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Outdoor Storage of Drawn Frames

A couple winters ago I lost a bunch of bees. In early Spring I cleaned out the boxes and frames, gave the remaining honey to the surviving colonies and stacked the boxes in my bee shed. When swarm season was well underway I raided the shed for equipment, only to find that wax moths had infested everything inside. Those frames were a mess - the bees' hard work was a meal for hundreds of little moth larvae. I ended up using most of those frames and the bees cleaned out some of them, but it was clear that the bees didn't like them.

I talked to some folks in Wooster the following March at the Tri County Workshop about how they prevent moth infestations in their drawn frames and got lots of advice - sealing them in plastic with moth crystals, spraying them down with concentrated acetic acid, storing them in the freezer (not an option for 100+ frames). I am sure all of these methods would work, but they weren't for me.

My dad and I had been talking about this problem and wondered if storing the frames outside would be a good idea. Wax moths don't like the sunlight, so if we had a way to keep them in the sun but otherwise out of the elements, it might be a good way to keep the frames pest free. We came up with the idea of a covered frame rack for storage of drawn frames outdoors. The prototype has worked well - there have never been wax moths in any of the frames we have stored in our racks.

Building a frame rack is pretty easy and doesn't require a lot of materials. I recently built one out of the following:

6 - 2x4x8 studs

8 - 1/4" x 2-1/2" lag bolts

Construction or drywall screws

1 - 4' x 8' greenhouse panel

The total cost was about $60, $42 of which was the greenhouse panel. You could save money and use anything for the top as long as it keeps water out and lets light through. You can get used storm door glass panels at the Habitat ReStore for cheap, for instance. Adjust the length of the rack to accommodate whatever you have for the top.

2x4 Cut list (for an 8' long frame rack, which holds 120 frames):

3 - 93" (adjust this length based on the length of your top - take the length of your top and subtract 3")

2 - 41-1/4"

4 - 36", cut at 15 degree angle at both ends (for legs)

Cutting the frame rests

This rack holds two rows of frames. The frames sit on frame rests cut into the long 2x4's, just like they sit in the hive boxes. We need to cut one frame rest into each of the side rails and two on the center rail. Cut the rabbets/rests 3/8" deep from the wide side of the 2x4 and 5/8" deep from the short side. I use the table saw to do this but you could also use a router with a rabbeting bit or some jointers can cut rabbets. When they are cut they should look like this:


Find the center of both the end pieces (41-1/4" pieces) and the center of the middle rail and mark them. Attach the end pieces across the ends of the three rails with construction screws, drywall screws or nails, lining up the marks you made on the center and end rails to make sure the centered rail is, well, centered.

Move the rack to its intended location (it's awkward to carry once the legs are on). Attach the legs to your rack by pre-drilling holes in the leg pieces and screwing in lag bolts. I did mine on the inside; you lose space for four frames but the tops of the legs are protected from the elements.

Load the rack with your frames and put the cover on.

Some tips

- Put some kind of 1/2" spacers between the rails and the top. Bees will come and clean out the frames, and for some reason they like to exit through the top. Give them a way out or they may roast on a sunny day. This also will prevent this rack from melting your wax, but I've never had this in direct sun, so it hasn't happened to me.

- If there is any honey in the frames, bees will find them. Take precautions against robbing, such as not locating this right next to your hives.

- Make sure the put something heavy on the top so it doesn't fly away!

Here are some pics of a frame rack all loaded up:

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