Cleaning our observation hives

September 28th, 2011
by Royal W. Draper

Today I have decided to clean both of our observation hives. The last fall cleaning is always the worst! It seems that the bees collect so much nectar from the Goldenrod that they go into a super wax production mode and because they don’t need to build all that much comb this time of year they deposit it all over the glass…some of it is even full of honey.

I start out by taking the top part of the hive outside to open it up. Keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to open one of these up inside…lol. Once I have them outside and using as little smoke as possible I open the door and look for the queen. I like to capture her and place her in a queen cage for safe keeping. I would hate to injury her while removing and manipulating the frames. I was lucky this time and she was on the open side but if by chance she is on the other side you will have to remove some frames to get to her…”bee” careful!

I carefully remove one frame at a time, starting from the top and working down, with as many bees as possible clinging to the frame and place them in a 5 frame nuc box. You could also use an empty hive body for this. I place the queen cage right on the top so the bees know she is still around.

There are always some rebel bees that feel they need to stay and protect the honey that is dripping down the glass.

I have found the easiest way to deal with the rebels is to brush them off with a bee brush on to a piece of cardboard and then shake them off on to the nuc box. It’s a good idea to use your smoker while doing this as they usually aren’t too excited about being brushed.

It’s finally time to start cleaning off all of that wax and honey. Like I had mentioned before the fall requires more cleaning than any other time of year and in fact there normally is nowhere near this amount of wax on the glass. Our main observation hive has only been cleaned out 3 times this year and our second observation hive only twice. The honey and wax will not be wasted. I start by scraping the bulk of it off with a hive tool and placing it into a pail to be taken to the honey house to be processed.

After getting the bulk of the wax off I switch to a razor-blade scraper which gets nearly all of the wax off and this would be good enough in most cases but I like to get everything cleaned up to where it almost looks new. So after getting it scraped off I hose the hive down with hot water.


I then dry the hive off and clean the glass with some foaming glass cleaner. Looks so much better now!


Once the hive is all cleaned up it’s time to put the girls back in to their clean abode. I did scrape off the edges of the frames before putting them back in the hive. I like to start with the bottom frame and put them back in the same order as they were before being removed.

With all of the frames back in place it’s time to release the queen. Just pull the cork and let her out on the face of one of the frames.

After carefully closing the door to the observation hive I needed to take care of the remaining work force still in the nuc box. I just took them close to the hive entrance and shook them out on to the ground. They started heading up the wall to get back inside immediately so I had to get the observation hive back inside and open it up so they could get back in.

I set the hive back on the base and opened the sliding door and in comes a wave of bees anxious to get back to work. The whole cleaning took me about 1 hour per hive. I shouldn’t have to get into the hives again until spring now.

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