Rendering down moldy frames in spring

Spring seems to have arrived early all of a sudden. It’s mid-February and we’ve gone from normal grey, rainy weather directly onto bright, 11-16°C beautiful spring weather. I am carefully sowing frost resistant crops and getting soils ready for planting. I’ve also done the first hive-check of 2019.

DSCN1495

Normally in my area, we don’t open hives before the first sunny day in March. Because I knew I reduced the space my bees have in their hives before winter I didn’t want to wait until then to check on them. I have Carniolan bees, and these are known for their strong, fast build-up in spring. I really want to avoid them swarming early because of the weather.
My three hives all had some moldy frames that were empty or not being used. I replaced these with clean frames with new wax foundation. I also removed the dummy frames. I didn’t disturb the brood nests, as I wasn’t sure the temperature was high enough for it. I’m keeping their insulation on for now.

Dummy frames
Dummy frames

As you can see by the way my dummy frames were made, I use hives with metal frame separators instead of the Hoffmann-type frames that are commonly used in other parts of the world. The more propolis my bees use, the more I want to rip these things out and switch to the Hoffmann-type.

I noticed the bees were bringing in lots of pollen and even had fresh nectar in the comb. This is quite unusual this time of year. The weather is absolutely spectacular! Most of the pollen and nectar coming in are from hazelnut, willow and ash trees&shrubs.

Removing the moldy frames provided me with a new project; melting down the wax! I took one older, fully built frame, two half-built frames with lots of white, green and yellow mold, plus a bit of propolis on the comb (queens don’t lay eggs in propolized comb), and three almost completely unused wax foundation frames. That’s not a lot, rendered down it only gave me 350g, but I don’t know a better way of sanitizing and preserving wax than melting it down. I don’t have the proper equipment yet to filter dirt out. Because I’m not using the wax directly I can wait until I have more. Most of the dirt will settle on the underside of the wax when it solidifies. You can cut away the bottom layer, or scratch the dirt off.

I’m probably too eager to get rid of some frames, I had my doubts about removing the half-built frames. They only have a small amount of propolis on the comb. If the bees expand, they’ll probably get rid of the mold on their own. However, it is spring and soon there will be more and more young bees able to build new wax. So maybe it’s better long term to just give them fresh foundation now.
It is best to make sure you don’t keep frames in circulation longer than three years. Comb gets very dirty and can harbor pathogens that can lead to brood diseases. The wax I have is quite dirty. When I have a large enough amount, I’ll use this wax to make candles. I don’t consider it good enough to use it on anything that will be in contact with food or in cosmetics. For those purposes I’d use wax from cappings or wax from honey frames that never had any brood in them.

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