With Spring nearly upon us, it's essential that you complete any outstanding cleaning of your beekeeping kit before it is used again. Hive parts will last a lot longer if they are repaired as soon as a problem appears, but if you haven't had the chance to patch things up at the time, make sure you do it soon. And remember, repairing is much easier when the parts are dry.

The branch apiary had a thorough going over this weekend as, apart from the very blustery wind, the weather was tolerable.

As well as maintenance, cleaning is essential and will reduce your chances of disease and pest problems during the year. It's important that you scrape off your wax and propolis, scrub your polystyrene kit with a suitable washing soda and bleach solution and scorch your wooden kit, particularly in the crevices, where unpleasantness may be hiding.

Useful tools for this job are a stiff wire brush, a blowtorch and although it's marketed as a Wire Excluder Cleaner, this tool is great for scraping all the flat surfaces of your wooden kit as well.

You will find separating your hive parts easier if they are not propolised together. The bees will also be calmer if there isn't a struggle to prise things apart, so floors, brood boxes, supers, ekes, queen excluders and crown boards can all have their upper and lower contact surfaces (as well as the rebate that takes the frame lugs) treated with Petroleum jelly with white spirit added as a thinner. Using the thinner allows it to soak into the wood and you'll find that propolis won't stick, making cleaning easy.

I've found it easier to clean poly hives by lining them with aluminium adhesive tape (obtainable at many DIY stores) prior to using them. The propolis and wax don't adhere as well to the aluminium, and scrubbing with washing soda won't destroy the polystyrene. if the tape comes off for any reason during cleaning (which rarely happens in my experience), just re-line it.

I suspect that the aluminium also enhances the thermal properties of the hive, and my bees don't seem to mind it at all.

You will find a very good summary of cleaning guidance over at the Conwy Beekeepers website, and the official advice, along with many other gems at the Bee base "Advisory Leaflets, Training Manuals & Fact Sheets" page

 


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