Yucky flow frames

Interesting, I wonder how much they are truly cleaning the cell surfaces vs scavenging extra material. In my area of the world it’s essential to time Flow-supering at the right moment in spring, as well as to always remove Fsupers in fall. Cold weather lingering or coming back minus a heavy nectar flow equals bees sealing up all those gaps with propolis.

That is why it intrigued me so much. It was one of the flow team who suggested/had used. I’ll give it a go but wondering who else has and what success they had and what effected the outcome

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I would do what you do Jack, rather than “retire” them, as others have said they would do. The lady spent 4 hours on a frame to clean it. I would do that rather than spend a $100 for a new one. However, I probably wouldn’t do that on second hand ones like this lady did, not knowing where the frames had been. I didn’t see how the lady sterilized the frames, as the title suggests.

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the bees will not remove propolis- cannot remove mold- and will not remove much wax. They do repair the cells, and remove cappings but they won’t remove excess wax from other places.

Not quite true. They will not remove all of it, but they do like to harvest it at times of year when they need it. My mentor is a commercial beekeeper and he has stacks of empty deep hive boxes around his house. There is no honey in them, and no frames, but many have been used for more than 10 years. The notches, grooves and dings in them are full of propolis. On a nice day, there are clouds of bees stuffing their corbiculae with propolis around the boxes. It is quite intimidating to stand close by when many of those “foragers” are africanized, as they are where he lives.

So I agree in principle, you can’t trust the bees to strip every last scrap off, but if they want it for use somewhere else, they will forage it. :blush:

I have seen similar to Dawn & I previously spoke about it here. I often see bees collecting propolis from unused bee boxes around my yard etc. It happens more after the longest day has passed & we head towards cooler weather.

I’m trying to think like a bee colony now: Would they remove it (wax or propolis) inside a hive to be put to better use somewhere else in the hive? You’d have to say “yes”.

They must reuse wax inside a hive which would explain why you get a dark stain on new wax if new foundation frames are placed next to dark, old combs.

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Back on the subject of yucky frames. It occurred to me while waking up that there’s no need to worry about getting the frames back to a pristine condition on account of the arguments against plastic in hives. Then there is also the issue some people have of bees not liking flow frames at the start. Good advice is to rub wax onto the frames to encourage bees to use them.

I wouldn’t classify wax & propolis as being dirty or unclean. I don’t think bees would store honey in an unclean cell. I think the main thing would be to make sure the flow frames still operate satisfactorily.


Yes- agreed- bees in fact love propolis and whenever I leave equipment outside I see bees collecting it (never wax though). However I meant more the thin traces of it inside the cells of flow frames. When a flow frame sits in a hive for a long period and doesn’t fill with honey bees tend to start propolising the cells. I have never yet seen bees later clean up such frames.

On a side note- I read in the honey factory book that bees put small amounts of propolis into wax when they build comb to strengthen it- kind of like steel reinforcing concrete. I’ve wondered if collecting propolis with a propolis mat or similar- then offering it to bees In the early spring build up period might help stimulate faster comb building. Recently I’ve observed bees going crazy for propolis when hives with propolis mats are opened. The bees roll around in a frenzy eager to get it. It’s clearly a highly prized resource for them.

I even wondered if they’d collect gum rosin if it was offered to them…

Also agreed- wax and propolis are not dirty. However I think they likely do affect the functioning of the frames. As for mold- I view it as kind of dirty and I’d rather it wasn’t there. I’ve also observed the bees are reluctant to refill the moldiest cells that are usually near the edges.

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Hi Jack, I guess experience will tell you (not me} what level of wax & propolis will affect the functioning of the frames. I’m guessing you’ll remove all the mold, while not being overly pedantic on the wax & propolis.

When adding the flow super, is it possible to only include one or two frames at the start. That way you could speed things up by adding one or two brood frames from a donor hive. Then you’d add the extra flow frames as the population increases. That might eliminate some of the mold.

There is a process called dry ice cleaning. You can either hire a machine or take your frames to a company that does it.

I have never tried this on my flow frames as yet (still under 1 YO) and have not heard of anyone else trying it. However I have used dry ice cleaners for cleaning down conveyors and machinery. It does an amazing job at removing grease, oil, scale and anything else. It leaves plastic and stainless steel etc like brand new.

I’d be interested to see if this method works on flow frames. The dry ice particles basically freeze the oil, grease, wax etc which is then blasted off with the high pressure air. See pic

Google dry ice cleaning - prices seem to range between $3.50 and $5.00 a sq foot.

Let us know how it works if you try it.

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Cleaning a 3 or 4 year old frame prior to placing back on a hive. Using a pressure cleaner with warm water.


Will look into dry ice but here in Australia we have just got electricity so dry ice might be a stretch, thanks for input

Adam, might be a winner with your idea. I am not the only one with dirty frames and it can be that simple to fix. I bought a steam cleaner so I will have a go with that, will provide feedback

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Adam, Have you tried leaving your supers outside and in the open position for the bees to clean out the remaining honey etc.? If so, how did I it go? I’m currently extracting from my flow frames (1st time) and was wondering what I do with the frames when finished.

No I didn’t I ended up using the pressure washer.

In your situation I’d leave them on for a few days to clean up and then remove the super for winter. One year old frames shouldn’t need any cleaning. Mine where a bit older than that and had been left on over winter without stores in them.

Adam, Thanks for responding so quickly. My frames have been used unsuccessfully for a few years and this is my first year of harvesting from them. I must have been doing something incorrectly! Tomorrow, after all the honey has been drained, Ill put them back on the hive in the open position and hope for the best. I live in southern Victoria, Aus. and the wasps were such that I needed to bring the frames inside to extract.
Thanks again.

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Harvest is so dependent on good bee numbers and a flow. You guys have had it tough for a while. One of my favourite times to harvest is at night time, I don’t have bees snooping around and I can cook dinner and other jobs. I recon wasps woukdn’t be flying after dark either.

If you are going to put on and take off in a few days it would be interesting to see a before and after photo of a frame or two. Another way to make sure they move the cleaned up stores down in the brood box is to put a hive mat on the brood frames, QE and then flow frames.

Look forward to hearing how you went.



Be happy, see the attached photos, these are 5 yr old frames I harvested and left them outside hive in shade for 2 weeks, bee cleaned up a real lot but I ended up pulling frame apart and steam cleaning . It came up like new but took me 6 hours. I have a friend and his bees will not take to the frames, he has tried everything to get them interested in the frames, did you just use patience ? He has cleane them, brushed with comb all to no avail

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Thanks for your comments. I believe my lack of success was due to impatience in adding the flow frames too early in the season. I covered the frames with bees wax and followed suggestions of to the letter, but, being in southern Victoria ((Aus.) involves different management practices than in Qld.