Following on from the wax recovery it is time to clean and sterilise the frames and boxes ready to be reused. This would be my first time cleaning the frames so they can be reused and seemed a shame not to give it a go especially as I had done most of the hard work following the steam wax extraction.
So I had a big pile of frames needing fine cleaning to remove the dirt left after the steam extracting and to also remove the propolis and this would be done by boiling the frames in a washing soda solution.
I borrowed the burco boiler from a friend who has it just for boiling frames and it’s a simple job to fill it with water add a good amount of washing soda crystals, about 500g and once it was boiling drop in nine frames weight them down for five minutes flip them over for another five mins and then lift each one out and with a paint brush give them a light scrub in the yellow bucket with clean water and stack to dry.
So a couple of hours and I have a reasonable amount of frames drying and almost ready to go back into service. What you don’t get are nice white pristine frames and what you get are rather grey frames with some staining but they are clean and sterile.
The majority of the frames were my prewired frames for my foundationless frames but I still had a number of frames that had foundation in them and they needed me to fit two wires to support the combs. So it was a simple job of two holes drilled in each side frame and the use of my high teck jig to wire the frames.
So after wiring the frames all that was left t do was to fit the starter strips. I make my starter strips by removing the wire from sheets of old stock foundation and cutting them into approx 25mm wide strips. I then have a pan with a small amount of molten wax in it and I dip one edge of the strips into it for about five seconds then simply pushing the hot wax into the groove down the centre of the top bar. I have a bit more detail about this process in a previouse post foundationless frames.
My conclusion to reusing the frames is it is easy if not a bit messy for my simple foundationless frames, the pre wired frames went through the whole processes and the wires remained intact and tight so after boiling just required a starter strip of wax and they were good to go. However if you were to refit the frames with foundation this would be more time consuming removing a bottom bar and the wedge and then refitting after the foundation was in place, the groove in the side bar can hold a piece of dirt and would need scraping out and would also slow down the process and I can see why most people simply throw their frames away and start with new frames.
After the frames the boxes, crown board, dummy boards need to be cleaned up and sterilized.
I like to lay a roof on the floor and scrape the bits of was off the boxes and all the other internal parts of the hive so they fall into the upturned roof. This way you can collect most of the bits and dispose of them before they start stick to your shoes and more importantly you are minimising leaving any bits of potential diseased wax lying around.
After scraping you then use a blow torch to scorch the timber over all the internal surfaces and meeting edges, the scorching of the box sterilises the surfaces. Your aim is not to burn the box but look to discolour the surface. Bees actually like this scorching of the boxes despite their natural fear of smoke thinking a forest fire is coming their way, but also know a burnt out tree is perhaps a clean cavity free of old and possibly diseased comb.
I have a number of brood boxes made from plywood and made one year when I had some ply off cuts and to small to save and clutter up the workshop so I turned them into brood boxes with the alternative going towards keeping me warm during the winter. Ply is not as good as solid timber and especially cedar but this softwood ply is ok but requires a preserver ever couple of years to keep them in good condition whereas cedar requires no attention for perhaps 30 years.
So that’s it wax recovered, frames salvaged and boxes and internal hive parts all cleaned sterilised and ready to be put back into service. It’s taken some time and been a bit messy but to me right now rather satisfying. I will leave any future wax recovery to the solar wax extractor from now on and perhaps store the frames for future cleaning and recycling.
I have plans to build a new improved solar wax extractor from the small one I made last year and have almost salvaged all the parts and will post about its in time.