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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Clean Hive Tool Makes for Healthy Bees

Jennifer's hive tool at the Queenery was an inspiration.  As she walks toward us, she is cleaning this already pristine hive tool.

I have recently read that a USDA survey showed that 30% of honey packed by beekeepers had spores for AFB in it and that 100% of commercial-packed honey had spores for AFB.  One simple way to address contaminating hives is to clean your hive tool between hives.  Jennifer is using a wipe in the picture above.  I've also read that the hive tool can be heat cleaned between hives.

In shame and embarrassment, I present the before picture of my hive tool below.  It is gunked with propolis and other debris.  And I pick it up and casually use it moving from one hive to the next without thought.  No more will I be behaving in such an irresponsible way.

You can see the soapy water below the gunky tool.  Today I gave all of my hive tools a good washing and then went after each of them with the brass bristled brush.

I've pulled some Clorox wipes to take on the Blue Heron hive inspection tomorrow (we want to teach these new beekeepers how to do it better than I've been doing it.).

The hive tool on the right is five years old.  The one on the left is a little over a year old (Brushy Mountain gave those away in 2008 or 2009, I believe).  The one in the middle I don't really like and have only used once or twice, so it was a picnic to clean!

So I'm ready to stop potentially spreading disease and get down to healthy beekeeper practices.

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  1. Anonymous7:00 PM

    I have the same kinds and I like the one in middle the best.

  2. Just wondered why Anonymous likes the one in the middle best? I've never used one like it, but the blade edge on the side seems like it would be easy to use in my hand, like having a jack-knife to shave away at hard stuff. - I'm a second year beekeeper so figure that into my comment :) Thanks for the great blog!

  3. The middle tool's best part is the hook end. It's designed to catch under the edge of a frame and when you rotate the tool back it lifts the frame.
    We were taught in class to put our tool into the smoker when it's burning with flames to sterilize the tool between bee yards.

  4. I know that heating the hive tool will sterilize it, but since I want my smoker to continue smoking and not need to stoke it between each hive, I am hoping that Clorox wipes will be a good alternative. I didn't ask Jennifer what kind of wipes she was using, but it looked like something similar to the Clorox wipe.

  5. You did a good job getting them cleaned up and now you know to keep them that way :)

  6. See, I learned something new again from you. Although I've been washing my hive tool after I use it I wasn't cleaning it between hives. Now I will. It makes sense that it could spread disease. Thanks for the great information.

  7. Anonymous5:03 PM

    Have you ever thought about getting a few hive tools and having one for each yard to help even cut back even more? It's something I see recommended pretty frequently.

  8. I have one of the tools in the middle and use it exclusively. As Barbara says that hook on the end is great for lifting frames and that two side edge lets me scrape from whatever angle I happen to be coming from. I have one like the one on the left that new beeks always get and it is still brand new. I have used it to scape the other one clean, which I ALWAYS wash at the end of the day just because I like em clean and shiny when they go in the tool bucket. I have not been cleaning between each hive though. That would be tough as much as I move around between hives. Maybe rotate between two, work one while the other one soaks in a can of solution??

  9. I took Clorox wipes out in the bee yard with me today but found that propolis doesn't respond to Clorox wipes, so I simply changed hive tools between hives, but if I'm looking at more than three hives, I'm up the creek.....I'll need to figure out another way to clean between hives that is fast, effective and efficient.

  10. I've heard that you should consider all hives in one yard as susceptible to the same disease and parasites because when the nectar flow is high the bees will often float to a neighboring hives thus bringing in either disease or parasite. I use the method of one hive tool exclusively per yard with success. I also bring a small propane torch with me to the hives for relighting the smoker and that could be used to heat sanitize between yards.

  11. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Rubbing alcohol is great for cleaning the sticky off your hands and a hive tool, especially if the hive tool is heated in the smoker first, but the alcohol won't kill the AFB spores and I'm not sure a quick wipe with Clorox will either. I've always heard open flame is the only sure way to kill AFB spores.

  12. Anonymous8:53 PM

    Throw all the hive tools in a plastic bucket; add a splash of the outdoor 'Bleach'. Add about one inch of water; twenty-four hours later, the propolis seems to 'saponify' and comes off with a soap-like texture, very easily. The Bleach has lye in it, usually, and that ingredient is listed at the 'Clorox' website; anyway, it is really easy to do this; I have on stainless steel tool and one painted tool; the paint survived the bleach-soak beautifully .. but your mileage may vary. I always enjoy your website, Linda.


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