Preventing spread of American foulbrood disease

Page last updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2022 - 2:39pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Wax dipping

If hive components are not thoroughly cleaned before wax dipping, the wax quickly becomes soiled and contaminated with paint and debris, shortening its useful life.

The boxes should be dipped in a mixture of 50% micro-crystalline wax and 50%  paraffin wax. The equipment must be submerged in the molten wax for a minimum of 10 minutes at 160°C to kill the spores. Use a timer and thermometer to ensure that decontamination is effective.

Wax heated above 150°C can cause severe burns to exposed skin. However, wax under 160°C results in ineffective decontamination. Lower temperatures also result in more surface wax retained by the timber which subsequently decreases the holding power of any paint later applied to the timber surface.

Do not overheat the wax as it will give a highly flammable vapour above 175°C and reaches flashpoint at about 230°C. Boxes to be dipped must be dry, as moisture will cause the molten wax to froth and boil over the vat.

Identify the paraffin and crystalline wax so that  it will not be mistaken for beeswax when the wax dipping unit is not in use.

Draining boxes

Remove the boxes from the molten  paraffin and allow them to cool for one to two minutes. As soon as the excess paraffin on the surface of the box has been absorbed by the timber and the box is ‘dry’, but still hot, it can be painted inside and out with an acrylic paint or sealer. Painting the inside of the box is not necessary but it can  help to keep  the boxes free from burr-comb. Boxes should not touch each other while drying.

Wax dipping vat

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a wax dipping vat. In cool weather it is advisable to dry and warm the boxes in a warm room as this will help to reduce frothing from moisture retained in the timber and assist in maintaining the temperature of the wax during dipping.

Dispose of any debris in the bottom of the vat so bees do not have access to the wax residue. Wax dipping vats may be available for hire from beekeeping equipment suppliers.

Storage of clean boxes

Identify all boxes with the date they were wax dipped or irradiated. This will prove helpful in the future should any outbreaks of disease be found elsewhere in the apiary.


Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080