How to Disinfect Beehives

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Beekeeping is one of the oldest ways of producing food and can be a rewarding hobby or career with sweet returns. Bee products include cosmetics, candles and medicine. While purchasing second-hand beehives can save money, it is important to disinfect everything in order to destroy possible contaminants. This lowers the risk of pests or diseases for when you start your own hive.

Remove all components from beehive boxes until you are left with just the frame. It is best to do this outdoors, for easier cleanup.

Place the hive boxes outside on newspaper, cardboard or a drop sheet. Make sure the newspaper, cardboard or drop sheet covers a wide enough area, at least 3 feet wider than the box on all sides.

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Scrape the walls of the hive boxes with a paint scraper so the propolis, or resin, and wax fall onto your drop sheet. Turn the box to reach all sides, inside and out, as well as top and bottom. Use a flashlight, if needed, to make sure you get all the material in the inside corners.

Dispose of wax scrapings by incineration or burning. Place the scrapings in a fire-safe container outdoors, and set them on fire with matches. Never leave the fire unattended. Have a fire extinguisher near you. If you used a drop sheet, roll it up carefully, starting at one end. Fold or roll paper or cardboard in 1-foot increments until complete. Burn the newspaper or drop sheets as well. These can carry disease, so proper and complete disposal is important.

Clean your scraper so none of the old material is left on its surface. Use a knife or scrub brush that can be disposed of afterward. Alternately, use boiling water to remove wax residue.

Scorch the box with a blowtorch, using short even strokes, so the propolis is raised to a boiling temperature and the wood turns a darker colour. Do not burn the wood.

Fill a tub or container with sodium hypochlorite. Wear gloves and work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Immerse plastic components in the sodium hypochlorite solution completely for 20 minutes to disinfect. If components are too long or large for your container, alternate sides in the solution.

Remove components from the sodium hypochlorite and rinse well with regular water to remove residue.

Wash smokers and other hive tools with liquid soap in a sink, scrubbing with a scrub brush if necessary.

Rinse tools afterward with water to remove soap residue.

Heat metal hive tools with a blowtorch for a few seconds to remove remaining propolis and to sterilise. Be careful not to damage metal by heating too long.

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