Thursday, May 30, 2013


I discovered a couple of days ago that my city bee hive had died out. Not good news these days.  I had checked on it a couple of weeks ago, but had not opened it yet as it was well set up over the winter.  I thought I had substantial comings and goings of field bees this spring but when I checked on things early this week, it was bad news. To top it off, wax moths had eagerly infested the valuable non-foundation drawn comb frames.  The horror!

I am not a fan of the use of chemicals, and my freezer is packed full.  Normally one would put the frames in the deep freeze for a few days to kill the bugs off. So, I thought I didn't have a solution for this other than to let the frames and comb perish. It struck me like a bolt from the blue, a free association from another bit of homesteading skills.  Why not fumigate with dry ice?

Now that I have googled it, I find that this is not an uncommon solution. But, the idea came into my own head as a result of the grain storage learning I have.  If you want to store whole grains for months without insect damage, store them in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and a chunk of dry ice.  When the ice melts into pure Carbon Dioxide gas, it displaces the oxygenated atmosphere and suffocates the pests in the grain. Huzzah!

The process is ongoing, even as I write.  The larvae are exiting the comb and dropping to the bottom of the clear plastic tote I have the CO2 fumigant in.  It is taking quite a bit longer than I imagined for the larvae to perish.  They must have very well oxygenated bodies, or a very low metabolism.  A few ants inside the box dropped within 15 minutes of sealing the lid on.  The sweet part is that CO2 is not a haz-mat.  It can displace the air you breathe, so it should be used with caution and not in an enclosed space.  Never touch any part of the dry ice with your bare skin.

Very simple setup;  infested wax frames, large plastic tote with tight lid (or some sheet of plastic big enough to seal as a lid), packing tape, dry ice (handled with gloves only).
Tape for the lid.

Put the frames in the tote, put the dry ice in, seal with tape, except for a small corner to let pressure out of the tote. The dry ice melts and turns directly to gas (sublimation) and displaces the atmospheric air.  Voila!  I plan on keeping it sealed overnight so I can be sure to get the larvae.  I am not sure what happens to the eggs or pupae as they appear to be in stasis somewhat.  But, we will see.
A bag of dry ice from the grocery store. Wear gloves.

I can put this comb directly into strong hives and the worker bees will clean up the mess.  Wax comb creation is a tremendous effort for the bees, so to cut their work short by giving them instant comb is a great idea.

Frames and Dry Ice packed in clear tote.

I must admit it is with wry pleasure that I watch these little maggot like larvae drop to the bottom of my tote!

I think the part that I am happiest about, was that I had divine inspiration all on my own on this one.  I connected the dots of past learning.  I realize that it is the victory of hundreds whom have already had this original idea before, and wrote about it on the Internet.  But, I did this without google.  What if there was no google.  As my dad always says "Learn everything you can, about anything you can.  You never know when something will serve you."  This is, in fact, sublime.