Clearing out a dead colony

 

Top left: our beautiful new wooden hives, from http://www.bikupa.eu/bikupor
Top right: the bottom tray of the dead hive

11 April 2015

When I was looking at lots of different beekeeping websites last last year, there were a couple of things that were bothering me: the lack of close up photos of the real thing (bees and brood and queens etc) or videos showing practical stuff. Yes, some people filmed how they opened their hives but it was a static camera from quite a distance so you don’t get to see any of the real action. I promise I’m going to try to take some close-up videos this year, however short.

Having said that, today was not the day to start with close-ups. I had the unenviable task of clearing out our dead hive. Bees from the hive next to it were robbing the left over honey. We needed to make sure that the frames were taken away, either for melting down or some other action – I wasn’t sure before I started. For the first time ever, I had to carry out a major task alone. It was a relatively warm mid-afternoon, Thomas was too busy working to help but we knew we had to take care of the dead hive.

Just before I made a start with this, we got a call from Olle Enlund (bikupa.eu) that he was delivering his wooden hives in the Stockholm area. He was super accommodating and met us close by and handed over our two new wooden hives. Even though these are harder to work with than styrofoam ones (they are much heavier) I was really keen to try them out as this was the first time I had seen wooden hives compatible with the size of boxes and frames we use (LN) – which means we can move frames from styrofoam brood boxes to wooden ones and vice versa. So “all” I need to do now is paint these beautifully produced wooden boxes before we can use them.

Oh and by the by, how hard is it to buy bees in the Stockholm area? Probably as hard as renting an apartment! And that’s saying something. There’s a huge shortage of nucs, splits, extra colonies, whatever you want to call it. The nearest supplier I found was a 12 hour drive away. Hmmm. Let’s hope someone in our area has healthy colonies after this difficult winter and will let us have some of their bees.

Anyway, back to our dead colony. When I opened up the two brood boxes properly, I could see a lot excrement on the side of the boxes. Perhaps they did have nosema after all?  I cleared out 15 heavy frames (honey / sugar) and 5 light ones. I brushed the dead bees into a container to be emptied into the garden compost, I brushed the live ones (robbers!) down from the frames in front of the lively hive. I used the towel trick to keep the bees on the frames I wasn’t working on quiet. I put the bee-less frames into plastic bags and took them inside the house 2 at a time all the while thinking about what to do with them. Can you melt down wax that contains old honey? Should you melt down frames with wax and honey / sugar if you suspect nosema? In the end, we packaged all the frames up into large binliners and put them in the waste bins for collection next week. Better safe than sorry – but it felt bad.

I then took the garden hose to the boxes and with a bit of elbow grease, cleared most of the insides. I think we’ll wait a year or so before using them again, just in case.

30 April 2016 – Update

We visited our favourite supplier Sigtuna Honung today, and Kurt the owner asked us what we did with the frames and wax comb of the colony that died. He assured us that he could have taken in the comb, including the ones with honey, and melted it down to a good standard for new wax. There is a huge shortage of wax nowadays and throwing wax out is not a good idea. I was playing it safe, because it looked like the colony had died of disease, but he assured me he would have taken in the comb. You live and learn!

7 May 2016 – Update

I scrubbed the boxes with caustic soda and they came up pretty clean. We can re-use them as they are.

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