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Dead Hive: can I reuse the entire brood box? Cleaning? Disease?

To this great community:
Unfortunately as a beginner I didn’t take care of bees properly. With your help I want a fresh start!

Can I reuse my entire brood box structure and parts? How do I clean it? (dont have access to irradiation just bleach…)

In regards to the flow frames, I read topics about cleaning with bleach and storing them in the freezer?

Also relevant info: I am from Quito, Ecuador and not sure if ti was a disease? I attach photos.

Many thanks in advance for your feedback.

Hello and welcome to the Flow forum! Thank you for the photos. That looks like an empty hive, which puts three things as the most likely cause.

My top culprit would be varroa, which is present in Chile and needs active treatment of the hive to control it. Hives which have been killed by varroa have very few dead bees and little brood. The way to check that would be too look very closely at the dark empty cells in the central area of the frame for tiny white crystals. These are varroa excrement and are quite obvious if you had a heavy infestation.

Second possibility is starvation. If you had a long nectar dearth, and didn’t notice, the hive could starve. I presume it is summer with you now, but you don’t give any indication of when the hive died. Was it recent, or months ago during your winter?

Third possibility is repeated swarming to the level that there were not enough bees left to keep the hive going.

I think bacterial disease (AFB) is unlikely from the photos you have shown, as there are no large areas of dead brood.

You can re-use the box if any of my diagnoses above is correct. No need to clean it, but probably would anyway. Just spray the inside of the box with dilute (4% in water) household bleach, leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse off with a hose.

If it looks like varroa, swarming or starvation, you can reuse the frames with no treatment. I often freeze them for 48 hours to kill off wax moth and small hive beetle eggs and larvae. Same for the Flow frames.

One more thing, it is probably getting late in the season to get more bees for your hive. From mid-summer onwards, plants with nectar are decreasing and a new hive will have trouble starting. You might want to wait until early next spring, but meanwhile clean and freeze now in preparation.

Thank you for your honesty and sharing your sad loss. Hope that was some help. :blush:


It’s sad to lose a colony, sorry that happened @Christian_BEEE…but I’m glad it led to you posting - welcome :cherry_blossom:

Dawn has it covered and I would (in my more limited experience) concur with her assessment. I just wanted to add that you do have some really nice looking brood comb there, so that’s a big plus to be glad about :+1:

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If American foulbrood is in your area…you have to do one final check and that is to look for AFB “scale”…which is the dessicated remenants of the infected larvae. This is easily spotted by having the sun coming over your shoulder on to the frame which should not be held at a right-angle to the sun…difficult to explain but those scale show up quickly when holding the frame at the correct angle. I’ve found it on many frames that look exactly like yours…especially if the frames are from the bottom brood box of a double-brood box scenario. Other than that, your equipment looks fine to me.

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Thanks @Dawn_SD, I searched for the tiny crystals, however wasnt sure… Would you mind confirming from the photo? Can I reuse this comb? Or is it safer to buy a new one?
Can I use the structure of the comb after cleaning it with bleach?
It been 5 months since my colony disappeared.
Sorry to ask again but dont know a bee keeping especialista in Quito, Ecuador.

Thanks @Eva, can I reuse this comb?

Thanks @Doug1, I looked up online and there is no report of AFB in Ecuador. Very happy about that! I attached photos with how you suggested. What is your opinión?

Again, many thanks to all of you!

Very excited to do it right this time!

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Sure thing, Christian! No AFB in Ecuador is great news - if you can be sure of that, then after the weak bleach solution cleaning & rinse I’d give those frames a night in the freezer to kill off any run-of-the-mill baddies like wax moth, and they’ll make a nice home ready for your new friends :hugs:

About your Flow frames, to my eye they look a little propolized, and maybe mildewed? This happens when the Flow super is added to a colony when it and/or the nectar flow is not strong enough. The super & frames are then treated as unwanted extra space by the bees, who try to seal up cracks with their propolis, then leave it unattended to take care of more important tasks in the brood area, and don’t have time to keep up with the cleaning chores…so, mildew!

The Flow frames can also be cleaned with mild bleach or vinegar solution - another way to pass your time until your next colony can take residence :sweat_smile:


I can’t confirm, because I can’t tell which way is “up” in the photos. However, if there really is no AFB in Ecuador, I would be happy to reuse the comb without treating it. :thinking:

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Agreed…that equipment looks in great shape.

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