When we started keeping bees, questions came in two forms. "Do you sell honey?" and "Do you want my old equipment?" The first question was much easier to answer. "Yes, when we have surplus, we will sell." The second requires more consideration.
When people decide to stop keeping bees, they don't know what to do with all of their supplies. Since beekeeping can have some expense involved, it is natural to want to share the resources.
It can be a good thing to get used equipment from beekeepers who are ending their operation. However there are also some things to keep in mind.
What do you know about the type of beekeeper they have been. Is this compatible with your apiary?
Did they use chemical pest treatments?
Did they monitor regularly for Varroa mites and wax moths?
Did they have an infestation of hive beetles?
Did they have foul brood?
Some of these diseases, pests and viruses can live in an empty hive long past the active colony. You do not want to bring problems into your operation. Any equipment where a colony has been infested with foul brood is required to be destroyed.
In addition you need to know the rules in your locale. Notification is required in Illinois to move used equipment and bees from county to county. An inspection may be required. Check with your state's Department of Agriculture for the rules that apply.
You do have some options for used equipment, so don't automatically turn down the offer. Smokers, protective clothing and hive tools are easily cleaned and reused. But what about the rest of it?
After a thorough cleaning, sanding and refinishing, old hive boxes make spectacular decor. This CD rack is fashioned from shallow comb super boxes.
A combination of brood boxes and Illinois deep supers come together in a rustic bookcase.
If the boxes are not sturdy enough for bookcases, consider breaking down the boxes and fashioning other objects. These decorative wine bars were created from wood salvaged out of old supers.
Note that reusing your own equipment does not carry the same concerns listed above. In fact, using pulled comb from your own hives is a method of recycling that is a perfectly acceptable part of routine management of honeybee colonies. Bees will clean up and reuse the drawn comb. As long as you have not had significant pest infestations you can reuse frames of drawn comb for a few years. Do freeze the frames and boxes in between uses for at least 24 hours. This will kill any hive beetles or wax moths that may have taken up residence. .Replace when the comb turns dark.
The advantage to using drawn comb in hives is the bees do not have to spend time and energy maxing wax. In the honey supers they can focus on storing nectar and making honey. In the brood boxes energy is spent on foraging and raising brood.
Consider all of your options when someone offers you used beekeeping supplies. What other creative uses can you think of?