How to Clean Beekeeping Equipment

When’s the last time you cleaned your hive tool? Could it be…never? Here’s the thing: If you want to keep your bees healthy and strong, and that delicious honey flowing, you have to clean your tools and equipment. Otherwise, disease and pest will take over your hive, and then who will be left to make honey?

That’s not something you want to happen, right? Not after you dropped a good chunk of your paycheck on new beekeeping equipment. So we’re going to show you how to clean each piece of beekeeping equipment you own.

Safety First!
Always wear protective clothing such as safety goggles and rubber gloves when cleaning your equipment.

How to Clean a Bee Suit

You clean a bee suit the same way as your other clothes. The label may tell you to hand wash. But in most cases, you can toss the suit in your machine. We’d wash it in a separate load though. You don’t want to risk contaminating your other clothes with alarm pheromones!

Washing can be done with normal detergent. But it helps to add a small amount of washing soda to remove propolis from your suit. Be careful: Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is not the same as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Washing soda is the one with the higher pH level and the one you want to use.

It’s a good idea to wash your suit regularly. If you don’t, the buildup of venom and alarm pheromones on your suit will attract bees. And you probably want to avoid as many stings as possible!

How to Clean Beekeeping Gloves

Gloves should also be washed regularly, if not after every inspection. It’s much easier to clean them after every use. While wearing them, scrub them together with water and soap.

If you have leather gloves, you may find them difficult to clean. Besides, leather gloves turn hard and make maneuvering in them difficult. We suggest picking up a pair of nimble gloves that’s easier to clean. Dishwashing or disposable gloves are good options too.

How to Clean a Smoker, Hive Tool, and Queen Excluder

In a bucket, make a solution of 1 kg of washing soda to 5 L of warm water. You can add a dash of soap if you’d like, for added cleaning power. This is what you’re going to use to clean your smoker, hive tool, queen excluder, and other miscellaneous beekeeping tools.

Drop your tools into the solution, grab a metal dishwashing sponge for scrubbing, and start cleaning!

You can think of cleaning your smoker and hive tool like washing dishes. In other words, they should be cleaned after every use. You wouldn’t use a spoon, for instance, without having cleaned it between uses, right? Hopefully not! So make sure to clean your smoker and especially your hive tool between inspections.

To sterilize your various beekeeping tools, you can use household bleach. Studies show that low concentrations (0.05%) of sodium hypochlorite are sufficient to destroy American foulbrood spores. And household bleach contains anywhere from 3 to 6% sodium hypochlorite.

Submerge your cleaned tools into a solution of 1 part bleach to 5 parts water for 20 minutes, and then let them air dry.

How to Clean Frames and Boxes

The perfect time to clean your hive is right after the honey harvest. Cleaning your hive is much like cleaning your beekeeping tools, except you’re dealing with larger items.

Start by scraping off the wax, burr comb, and propolis from the frames and boxes using your hive tool, a flathead screwdriver, or knife – anything that will get the job done. Do this over some old newspaper so that you can gather everything to destroy by burning after you’re done.

Next, scrub everything clean with a washing soda solution. Again, this solution should be 1 kg of washing soda to 5 L of warm water. You can also use a boiler to do the job so you don’t have to scrub so much. You’d immerse the frames completely for 1 to 2 minutes in the boiling soda solution.

If you’re not going to boil your frames, you’re going to want to submerge them in a solution of 1 part bleach to 5 parts water to sterilize the frames. If you boil your frames, you can skip the bleach and simply let your frames air dry after cleaning.

Your boxes might be too big to fit inside the boiler. Instead, you can sterilize the boxes by soaking them in a bleach solution, making sure that every nook and cranny has been fully immersed into the solution.

Alternatively, you can sterilize the boxes using a blow torch. You’d heat the box until the wood turns a coffee-brown color, making sure to hit all the corners and edges. Don’t worry about accidentally burning the wood. This does happen.

How to Clean a Honey Extractor

After you’re done using the honey extractor, close the valve, leave it on an angle overnight, and let whatever’s sticking to the walls and floor flow towards the drain. The next morning you can drain the leftover into a jar, and then after that you can start cleaning your extractor.

All you need to do to clean your honey extractor is to rinse it out and dry. The easiest way to do this is to fill your extractor with cold water, leave it alone for the night, and then drain the water the next day. Rinse it out with some additional water and then wipe it dry with a clean rag or some paper towel. That’s it!

Clean As Can Bee

We don’t have to tell you how much of a bummer it is to lose your hive and a season or two of honey production. Now that you know how to clean your beekeeping equipment, you can practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of pest and disease, and keep this from happening!

Have Fun Out There!