When the worst happens and you lose a hive, it’s hard to know what to do with what’s left behind. Do you try to save the comb so that you can reuse it on another hive? How do you deal with a moth or beetle invasion? What kind of things are safe to use for cleaning your equipment? Read on to find out what you need to consider before making a choice about how to handle your dead colony.
Should You Save the Comb?
In most cases, reusing comb from dead colonies is okay. If I am confident that what killed the hive is not the result of something contagious, like American Foulbrood, I save newer frames of comb for reuse. Reusing comb from colonies that died from mites, starvation, or cold is not an issue. When selecting frames for reuse, get rid of especially old comb, frames that have cross-comb, or any frames where the woodenware has been damaged. You also want to remove frames that contain dead brood or simply cut out the section that has dead brood and allow the bees to repair the hole. Save or harvest any honey or pollen comb from a non-contagious deadout if it looks like it’s in good condition. It’s recommended that you freeze any comb you are saving for 48 hours before storing it.
If you don’t know what killed your bees, you are better off not reusing the comb in another hive. It’s not worth the risk of contamination. Any comb you are not keeping, you can melt down for the beeswax. It’s not exactly a waste if you harvest the wax for yourself!
Safe Cleaning Products
I typically do not use any cleaning products in my hives. It’s not really necessary. Just scrape out debris using the hive tool and remove the yucky brood comb or any comb damaged by moths or beetles. If there’s mold, scrape as much off as you can. The new bees you install in this equipment are capable of cleaning up the rest. However, if you are not satisfied with this option, you can opt to wipe down your wooden equipment with a solution of 3:1 water and bleach. Just make sure you air it out in the sun afterwards.
Enlist Your Chickens
If your colony was overrun with wax moths, an easy way to clean it out is to let your chickens have at it. They enjoy doing the work for you, as wax moth larvae can be a tasty treat. It’s certainly my favorite way to clean out a dead hive. Make sure you separate any undamaged comb you may want to save, otherwise the chickens will break it.