One of our top 10 calls we receive in our call center is “I lost my bees again and I do not know why”? One simple solution may be changing out the frames and foundation, toxic free foundation is essential to having a healthy hive. There are two categories for frames and foundation within the hive.
The first classification is year-around frames and foundation that are found in the brood box (deep super) and the medium super for the winter feeding of the colony. In the colder regions there may be a deep super or two medium supers that feed the colony during the long winter months.
The second classification is the honey supers which can come in all three sizes (deep, medium, and shallow). These frames and foundation are only used, no more then 4 months, out of the year and then stored in a dry room til the following year. With less time on the hive, the foundation toxicity is greatly reduced.
Now let’s take a look at the year around frames and foundation. Frames and foundation see a lot of bee traffic during an average season with the worker bees storing pollen and nectar in these foundation cells. The bees also deposit propolis around the frame. When honey bees forage for nectar and pollen they can come across traces of poisonous man-made chemicals. These traces will not kill the honey bee as they transport the honey or pollen back to the hive. Traces of chemicals then are tracked back into the hive and are now present on the comb. After a period of time, 5 years, the chemical traces now become a toxic environment within the hive.
A good rule is to begin replacing frames and foundation at year 4 and only replace half of the frames. You will want to checker board these frames. Checker boarding means to replace every other frame. This way the colony will not be stressed in having all frames in the super to comb out with new wax. It is important to note that it is suggested that you feed your bees a 1:1 sugar water ratio when exchanging out the frames and foundation. This sugar water ratio will assist the colony in making more wax to comb out the new foundation.
Once the first round of foundation has been combed out, you can go back into the hive and replace the remaining old frames and foundation. Then start the process all over again.
Now, let’s talk about the honey supers that are only used 3 or 4 months out of the year. These supers do not see the bee traffic that year around super’s experience. Honey super frames and foundation will only need to be exchanged out every 10 years due to reduced colony traffic on the foundation.
Here are some helpful tips on managing the frames and foundation.
1. Write the year on the top bar of the frame with a Sharpie pen.
2. Do not change out all frames and foundation at the same time.
3. If the wax has become a deep black color, then replace it.
Keep you bees THRIVING and not just surviving with frame and foundation change outs every 5 years.
Lastly, if your hive has experienced a complete die-off, due to chemicals, you have no choice but to replace all frames and foundation before installing a new colony of honey bees.