OK to use equipment from a dead hive?
Help! I had a weak colony given to me last year, inspected them yesterday and found them dead and gone... I am not planning on giving up... I will order a package but can I use the same frames? Or is this a bad idea?
In most cases it's fine to reuse equipment from a colony that died out. I've done that many times over the years. (Which means I've had colonies die on me, too. It happens.)
But before you reuse the equipment, you need to be sure of why the bees died. Or at the very least, you need to be able to rule out your bees having died from American foulbrood.
Amerioan foulbrood is the worst of bee diseases, and it can be spread by contaminated equipment. In fact, it's usually recommended that hives infected with AFB be destroyed by burning.
(Bees can also be infected with AFB by feeding them contaminated honey, which is why you should never feed honey to your bees unless you're sure of the source, and know that it's safe.)
Here's a link that provides more detailed information about American foulbrood. And here's a link that provides contact info for states' bee inspector offices.
AFB can be difficult to diagnose, so you might want to see if you can get an experienced beekeeper or state bee inspector to help you.
Most likely your hive did NOT have AFB, but it needs to be ruled out as a possibility. With AFB eliminated as the cause of the colony's demise, there shouldn't be any problem with reusing your equipment.
Before adding your new bees to the hive, clean out any dead bees and debris that may be remaining in the hive.
If there's a lot of wax worm damage to your combs, you should probably replace the comb with foundation. If there's just a little damage to the combs, the bees will clean them up and repair them with amazing efficiency.
Sorry you lost your bees, but I'm glad you're staying with it. Hope you have better luck with your next hive!
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