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Cleaning up a Dead Hive

It's not a pleasant job, but it's got to be done. Most of what is inside your hive can be reused, either in other hives or by the new colony that you will move into vacant space. In this video, River and I demonstrate how we clean up a dead-out.


If you're curious about what might have killed your colony, this is an excellent document about questions to ask when doing a hive autopsy.


I realized as I put this together that there are a few things that I wished I had mentioned but didn't so here they are:

  1. Cleaning up a deadout is a good opportunity to clean up ugly comb. I do mention that there is one section of comb I want to scrape but I could have elaborated. I would scrape any comb that is very dark and thick, any large patches of dead brood, and anything covered in bee poop.

  2. If the inside of your hive is covered in bee poop (indicating nosema), then you should scrape and bleach or scorch the woodenware before reusing.

River spent the day with me and was quite keen to be a part of this video, so enjoy her introduction and cute commentary.


If you're more of a reader than a watcher, or if you want a little checklist to print off for reference in the field, here it is:


Dead Hive Clean-Up


As soon as you notice that your hive is dead, close all entrances to prevent pests and robbing. On the day that you will clean up, bring a garbage bag or plastic tote to dump dead bees into - they can be disposed of in your compost heap.


Work your way through the hive frame by frame

  • Brush off loose bees

  • Scrape off burr comb and fuzzy mold

  • Scrape any ugly comb (see above)

  • Scrape insides of box (wax, mold, bee poop)

  • Clean off bottom board

Honey frames can be used to feed other hives, or a little can be left for the bees that you will put in this box. It can be helpful to scratch open capped honey to encourage them to use it. There is also no reason that the honey can't be extracted and consumed as long as it was all capped and isn't covered with mold. If you used a mite treatment in the fall, read up on whether the honey stored after that is safe for consumption.


Store empty comb for future use. There is no need to scrape everything down. Bees will make very quick work out of some light mold and the dead bees that you were not able to remove from cells. That wax is invaluable!


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