Are you like most beekeepers and accumulating more equipment by the season? Now how do you store it in the off season? Over the years we have come up with a system that works for us, and as usual, there is a multitude of ways to store your summer equipment in the off season.
This time of year, we are finishing up our honey extractions in the northeast, treating for mites, combining weak colonies and assessing our winter plan. But as this happens we are often reducing the size of our colonies. So what do you do with your extra equipment to protect it from mice, wax moths, hive beetles and other pests! At Beez' Apiary - we try and store as much outdoors as possible just for space purposes. As we remove our honey supers and combine a few colonies, we store out supers, extra brood boxes, bottom boards, inner and outer covers, hive tools, queen exluders etc., in a large storage bin outdoors or in our tin shed. This also allows us to come out in late winter early spring and clean up our old equipment, maybe give a quick sand and paint job if need be and have access to our equipment where we can spread out. HOWEVER we store all of our beekeeping clothing and protective gear indoors as well as all of our FRAMES!
(For more on double purposing your honey supers as quilt boxes, see the post on quilt boxes).
As we extract honey for the season, we like to then put our frames out near the hives for an open feed. We also use the trick to put an empty super over your inner cover but under you outer cover for the bees to clean up for about two days, and then remove completely. This method can be useful during robbing season if you want to avoid drawing wasps and robber bees to your apiary area. Using these methods to clean your frames is truly the BEST way to get a nice, dry clean frame while keeping all of your drawn comb in tact for the following season. After this, I bring my frames into the Beez' Lab and use my freezer to freeze the frames for 24 hours to kill any eggs from wax moths, beetles etc. Once my frames are frozen for a day, I remove from freezer and store directly into my air tight storage bins. I like to use the ones on wheels so I can move around my workspace easily throughout the winter.
This time of year is also great for taking a full inventory of what you have on hand in terms of equipment and tools. I like to assess how many frames and supers/brood boxes I have in each size. This way when spring arrives I can have an idea of what I may or may not need. Not to mention in the off season, if I need to grab a few things I can check out some holiday sale items!
I keep my storage scenario pretty simple, however many beekeepers opt for using moth balls in their equipment when not in use, hanging their frames in open air with space and light between to avoid a wax moth inhabitation, stacking outdoors in freezing winter and closing all entrances to avoid mice infestation and many other tricks of the trade. I found the method that works for me works because until you get super cold temps, your equipment is very vulnerable if you do not have a colony of bees to attend to the equipment . I want to avoid attracting pests to my apiary area as much as possible.