Used Beekeeping Equipment
Starting a journey into beekeeping is an exciting time. Lots to learn and buy. New beekeeping supplies are rather expensive so it seems like a good deal to get some “almost new beehives”. Is buying used beekeeping equipment a good idea? Well, you may get lucky but used equipment always involves some risk.
Getting started in beekeeper requires an outlay of some money. This makes used beekeeping equipment very enticing to new beekeepers.
Seriously, who doesn’t want to save money. And seeing an advertisement that says, “used beehives for sale is tempting”.
We can’t blame anyone for wanting to save money where they can. But is this a good deal? Buying used equipment can be a great opportunity or a nightmare failure.
The Risks of Old Beehives and Comb
Beekeeping is not a low cost endeavor- whether you are buying your first hive or your 50th.
Hundreds or thousands of dollars can be spent on bees, tools, beekeeping suits and hive components.
This is a huge startup cost for the first year beekeeper who needs everything. Especially costly, is the recommendation that new beekeepers should start with 2 beehives.
Thus, you face the temptation to buy used bee hives that someone no longer wants. This happens more often that you may think.
There are many reasons that old hives may be for sale. Beekeeping is work. Some folks decide they don’t like it as much as they thought in the beginning.
Perhaps their hives required more time than they have to give at the time in their lives. These issues don’t affect you as the buyer of used equipment. But there are other issues that may spell trouble for the purchaser.
Used Bee Hives Can Have Disease
An element of risk is involved when you buy complete hives with bees or empty used equipment.
The hives can spread diseases – some of them deadly to your bees. No one wants to doom a new colony to a horrible end because of the box chosen for their home.
Another thing to consider, if you receive a bee box that is infected , you are not only putting your new bees in danger. The problem can spread to any bee hives within flying range.
When a bee colony becomes sick, it can spread the disease to other nearby colonies. This happens because of honey bee robbing and when foragers drift from hive to hive.
Learn everything you can about honey bee diseases as this will help you make better decisions in all facets of beekeeping.
Used Honeycomb Is the Biggest Risk
Some beekeeping supplies can be washed or cleaned with a bleach solution to reduce the risks involved – beekeeping suits, hive tools, smokers etc.
But, many bee pathogens can not be seen with the naked eye. Everything looks just fine – but is it?
The most common disease feared by beekeepers is American Foul Brood. This is a bacterial disease that kills brood (young bees) usually after they are capped.
AFB is so contagious it can take down entire apiaries. There is no cure for a colony with AFB. Beekeepers have used treatments to suppress AFB but it does not eliminate the problem.
In some states, the beekeeper is required to burn infected hives (bees, equipment and all).
The biggest problem with AFB is what it leaves behind. The bacterial disease leaves behind spores.
Foul brood spores can survive in equipment for 50 years. They await the right conditions to develop into active AFB.
In larger cities, you may find a bee club with a special fumigation tank that can sanitize used beekeeping equipment properly. This is not normally an option for the small scale beekeeper.
Cleaning Old Bee Boxes
Aside from serious disease like AFB, there are things you can do to remove pests, eggs or debris from a used hive box.
There are several methods for cleaning used equipment, some processes are easier than others . Again, this will not stop disease but may help with hive pests such as wax moths, etc.
Used Beekeeping Tools to Re-Use
Beekeeping tools are often handed down from generation to generation. This is an okay practice, as long as, you clean them before use.
Bee smokers and hive tools should pose a minimal risk if cleaned properly. Remove any wax, propolis or other residues.
I scorch all metal surfaces with a blow torch and then dip item in a mixture of Chlorox and water. No guarantees that the chlorox works – it just makes me feel better.
If the item is small enough, you can place in a freezer for a few days to kill any wax moth eggs you can’t see.
Used Beekeeping Suits & Veils
Recycling used beekeeper protective clothing should pose no problem. Make sure they are properly laundered before use.
I personally would not take a chance with gloves but if they are leather, you could sanitize them.
Finding Old Bee Hives for Sale
Let’s consider this for just a moment. When I say old bee hives, I am referring to hives that are still in good structural shape – they may have been empty for a couple of years.
Take a pass on very old equipment and supplies. The chance of disease and other problems is just too great.
New Beekeepers Decide to Quit
Sadly, many new beekeepers fail to have a good experience with their hives. All beekeepers are subject to having colonies die.
And, new beekeepers are especially at risk of colony failure. Even with the best preparation we can not completely control nature – things happen.
Also, some people get into beekeeping with no idea of the work involved. Perhaps they just don’t have the time right now to devote to the raising bees.
Everyone has some failures in beekeeping. You will be exhausted quickly without a passion for beekeeping.
Upon failure of a bee colony, some beekeepers decide that beekeeping is just not right for them as this time.
You many find used bee equipment for sale that looks almost new. The advantage for you is that the newer equipment is usually in good condition.
Older Beekeepers Retire
Another situation that arises is beekeeping supplies available due to the retirement of another beekeeper.
Perhaps, an older beekeeper in your area has decided to quit. He or she may want to pass the hives on to someone else with a passion for bees.
If the retiring beekeeper is knowledgeable and able to recognize disease problems you are in luck. Perhaps you can obtain a bit of history of the equipment.
Common Used Beekeeping Supplies
The most common type of used beekeeping equipment found for sale is wooden ware-the actual parts of a bee hive: Bottom Boards, supers, frames, inner covers and outer covers.
Unless you have 100% faith in the knowledge of the seller, do not buy used frames or comb.
Frames are not expensive. They experience stresses in the hive as we pry them out of the boxes. This wear and tear makes joints become loose over time and can cause a big mess.
What to do with old used frames? Toss them on the fire. They are difficult to clean, inexpensive to replace and too dangerous to bother with.
Is Comb From A Used Beehive Safe?
No. Again, I must emphasize that old used comb is a danger. Beeswax can harbor many bee pathogens.
Honeycomb (beeswax) serves as the liver of the hive. It absorbs many types of substances in the hive. There is no safe way to sanitize honeycomb available to the average beekeeper.
Only purchase used beekeeping supplies and equipment if you know something of its origin.
Keep your eyes open in your region, you may find some good quality clean used bee supplies for sale. If everything looks good, it may be worth the risk to purchase it.