How to Pick the Right Frames and Foundation
Posted on February 3, 2016
One of the main components of the beehive is the frames and foundation where lots of activity occurs. For new beekeepers, there is often much confusion about the varieties of frames, which foundation to use and why one is used instead of another. The decision of which type to use essentially comes down to one basic idea: “How much time and work do you want to put into building the frames and foundation?”
In this post, we will review the pros and cons that pertain to the variety of frames and foundations available to you.
Pierco Frames and Foundation
Plastic frames and foundation combined - come in both black and white. Many beekeepers use the black for their brood chamber because it makes it easier to see white larva on the black frame, and white for honey supers because it is easy to remember that white is not to be treated with medications commonly used in the brood chamber.
Pros: Easy to use, no construction required, durable, can use different colors for the brood (black) and honey frames (white), no damage to frames when extracting.
Cons: Possibly not as well accepted by bees and not as aesthetically pleasing for beekeepers who want a more natural beehive.
Plastic foundation with wooden (grooved*) frames – use pre-waxed plastic foundation to assemble with wooden frames.
Pros: Durable and long-lasting, will withstand extracting well.
Cons: Assembly of frames is time-consuming.
Duragilt (No longer produced)
A plastic base sheet bonded with beeswax foundation and metal edges.
Pros: Saves labor, easy to use, metal edges reinforce and strengthen foundation, deep worker-sized cell imprints, beeswax bonded to a plastic inner sheet, precision milled, no additional cross wires needed, communication holes for bees, used with grooved or wedge top bar frames.
Cons:No longer in production so may be hard (impossible) to find. Requires wooden frame assembly, reports that bees chew up the wax coating and do not build out on the bare plastic once the wax is removed.
Wired Wax Foundation
100% Beeswax. Use with wooden (wedged*) top bars. The wires run vertically and are supported on the top bar by L-shaped wire that is secured with the wedge from the frame.
Pros: Bees take to the 100% beeswax most naturally and start building out comb quickly
Cons: Requires wooden frame assembly, and horizontal cross-wiring is recommended. This is time consuming and requires special tools and equipment. Also, the beeswax is fragile and requires careful handling at appropriate temperatures.
*The difference between wedged and grooved frames is that the wedged have a pre-cut and removable piece of wood on the top bar of the frame. This wedged piece is meant to be removed and then nailed back into place to assist in holding the wired foundation in place.
There is more to beekeeping than putting bees into a box, and the equipment you use can add satisfaction to your beekeeping experience. As aforementioned, the decision of which frame and foundation combination is a matter of personal preference to the beekeeper. Some beekeepers prefer the more traditional approach of using natural beeswax sheets in wooden frames. While the construction of these frames is time consuming, it can be an enjoyable part of the hobby of beekeeping. Others prefer the convenience of frames and foundations that are ready to go with no additional time or effort required.