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How to Clean Beehives

Updated April 17, 2017

Keeping bees at the end of a garden is a wonderful hobby. The benefits far outweigh the occasional sting, and bee keepers say no one can earn that title unless they have been stung a few times. When the hive is full of honey, it is time for extraction. At that time, you should clean the hive as well as replace parts that have been damaged by mice or simply disintegrated.

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  1. Clean your hives twice a year. When the hive is full of honey, set up an escape route for your bees so that they can go out, but not return to the hive. Let them do this until you notice less activity. Don your suit and gloves and approach the hive calmly. Use the smoker to lull the remaining bees into a stupor. You can shoo them out during the cleaning.

  2. Remove the hive from the garden and take it into a sealed room where bees cannot sneak back in once they smell the honey. Remove the combs from the hive and put them into the extractor. Honey goes in labelled jars, and the wax into your own candles if you wish.

  3. Clean the hive by mixing 1/2 gallon of water with 3 tablespoons of ammonia or bleach. Wash your gloves and equipment first, including the smoker, and next, with a fresh mixture, thoroughly wash down the hive. Chip and scrape away the bee glue called propilus that bees use to seal chambers and wall off marauding insects. It can be sticky and difficult to remove, but a scrubbing pad will assist you. Some bee keepers will use a blowtorch to remove difficult bits of bee gunk. Others use a caustic soda wash to power it off.

  4. Use clean water to rinse and then dry the hive. Replace the old material with new slots of hexagonally imprinted wax. The bees will use these wax tablets for their new combs; they won't deposit wild combs all over the place inside the hive. The tablets are excellent for controlling diseases associated with the use and reuse of old blackened combs.

  5. Warning

    Bees often set up hives in odd spots that don't work well with human traffic. If they are in the walls or have made a light fixture home, it is best to contact a hive removal company who will carry away all evidence of bee activity and clean the area so that no scent of honey is left to attract them again.

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Things You'll Need

  • Keeper's suit, hat and veil
  • Smoker
  • Gloves
  • Ammonia or bleach
  • Water
  • Wax tablets

About the Author

Pat Olsen

Pat Olsen has over 35 years of experience as a professional journalist in California. She attended San Francisco State and Pacific College. Olsen has several published books, is a staff writer for Mill Creek Living Magazine, and currently writes for Demand Studio. She is a retired educator who still teaches twice a week.

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