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Clean-up of Hives that Didn’t Survive

Bees die. But spring is the season of renewal. Finding a dead hive is discouraging, but please don’t give up. Bees need us. So what do you do with “dead-outs” as they’re commonly called?

Dealing with Dead-Outs

First, remove the dead hive from the bee yard as soon as practical. Unprotected, any honey is an invitation for robbing by assorted wild critters and other hives. Moisture will also likely build up inside the hive, encouraging mold.

Second, try to determine the cause, as that will define what you can do with what the deceased colony left behind.

Clean Up

Dr. Roger Hoopingarner of Michigan State University, notes that most hives die from Varroa or starvation. Thus, reusing those resources (stores and drawn wax) is generally no problem. Brush off the dead bees, rap the frame the flat way to dislodge some stuck in the cells, and protect the wax from wax moths until they can be reused. These drawn frames are ideal for starting nuc colonies from strong colonies that survived, or for welcoming a new package. Don’t worry about leaving a few bees behind in the frames, the new bees will clean them out.

A colony that died from AFB requires burning it all, although the hive bodies and major components may be singed with a blow torch to destroy spores. With Nosema it may be easier to burn it all, or, depending upon the extent of the damage, treat with the cleaning solution noted.

Mold, unless it is black mold, may be wiped off the frames and capped honey. Give any hard surfaces a good scrubbing, with maybe a little extra salt in the mixture. Air them out well and then freeze, saving as much comb as much as possible. The comb, honey and frames may be used in the hive again. Bees will clean up a bit of mold, although by doing it for them they can focus their talents elsewhere, like pollination.

If it is black mold, remove and trash the foundation (or melt for other uses). Clean the frames thoroughly, air out, freeze, and reuse.

Wax moths may extensively damage the hive and comb, and it may be simpler to burn and start again. If the infestation is minor, remove larvae, clean out all webs, and freeze everything to kill all stages of the wax moth.


12 comments on “Clean-up of Hives that Didn’t Survive
  1. we had three hives die (all our hives).. we cleaned them and tightly packaged them in industrial strength extra large garbage bags. Then we brought them in the basement of our house for the winter. We did not do the freezer idea but there was no sign of wax moths. We plan on buying new bees and queens early in the spring. Every hive we had was from a harvested swarm. We live in painesville Ohio 44077. Do you know when and where we should purchase our new bees???????

    • Kelley Beekeeping says:

      Hello Lang family,

      We will start accepting pre-orders for package bees on December 1st, 2017.

    • John roberts says:

      My name isJohn we have also lost two haves in Thompson oh want to know how to clean everything to get ready for new bees. If you can help please give me a call 4408213445

  2. Kenneth Fuller says:

    When will the spring bees be ready to ship?

  3. Tina says:

    My three hives died over the winter and left their deeps full of capped honey. Can I harvest this honey? I am only putting in one hive this spring so I plan to use some of the frames to help start off the package bees but I have 30 frames of capped honey and don’t know what to do with all that.

  4. Lin says:

    I had a dead hive that got robbed and I was left with frames of chewed up comb. Should I just toss this or will a replacement nuc be able to use this and rebuild it ( assuming it is not diseased.. ), thanks for help,

  5. Virginia Bays says:

    Lost most of our hive due to neighbor hive robbing at fall time. Then hive was too small to survive winter and froze. Was thinking of trying the saskatraz bees. Live in Southern Indiana. Can you give me any advice on if this would be a good bee to have here?

  6. Stan Gassaway says:

    We live in Oklahoma, where it’s not unusual to have these wild “spring swings,” when the temperature goes from 80F to as low as 20F in space of 24 hours. This year I lost a very very strong hive that had begun foraging hard during the warm snap. I’ve just cleaned out the hive, and it was FULL of honey – lots of dead bees in four different clusters of different sizes. Heartbreaking, really. Do you have any suggestions for “weathering” this weather? Stan G.

  7. Matt says:

    Its great to have built out frames for the honey flow. I have built out frames from the brood chamber from some dead hives. Can those be put on for honey frames this year?

  8. Brenda Dillmann says:

    Is it safe to filter honey from brood boxes where the bees did not over-winter? I have been scraping the comb and filtering the honey. There is a lot of honey so it wasn’t starvation.

  9. Julie Jesseph-Balaa says:

    I have hives that were abandoned and have residue from wax moths how can I reuse the built out comb and where the residue is too much should I just leave the wood frames for the bees to rebuild?

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