in the freezer to kill off any remaining eggs as well.

A beekeeper seeing to a bee hive

Steam Cleaning Frames

In order to keep your wooden beehive frames clean, you can use the steam cleaning method. Even though it is only advised to use this method on wooden frames, you may try them on strong plastic frames as well.

The use of this method involves steam, but you must also have an empty beehive box with a cover. A hole is then put into the cover that allows steam to enter through the box.

You should also create a hole or opening at the bottom of the box, so you can collect the wax into a bucket. Steam cleaning frames allow beekeepers to harvest wax very easy.

In order to properly use the steam cleaning method to clean your wooden beehive frames you can follow the below steps:

  • Collect all the frames that need to be steamed into the empty beehive box, and connect the delivery pipe for the steam.
  • Turn on your steamer and clean the frames for at least 30 minutes. It may take several minutes for the steam to begin collecting in the box and begin melting the wax on the frames.
  • Keep your steamer on and ready for the next batch of frames.
  • Once you have steamed several frames, you can place them into a container with a solution of soda. The sods will help to sanitize the frames and get rid of any propolis. You can also use a hard bristle plastic brush to scrub the frames while they are in the soda. This helps to remove any remaining dirt from the frames.
  • Once all of your frames have been steamed and properly cleaned, you can the move on to cleaning the beehive box and any additional equipment that you used to clean the frames. Once done, turn off the steamer machine.

Traditional Way of Cleaning

If the old colony of bees didn’t die off due to any of the above instances, it is safe for you to clean your frames the traditional way, but you must make sure that they are still cleaned thoroughly prior to reusing them.

The last thing you want to do is leave bacteria, pests, or diseases that can pose a danger to your new colony. There are a few steps you will need to take in order to clean your frames the traditional way.

First step

The first step involves cleaning the surface of the frames before you clean anything else. This step involves removing any remaining comb that may still be lingering on the frame.

A knife will usually do the trick since it will enable you to cut the comb off from the foundation.

Once you have cut the comb completely off, you may still notice some pieces of the comb left, or residue. The comb itself doesn’t pose a danger to bees, but it can pose a hazard to any microorganisms that may be attached to the comb.

This is why you must completely remove the comb with the use of a power washer to help push out any remaining residue. Also, make sure that you are dressed in the proper safety clothing since a power washer can also hurt you.

A power washer gives you the ability to get between all the crevices to remove any small pieces of comb left on the frames. Even if you can’t remove 100% of the comb, you should aim to at least remove 90% of it.

Second step

For this next step, you will need to make sure that the frames are disinfected. Disinfecting is a must since any remaining microorganisms can pose a danger to the new colony of bees that will be making use of the reused frame.

You can use lye to sanitize your frames. The amount of lye you would use is one pound and 10 gallons of water. You can then put the frames into the container adding both the mixture of water and lye.

Additionally, you will want to make sure that you are wearing the appropriate attire since the chemicals you are using can pose a danger to your health. This means that you should wear both goggles and gloves to protect certain areas of your body.

Keep the frames in the lye mixture for approximately seven days. This length of time will allow any remaining beeswax to soften up. This makes it easier for you to clean when you are ready.  

Third step

This third step involves power washing. After you have soaked your frames in the lye mixture for about 7 days, you will need to power wash your frames for a second time.

As mentioned in the first step, power washing will get rid of any remaining chemicals that are still attached to the frames. It will also get rid of any additional comb or beeswax still lingering.

To avoid blowing the frames away, try clamping your frames onto something, such as a couple of boards, during the power washing process.

Get in between all crevices while you are power washing. You should at least remove 95% of any comb that is still attached to the frames at this step. This should be a nice improvement from the first power wash.  

Final Step

Following your last power wash, make sure you leave your frames out in the sun to allow them to air dry. This will speed up the drying process. A day should be plenty of time for them to fully dry in the sun. The goal is to dry them completely before reusing them.

This entire process can be done with very minimal work. In just a matter of days you can have a fresh pair of recycled frames instead of disposing of them. Even if you do discard of your frames, you want to do so in a way that they are not thrown into landfills. How can you do this?

By reusing them and not disposing of them. After these steps have all been completed, you will be ready to reuse your beehive frames. As long as they are clean enough, your new colony of bees will accept them.

A beekeeper displaying a beehive

How Can I Reuse Beehive Frames?

There are a couple of different methods you can take note of if you would like to reuse your beehive frames.

An Existing Hive

If you are wondering what the process is of reusing your beehive frames in a hive that already exists, it mainly consists of just removing the existing frames, cleaning them for storage, and moving them into a hive to allow the bees to accept the frames.

The bees will have the ability to build a new honeycomb on them. In a nutshell, you are reviving the old frames that were left by a colony that had recently died off.

However, you have to make sure that the bees accept the reused frames. There are a couple of things you can do to make sure this process goes smoothly including:

  • Put a small amount of syrup or sugary water on the frames prior to putting them into a new hive. This is a great way to attract the bees since they are obviously attracted to anything sugary.
  • You may also use melted-off beeswax. You can do this by wiping the beeswax that melted on the frames prior to putting them in the hive. The bees will be attracted to the smell of the beeswax which will allow them to trust that they can build their comb on a frame that already has beeswax on it.

Remember that the bees may not accept the new frames right away and that this is to be expected. However, once they have accepted it, they will quickly draw comb on these frames.

An Old Hive 

You may also choose to reuse the old hive of the former colony that recently died out. This method will require you to clean out the old hive as well. However, you can put the cleaned frame back in to attract new bees once you have cleaned out the old hive.

It is an entirely different story to attract new bees to live in an old hive, but you can do a few things to try and make the old hive attractive to new bees including:

  • Putting food or flowers near the old hive so that scavenger bees will go near the hive. Additionally, you can put lavender, syrup, or sugar water inside the abandoned hive since these smells attract bees.
  • Once the bees have gained attraction to the old hive, they will start to check out the inside of the hive. This process may take several days to weeks before they claim the old hive as their new home.
  • The entire process of relocation to a new hive can take several weeks. Once the bees have fully relocated and have been staying in the new hive overnight, it is safe to say that they have begun to repopulate.

This entire process can take time but again remember that not only are you using the frames, but you are also reusing the abandoned hive as well.

 Final Thoughts

Proper beehive hygiene is vital to sustaining the production of safe beehive products. One of the biggest steps towards good beehive hygiene is cleaning beehive frames.

This guide is essential to use on how to clean beehive frames of different types to ensure the health of your hives. This will help you manage diseases and pests related to beehives and will also help you to produce beehive products of high quality.

While cleaning beehive frames can be a long and tedious job, it is extremely rewarding in the end. If you want to get the job done quickly, you can even arrange for a bit of assistance.