Clean-up of Hives that Didn’t Survive

Bees die. But spring is the season of renewal. Finding a dead hive is discouraging, but please don’t give up. Bees need us. So what do you do with “dead-outs” as they’re commonly called?

Dealing with Dead-Outs

First, remove the dead hive from the bee yard as soon as practical. Unprotected, any honey is an invitation for robbing by assorted wild critters and other hives. Moisture will also likely build up inside the hive, encouraging mold.

Second, try to determine the cause, as that will define what you can do with what the deceased colony left behind.

Clean Up

Dr. Roger Hoopingarner of Michigan State University, notes that most hives die from Varroa or starvation. Thus, reusing those resources (stores and drawn wax) is generally no problem. Brush off the dead bees, rap the frame the flat way to dislodge some stuck in the cells, and protect the wax from wax moths until they can be reused. These drawn frames are ideal for starting nuc colonies from strong colonies that survived, or for welcoming a new package. Don’t worry about leaving a few bees behind in the frames, the new bees will clean them out.

A colony that died from AFB requires burning it all, although the hive bodies and major components may be singed with a blow torch to destroy spores. With Nosema it may be easier to burn it all, or, depending upon the extent of the damage, treat with the cleaning solution noted.

Mold, unless it is black mold, may be wiped off the frames and capped honey. Give any hard surfaces a good scrubbing, with maybe a little extra salt in the mixture. Air them out well and then freeze, saving as much comb as much as possible. The comb, honey and frames may be used in the hive again. Bees will clean up a bit of mold, although by doing it for them they can focus their talents elsewhere, like pollination.

If it is black mold, remove and trash the foundation (or melt for other uses). Clean the frames thoroughly, air out, freeze, and reuse.

Wax moths may extensively damage the hive and comb, and it may be simpler to burn and start again. If the infestation is minor, remove larvae, clean out all webs, and freeze everything to kill all stages of the wax moth.


18 thoughts on “Clean-up of Hives that Didn’t Survive

  1. Bob & Mary Lang

    we had three hives die (all our hives).. we cleaned them and tightly packaged them in industrial strength extra large garbage bags. Then we brought them in the basement of our house for the winter. We did not do the freezer idea but there was no sign of wax moths. We plan on buying new bees and queens early in the spring. Every hive we had was from a harvested swarm. We live in painesville Ohio 44077. Do you know when and where we should purchase our new bees???????

    1. Kelley Beekeeping

      Hello Lang family,

      We will start accepting pre-orders for package bees on December 1st, 2017.

    2. John roberts

      My name isJohn we have also lost two haves in Thompson oh want to know how to clean everything to get ready for new bees. If you can help please give me a call 4408213445

  2. Kenneth Fuller

    When will the spring bees be ready to ship?

    1. Kelley Beekeeping

      Hello Kenneth,

      We will begin shipping on April 6th, 2019

  3. Tina

    My three hives died over the winter and left their deeps full of capped honey. Can I harvest this honey? I am only putting in one hive this spring so I plan to use some of the frames to help start off the package bees but I have 30 frames of capped honey and don’t know what to do with all that.

  4. Lin

    I had a dead hive that got robbed and I was left with frames of chewed up comb. Should I just toss this or will a replacement nuc be able to use this and rebuild it ( assuming it is not diseased.. ), thanks for help,

  5. Virginia Bays

    Lost most of our hive due to neighbor hive robbing at fall time. Then hive was too small to survive winter and froze. Was thinking of trying the saskatraz bees. Live in Southern Indiana. Can you give me any advice on if this would be a good bee to have here?

  6. Stan Gassaway

    We live in Oklahoma, where it’s not unusual to have these wild “spring swings,” when the temperature goes from 80F to as low as 20F in space of 24 hours. This year I lost a very very strong hive that had begun foraging hard during the warm snap. I’ve just cleaned out the hive, and it was FULL of honey – lots of dead bees in four different clusters of different sizes. Heartbreaking, really. Do you have any suggestions for “weathering” this weather? Stan G.

  7. Matt

    Its great to have built out frames for the honey flow. I have built out frames from the brood chamber from some dead hives. Can those be put on for honey frames this year?

  8. Brenda Dillmann

    Is it safe to filter honey from brood boxes where the bees did not over-winter? I have been scraping the comb and filtering the honey. There is a lot of honey so it wasn’t starvation.

  9. Julie Jesseph-Balaa

    I have hives that were abandoned and have residue from wax moths how can I reuse the built out comb and where the residue is too much should I just leave the wood frames for the bees to rebuild?

  10. Jacob Devereaux

    I have lost three hives this winter. I have two left. All three hives that died had two deep supers and are still about 75% full of honey. Will adding all of there sections to my live hives cost a problem. Or is it more like my two hives won the lottery because they are getting all this wax and honey. I am concern I am giving them too much.

    My two hives both have two deep supers and I plan to add three deep supers to them with all the extra honey and wax that I got from my dead hives.
    My mentor told me to put an inner cover on top of my live hives, and use it to divide them from the new sections and then add the new sections above. The bees will clean the honey and wax and relocate it below.

    Any advise would be helpful

  11. Deann Anderson

    I lost my hive in March there is still a lot money in the frames. We treated the hive for mites in the fall. Are we able to introduce a new set of these to these frames.

  12. Deann Anderson

    I Lost my hive of bees in March. It was treated for mites in the fall. Am I able to introduce a new package of bees to the existing hive which still has a lot of honey in it?

  13. Story

    What is the cleaning solution suggestion- you mention adding salt?

  14. Catherine S Burrell

    Our hive was new in the spring and was doing good. Went to check and bees were boarding. Next day or two half of bees were gone leaving about 1/3 of bees. They struggled and wasn’t able to locate nucs to build up. Bees just dwindled till all were gone. Hiw do I clean the tray of residual wax etc. I’ve brushed completely and nothing else comings off. What next please. I’m going to try again in the spring.
    Thank you

  15. Cicada Dennis

    My have was abandoned by its bees due to a virus. If there is a virus in the remnant larvae and pupae that are in the combs, is there any way to sterilize, so they can be used again?