Tips on Spring Cleaning

Tips on Spring Cleaning in February (www.thorne.co.uk)
It’s a good idea to try to get ahead before the bees do…While it’s cold and the propolis is hard it’s the best time to clean spare hive parts, and recycle your frames ready for the oncoming season.
 
Gather all the floors, brood boxes, supers, crown boards, queen excluders and roofs in a to-do pile. You will need a stool (this will take a while and you may as well be comfortable) a scraper hive tool, and a blowtorch (preferably piezo ignition) and an excluder cleaner may prove useful. This is certainly a job to complete outside!
Take a roof and place it top down on the ground in front of you, clean and scrape all the kit into the upturned roof, this will contain all the rubbish and stop you treading it around.
First scrape the inside surfaces of the item clean of brace comb and the worst of the propolis. Once you have removed the majority of the debris, you will find that when you now flame the inside surfaces of the kit, you will have a quicker job. You want to heat the item sufficiently to melt and boil off any remaining propolis and wax without setting alight the timber. Stop when the timber starts to change colour. The finished item will be clean dry to the touch and sterile (from a disease point of view). If you have plastic runners on your supers you may want to replace them with metal as they survive the heat of the blowtorch better. Make any repairs now!
 
To clean old frames: cut away all the wax foundation into a plastic sack, for recycling later. Scrape the worst of the propolis and brace comb from the sided, top and bottom bars of the frame. There is a frame cleaner which makes a tidy job of the side bar grooves (for British Standard frames and commercials). Once I have the majority of the debris removed I boil up the combs in a Burco or Koshstar wax melter. I put a cup of soda crystals, or Caustic soda into the cold water in the boiler, (WARNING if using Caustic soda ALWAYS add the soda to cold water!). Bring the boiler up to the boiling point then (wearing rubber gloves, eye protection and a mask) dunk the frames swirling them around in the hot water. The movement in the water is enough to dissolve and wash off any wax, propolis and remaining debris. This will basically sterilise your frames. It is a good idea to have a tub of fresh water to “rinse” the frames, especially if you have used Caustic soda.
Once the frames are dry they can be stored in your nice clean supers. I try to only re-wax my frames as close to the time I plan to use them, as the wax may become stale and distorted if stored too long. If the wax has a bloom then warm gently with a hairdryer to freshen up.
 
To re-wax a frame, I usually do them in pairs… remove the wedge (that holds the wax sheet in place) from two frames. Press the gimp pins back into the wedge with your hive tool, so the heads are proud. Swap the two wedges over so they are now twinned with a different frame. Take a sheet of foundation and slide it between the bottom bars up the groves until the large loops (if wired foundation) are up to the topbar. Bend the loops at right angles and press the wax sheet in up to the topbar. Now using a small hammer replace the wedge and hammer home the gimp pins. You will find in swopping over the wedges the gimp pins now go into fresh wood, and are less likely to fall out allowing the wax to drop.
There is something nice about plenty of clean kit at the start of the season… for the first inspections. (image courtesy of www.crowriverapiaries.com)
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