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What To Do With An Abandoned Beehive (Recycling & Reusing)





What To Do With An Abandoned Beehive

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During beekeeping, it’s unexpected but not uncommon that bees abandon a beehive. Every beekeeper after having an abandoned beehive has a first common question.

That is what to do with an abandoned beehive? Well, you might check first if it is reusable or not. If so try to make sure the reuse of its maximum components. By dividing its component, inspecting it in the right manner, and sterilizing it properly you will be able to reuse the maximum component of an abandoned beehive.

In the second year of my beekeeping journey, I lost one of my swarms. I became very disappointed after that incident. After consulting with expert beekeepers in my region I was able to figure out the reason why my bees left the beehive.

So, I ordered a new Nuc. Then instead of purchasing a new beehive, I reused my previous abandoned beehive to transfer the new nuc to this hive for their permanent home. Because that beehive was quite well to reuse it. I just sterilized it and fix some broken parts and successfully reused it. And you believe me or not I have used that beehive for the next 3 years without any problem.

During my past more than 7 years of beekeeping experience, I lost my swarm so many times. A few of my colony was attacked by varroa mite and American foulbrood diseases and the hive is completely dead out.

In most cases, I was able to reuse my abandoned or dead-out hives. But in some cases, I need to totally destroy the hive and purchase a new one for the new colony.

So, how do you know if the abandoned beehive or dead-out hive is reusable or not? If so, how do you reuse the abandoned beehive?

That’s what I am going to discuss now. Remember everything discussed throughout the whole post is from my personal beekeeping experience of over 7 years. Also, some information was collected from expert beekeepers from various forums, youtube videos, blog posts, and so on.

I did the research so that I can provide you with a complete guide and clarify your every question related to reusing an abandoned beehive.



What Is An Abandoned Beehive?

An abandoned beehive is a hive that was left by bees or the entire colony of the hive is died. When the entire colony of a beehive dies it is well known as a dead beehive. 

An abandoned beehive can be both dead out of a colony or the colony left the beehive for a new home. There are so many reasons which cause bees to abandon a beehive.



Why Do Bees Abandon Their Hive?

Bees will abandon a hive when the hive is not able to provide them proper space and environment to live in it. The major reason why bees left their hive is given below.

  1. Scarcity Of Food: It is obvious that no creature can live without food. Bees lived in a large colony. So, they need proper food storage to feed their large colony. If there is any scarcity of food and they were unable to find any food source near the hive they will abandon the hive. They will look for a new home and will swarm there.
  2. Disease: When a portion of the colony got infected by diseases, the queen will abandon the colony, and the rest of the bees will swarm away to save the colony. They will leave the infected bees or will kill them to protect their colony from diseases.
  3. Queenless Hive: When a hive become queenless it’s impossible for them to run the colony properly. Because a queenless hive can’t survive long. That’s why if they were unable to find a new queen within a few days they will abandon the hive.
  4. Weather Condition: When the weather condition is not bee friendly the bees are more likely to leave the hive. Especially, during the winter if there is no proper ventilation bees will have a tough time and they will surely look for a new suitable home. So, they will leave their current home.
  5. Overpopulated Colony: When a beehive become overpopulated and there is not enough space to live then bees will swarm. So, they will abandon the hive. To prevent swarming you must split a beehive properly while they are preparing to swarm.

Mostly for these reasons, bees abandon a hive and swarm for a better new suitable, and safe place. As a beekeeper, you must be responsible and careful about your bees. Otherwise not only your bees will swarm away, but also the entire colony can be destroyed if they are attacked by any deadly disease.



How Do You Know If A Beehive Is Abandoned?

You can easily say the beehive is abandoned if you didn’t notice any bees at the entrance for the last couple of weeks. In this situation, you should inspect the hive to check if the bees swarm away or if they get infected by any disease.

Inspecting the hive properly if bees swarm away you have to figure out why they left. Then take proper steps and reuse the hive so that bees never left this again. In case, the hive is attacked by a deadly disease you must split the hive and try to protect as much portion of the colony as possible.



Will Bees Return To An Abandoned Hive?

In my case, when a colony abandoned a hive they have never returned to that hive. When they left it they left it forever. So, every time I have to salvage as many components as possible from the abandoned hive and reuse them to build a new hive for a new colony.

But don’t be disappointed you can also use the abandoned hive to build a bee swarm trap easily. If you were unable to catch your old swarm but you are probably going to catch another swarm using the trap properly.



What To Do With Abandoned Or Dead Out Hives?

Now we know why bees abandon a hive. We also know when a colony left its old home it will never return to that hive. So, do we gonna leave the hive forever? No, absolutely not. We will repair and clean it and then we will reuse it to build a new colony.

Signs Of A Dead Out Or Abandoned Hive
Signs Of A Dead Out Or Abandoned Hive


Can We Reuse The Dead Out Hive?

First of all, you have to figure out why the previous colony died. If they died because of the varroa mites, or American foulbrood or other harmful contagious disease then you shouldn’t reuse it.

Infected Colony
Signs Of An Infected Colony

In this case, you must take the dead-out hive away from your apiary as soon as possible. Then set it on fire and entirely destroy it. Otherwise, the disease can be spread to your other hives.


But if your colony died because of other reasons like due to shortage of food, weather condition like too cold, the hive became queenless, and so on. Under these circumstances, a dead-out hive is totally reusable.



Can You Harvest Honey From A Dead Hive?

In most cases, you can harvest honey from a dead hive if its quality is not expired. If the colony died because of varroa mites or American foulbrood, still the honey is safe to eat. You can collect the honey and store it for longer duration usage.

If you can store the honey properly and safely then you will be able to use it safely for a longer period of time.

To consume the honey from the dead hive frame you can use oxalic acid. Put some oxalic acid on both sides of the frame foundation to remove wax and other stuff if the honey is not transparent. Then wait for 3 to 4 weeks. Then the honey will be safe to consume.

The honey is capped or uncapped whatever it is if you see it look fresh and normal you don’t need to use oxalic acid. You can consume it very easily.



How To Reuse An Abandoned Beehive?

In order to reuse an abandoned beehive at first you have to inspect the hive properly. Look for any harmful diseases first. If you found any germ that causes bees to swarm you must sterilize the hive first. In case, the disease is varroa mite or American foulbrood you shouldn’t try to reuse any part of the abandoned beehive.

After inspecting the hive properly and if you found there are no such diseases then you can re-use it in the following way.

  • Reuse Frames For New Hive: If you see the frames are in good shape and look natural you can easily reuse them to build a new hive. Clean them properly. if there is any dark honey on the frame put it somewhere to melt the honey then clean it and reuse it.
  • Reuse Honey Frame To Feed A New Colony: you can use the honey frame to feed a new colony in a new hive. If the honey is pure then the frame is reusable. Actually, this would be far better than sugar syrup to feed your bees.
  • Repair And Reuse Moldy Frames: An abandoned beehive might have moldy frames with honey in it. Such frames should be dry out and reusable on a new beehive. You can reuse this type of honey frame to start a new colony.
  • Reuse The Box To Build A Swarm Trap: You can use the abandoned hive box to build a swarm trap easily. But I wouldn’t like to use the box as a permanent home for another colony. After catching a new swarm you should move them to a better permanent beehive as soon as possible.
  • Reuse The Hive By Ensuring Proper Ventilation: In some cases, bees might abandon a hive when they don’t have proper ventilation. If you find this is the reason why your previous swarm left the house. Then you can reuse the entire abandoned hive by ensuring proper ventilation.
  • Remove Insects From Frame And Reuse It: If you find beetles, earwigs, or moths are the reason who made so much disturbance to the hive for which your bees swarm away. Then you should remove them first from the hive. You can use essential oils or manually remove them from the hive. You can also use cardboard traps to remove earwigs, beetles, and moths from the hive. After removing such insects sterilize the frames properly and put them in a new beehive box and destroy the old box.
  • Use the box to build a warming cabinet: Honey becomes crystallized if hasn’t been kept at a suitable temperature. So, you can build a honey warming cabinet using the abandoned beehive box to liquefy crystallized honey.

You can use the maximum part of the abandoned beehive by inspecting it properly and sterilizing it.



How Do You Use An Abandoned Or Dead Beehive That Is Reusable For Beekeeping

In case, the abandoned or dead-out beehive is totally unusable for beekeeping it still does not become useless. You can use it as a house for birds, cats, dogs, and for other pets. You can also use it to store your hive tools and other necessary equipment such as kitchen tools or gardening tools.

You can also turn it into any art by cutting and giving it a different shape or painting over it. 



Can You Put New Bees In An Old Hive?

Yes, you can put new bees in the old hive by repairing it and making it suitable for the new colony. While you are thinking of using your old hive that is abandoned by a colony at first you have to figure out why the previous colony left it. After finding out the reason to fix the problem then it is ready to use.

Old Reusable Frame
Reusable Old Frame

Also, I personally use the frames of an abandoned beehive and don’t like to reuse the old hive box for new bees. But if your hive condition is good then you can reuse entire of it for new bees.



How To Prepare Old Hive For New Bees?

To prepare an old abandoned hive for new bees you can follow the following steps that I personally use.

  1. Look For Dead Bees: First of all, you have to look for any dead bees or dead bee clusters inside the hive or in any frame. If you found any dead bees then you must remove them from the frame by using a simple hive tool. Or lift it outside the hive and place it horizontally then make some giant but gentle tap to the frame. In my case, 2 to 3 simple giant but gentle tap is enough to remove the dead bees from the frame.
  2. Reuse Comb Of Unslavagable Frame: If you found a small part of the frame is broken or the frame is not reusable anymore but the comb was worth reusing. Then you can reuse the comb. Cut out the comb from the frame and insert it in a new frame. After inserting the comb in a new frame held the comb in the frame using some rubber bands. You don’t have to remove the rubber band. When the bees have glued the comb in the frame they will chew through the rubber band and remove it from the hive.
  3. Remove The Unusable Comb: In case the frame is good enough but the comb is not. You have to remove the comb and put a new comb or you can use the comb of an unusable frame as in the previous step with this frame.
  4. Prepare The New Box For The Beehive: Prepare the new wooden box for your beehive according to your required dimension. 
  5. Sterilize The Frames Which Don’t Has Honey: Before reusing any frame I would always recommend you sterilize the frames. But if the frame contains capped and/or uncapped honey which looks fresh you don’t have to sterilize it. You can use a honey-containing frame to feed the new bees. Actually, honey-containing frames are better than sugar syrups to feed a colony.
  6. Put The Frames Inside The Box And Make A Top Cover: After Sterilizing the frames and preparing the box put the frames inside the box in a proper manner. Then you can make a top cover and also a telescoping cover as what you would like. Then your Beehive will be ready to accept new a colony.

After following the above steps you are ready to transfer a new nuc of bees to their new permanent home easily.



How To Sterilize An Old Beehive?

You should sterilize an old abandoned beehive properly before reusing it. You have to sterilize the inside and outside of the box and all the frames too.

Blow Torch
Blow Torch

To sterilize any old hive you can follow the following simple steps how actually I sterilize any old beehive before reusing it.

  1. First, you have to take the bottom board apart and look for moths or beetles. If you found so using the hive tool remove them from the bottom board. Follow the same thing to remove any similar insects from the super and frame.
  2. Then you can use a blow torch or other fire lighter to sterilize the inside and outside of the box. I love to use a blow torch to clean the inside and outside of the beehive. Just keep it light and shake it around the whole body of the beehive both inside and outside.
  3. Then sterilize the frames. The simple way to sterilize them is by using hot soda water. You better believe me the hot soda water will kill all the germs as well as will remove wax and propolis from the frame. Don’t use bleach or other household cleaner for this purpose. Because bleach can kill bees and they don’t like it.
  4. If the comb in a frame is not reusable remove it and put new wax foundations in it.

That’s all your entire old hive is perfectly sterilized and ready to use for new bees.



What To Do With Old Honeycomb?

I wouldn’t recommend you reuse your old dark honeycomb for your beehives. If the frame containing honey looks fresh and pure you can reuse it to feed a new colony. But if there are old dark honeycombs remember not a honey frame then you shouldn’t reuse it.

Old Honeycomb
Fresh Old Honeycomb


Take off your honeycomb and you can collect the honey from the honeycomb to preserve or consume for yourself.

For a dark honey frame having a wax foundation put it in a solar wax melter. The heat of the solar wax melter will separately melt the propolis and wax. Then just sterilize the frame and it will be ready to reuse.



Final Words

So, now you know that a beehive abandoned by a colony is not totally useless. You have proper knowledge of what to do with an abandoned beehive. By inspecting it properly and taking necessary steps you can easily reuse it to catch a swarm or to use it for a new colony.

Whenever you are thinking to reuse old frames for new bees don’t forget to sterilize them properly. Without having proper knowledge you can’t be an expert in anything.

If you still require any help or got any questions don’t feel shy to comment below. Happy Apiary!

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