Your bees are ready for winter.
Now that they're all set, you can start thinking about how to store your leftover frames & foundations.
Consider this: a single frame full of beeswax takes about 102,000 bee-hours to build.
With this in mind, it's easy to see how drawn beeswax is one of a beekeeper's biggest assets.
You'll need to protect the beeswax on your frames and foundations from both mice and wax moths throughout the winter.
By taking some of the following steps in this article, you can lower the likelihood of any damage that they may cause.
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Dry Your Frames
If you have drawn comb that needs to be stored, it's likely because you were able to yield some honey this year.
Honey extractors are fantastic, but they can only get so much of the honey out of the cells.
The rest will have to be done by your resourceful bees.
Simply place your frames and foundations outside so that your girls can find the honey and clean the frames. It's best to stand the frames up vertically or even hang them in an open box like the one below so the bees can easily reach both sides.
Drying your frames may also attract some bald hornets and yellow jackets to the frames too. That being the case, you'll want to put the frames at least 100 yards away from your house and away from your beehives. You wouldn't want them finding your hives and going there after the frames you put outside are cleaned.
Once your frames are cleaned of honey. It's time to make sure they are cleaned of pests.
Freeze Your Frames
There's no better way to ensure that your frames are bug-free than to freeze them.
To do this, you'll want to take your dry frames and put them into a large kitchen bag. This way, if there are any pests in the cells, they won't fall onto your Stouffers lasagna boxes.
Alternatively, if you have an empty deep freezer in your garage, you can place them in there. Shown in the picture below.
If your freezer is set to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below, you can place the frames in there for 5 hours.
For faster results, you can set your freezer down to 5 degrees or below and it'll only take 2 hours.
Now that you've cleaned and frozen your frames, there are a few routes you can go from here.
In the rest of the article, we'll talk about the 4 methods that most beekeepers use to protect their equipment.
The method you choose will come down to preference, the amount of space you have, whether you have indoor or outdoor storage available, and a few other factors.
Nothing gets in, nothing gets out.
Using an air tight method completely seals off your frames and foundations from the rest of the world.
You can either bag your frames or put them in a large plastic tote to store them.
It is not a requirement to vacuum seal the bags, but it does ensure that they will stay completely air tight.
Do not use a trash bag. Wax moths have a tendency of finding holes (or even making them) to crawl through. Remember wax moths can chew/digest plastic.
If you choose to use a large plastic tote, make sure to buy some duct tape as well. You'll want to tape off any holes in the tote. You'll also use the tape to seal the gap between the lid and bin. This will make sure nothing can slip through between the cracks.
This method should be done immediately after you pull your frames from the freezer. Wax moths can be incredibly quick to infest.Who Should Use This Method?
This is one of the most reliable ways to keep moths and mice away from your frames.
However, the Air Tight method can be a bit pricier than some of the other methods. At least while starting out.
This method is for the beekeeper who doesn't mind paying a little extra for the peace of mind that this method can bring.
It certainly can help if you already have a Vacuum Sealer or plastic storage totes. The cost will go down dramatically.
Also, if you don't have much space inside your house, shed, basement, or garage, these storage containers can be placed outside. Since they're air tight pests and critters won't be drawn to them.
It may be counter-intuitive, but your frames would be safe by keeping them outside in the sunlight.
Wax moths, small hive beetles, and mice are all attracted to the darkness that the inside of your beehive provides.
Without the darkness, your frames lose their luster.
No, that doesn't mean just throwing them in the backyard and calling it a day.
Instead, you should hang the frames on a rack like the one in the video below.
Space the frames about an inch or two apart so that air and sunlight can protect your frames.
If you've already frozen and dried them, they should be good to go when springtime rolls around.Who Should Use This Method?
This method is perfect for the DIY-minded person.
Initially, it can take some time, effort, and scrap wood, but once you have the rack made, it'll last for years.
Because the rack can be placed outside, it is great for people who don't have much space in your house, garage, shed, or basement.
Here are detailed plans to make build a rack that can hold about 100 frames.
Criss Cross Stacking
Much like the Open Air Method, you'll use sunlight to prevent moths & mice.
This involves sitting a bee box on a stand so that it is not directly on the ground.
Next, you'll start to stack your other bee boxes on top of the first. While you stack, turn each box 90 degrees.
This allows some amount of air and sunlight to be able to pass through the hive.Who Should Use This Method?
This method is not 100% guaranteed to work, although many beekeepers swear by it.
It is easy to do and takes nothing more than your boxes and something to sit them on.
One difference between this method and the next stacked method is that this one is a chemical-free option.
This is an indoor storage system. If you did this outside, you might end up with mildew because it doesn't provide enough light to prevent it.
The occasional mouse may come by to scavenge as well, but because there's not really a secure place for it to live, it will leave soon. You may want to place a mousetrap or two around these boxes.
Stacked and Sealed
Like the Criss Cross Stacking method, this one also involves stacking your bee boxes.
The first step is to get the boxes of frames off the ground. To do so, you'll sandwich them between two telescoping top covers.
Flip one top cover over so that the metal side is touching the ground. Then stack your boxes so that they are sitting within its lips.
Next, you'll take p-Dichlorobenzene and pour some of the crystals on a plate. Place a plate of crystals on top of every 3rd box in the stack.
Be sure to follow the instructions on the label that comes with it.
Once your boxes are stacked and the crystals are placed, you can put the other top cover on top.
Some beekeepers will put a trash bag underneath the top cover so that it prevents the fumes from escaping. This is not a necessary step because the fumes are heavier than air and will sink down instead of up and out of the hive.
Lastly, tape around the gaps between the boxes so the fumes from the crystals won't leak out quickly through the sides.
Be sure to use p-Dichlorobenzene! Not moth balls! Moth balls do not have the same active ingredient.
Moth balls are not approved for beehives and have a chemical that is known to be absorbed by beeswax.
With the Stacked and Sealed Method, you'll need to let your bee boxes air out before using them in the spring.
To do so, take the plate of crystals out a couple of months before you plan on adding on your boxes.Who Should Use This Method?
This option is for indoor use and doesn't take up much space.
It does use chemicals, however, over the decades p-Dichlorobenzene has been proven to be safe on bees.
It is relatively inexpensive and a little chemical can go a long way. If you don't own an extra telescoping top cover, you may need to purchase some.
Beeswax is prime real estate for wax moths and mice during winter.
That's why figuring out what to do with your frames and foundations is such an important decision.
In this article, we went over the 4 methods that most beekeepers use to protect their equipment. The method you choose will be up to your preferences and resources.
- Air Tight - Doesn't take much space, can be indoor or outdoor, has a high rate of success, but is a bit expensive
- Open Air - Takes a DIY-minded person to do, can cost a little bit to start up, but will last for years to come
- Criss Cross Stacking - This is the least expensive method out there. Many beekeepers have had success with it, but is not guaranteed
- Stacked and Sealed - Uses a chemical, however, has been proven to be a successful method over the decades. Very inexpensive to do
One of these methods are bound to work for you.
I'd recommend trying a couple of them your first year to test them out.
Keep On Beekeeping On!
Continue Your Bee Journey!
The following articles could be very helpful in taking your next steps.
Recommended First Hives
If you haven't yet purchased your first hive, we recommend one of our Starter Hive Kits. Each kit comes with all the essential parts of a beehive and the accessories you'll need for your first few years of beekeeping. We consider them "Nuc Ready" which means they come with 5 frames and are ready for the 5 that you buy when you purchase a 5-Frame Nuc of bees.