Spare beekeeping equipment is valuable and needs careful storage to ensure that it is kept in good condition ready for use.
Honey comb, especially brood frames, represent a valuable source of food to wax moths. Empty boxes also provide an ideal nest site for over-wintering mice. Used comb can also be a source of disease, spreading infection to new colonies.
There are a number of steps which can be taken to ensure that stored equipment and comb are safely stored.
Floors, boxes and crownboards should be scraped clean of wax and propolis. Particular attention should be paid to corners and rebates. All internal surfaces should then be scorched with a blowtorch and/or washed with a solution of washing soda. External surfaces can be brushed clean and given a coat of wood preserver or paint. Take care that any treatment used does not contain insecticide. Boxes made of western red cedar do not require treatment with wood preservative.
Brood combs, because of their use in rearing brood, can become a source of future infection. Old, blackened combs should not be stored but should be burnt. Combs in good condition should be sterilised with acetic acid.
- Boxes, complete with frames, should be stacked out of doors on an earth or timber floor. (Avoid concrete as acetic acid will corrode it)
- Seal the joints between the boxes by wrapping with gaffer tape. As an easier alternative, it is possible to stack the boxes inside a ‘wheely bin’ liner which provides a good airtight seal.
- Place a saucer at the top of the stack, in an empty super. Fill the saucer with 50ml of 80% acetic acid for each brood box. Acetic acid fumes will corrode metal, remove metal ends and coat metal frame runners with a thin film of Vaseline
- Place a lid on the stack and leave for 1 week.
- Air the boxes and frames for a week before putting into use.
Acetic acid fumigation will kill EFB bacteria, Nosema, Amoeba, Chalk brood spores and Wax moth eggs, larvae and adults (but not pupae).
Once sterilised, brood combs can be stored in the same way as for super combs as described below.
These can also be sterilised with acetic acid, although this is not as vital as it is for brood comb. It is however important to protect stored comb from damage by wax moth. Combs can be frozen for a few days, which will kill all stages of wax moth. At this time of year storing supers out of doors, but under cover to protect from rain, is the easiest way to freeze them. There is a biological control ‘Certan’ which can be used as an alternative. This is sprayed onto stored combs and will kill any wax moth larvae which eat it. It is harmless to humans and the comb itself.
Acetic Acid Safety Precautions
The fumes of acetic acid are highly corrosive and great care must be taken to avoid contact with the eyes and lungs. Irreparable damage can be done to the lungs if the fumes are inhaled; there is no mistaking the smell of vinegar. Great care should also be taken to avoid contact with the skin. It is best to use both protective gloves and goggles when using this acid.