Beehive Cleaning – 5 steps and handy hints
As an enthusiastic backyard beekeeper, during the cold and long winter months, just the thought of my beehives bursting with bustling bees puts me in the mood to get out and thoroughly inspect my stash of beekeeping equipment. I find such satisfaction in making a list of what needs cleaning, renovating, or replacing. The care and cleanliness of my beehive is as important as the care of my bee suit, veil, and smoker.
For the wellbeing of my bees, I need to know all of my equipment is always on hand, in good repair and ready to use. While performing this inventory, I always include in the process, a systematic look over all of my honeybee boxes, supers, bases, slotted racks, inner and outer covers and frames, and make sure my beehive is clean. So let’s get to it, beehive cleaning – 5 steps and handy hints:
Step 1: Inspect and Freeze
Using some brown paper or a plastic tarpaulin, begin your beehive clean by covering your work area to allow for easy clean-up later. You will need to dismantle your hives, putting all the old frames into a large freezer for up to 24 hours before beginning the cleaning process. This freeze will kill pests, such as all life cycle stages of the wax moth. If you don’t already have one, a tarp like this will do the job:
Step 2: Maintain
Using a quality wood hardener, paint on any spongey spots to protect and preserve your wood from rot. If you believe the spot is too far gone with rot and is leaving holes in your hive, throw it away! Holes will lead to new entrances and can encourage hive robbing! We recommend Minwax High Performance Wood Hardener.
Thorough beehive cleaning will enable your bees to focus their energy on the important role they play in pollination and honey production
Step 3: Scrape
When you dismantle your hive, you will notice that your bees will have coated everything with wax and propolis and you will need to scrape this off using your hive tool to allow your boxes to fit tightly back together. I really enjoy scraping all the excess wax into a neat pile to then clean and melt down for later use in beautiful beeswax candles.
Make sure to be particularly careful around the internal corners of your boxes and frame runners, as these are the ideal spots that could be harbouring pests and other pathogens that will cause damage to your hive. I find it is ideal to remove and replace old frame runners. You can get out your propane torch and run it around the inside of the hive to give a thorough clean to your boxes. This will turn the box a rich brown colour. Just don’t get too excited and set your hives on fire!
Step 4: Paint
From gorgeous brownstone designs to outrageous artistic expression, beehive art is definitely a rich and colourful topic. Other than an opportunity to express your own individual beekeeping style, there is massive benefit to your bees too. Painting the exterior of your hive will add years of life. Make sure you use a primer and one to two coats of paint. Leave the interior unpainted.
If your hive was already painted, give your boxes an extra new coat of paint. You could let your creative juices flow and try your hand at some beautiful beehive art. A quick search will bring up some stunning examples for you to try.
Step 5: Store
Your final beehive clean step is to store any frames with honey, known as wet frames, in the freezer so that they are ready to pull out when your bees need feeding in spring. Any dry frames, or drawn comb, I like to store in my potting shed. Make sure to always stack the boxes at a 90-degree angle as this will allow light in. Wax moths hate the light! It is also a good idea to put mousetraps around any of your wax drawn combs. Mice will create nests and general mayhem in your frames. While your frames are in storage, check them frequently to ensure wax moths have not made any inroads on your precious frames.
While watching your beehive, you have most probably observed that your bees are extremely clean creatures. They work hard to ensure their hive has very limited amounts of mold and other pathogens. Doing thorough beehive cleaning of your beehives for your bees means that they can focus their energy on the important role they play in pollination and honey production.
Happy beehive cleaning – your bees are going to thank you!!!