View Full Version : plastic vs wood frames

04-07-2004, 07:41 AM
In the past I have only used standard wood frames with beeswax foundation. Seems like it would be much easier to buy one-piece plastic frames/foundation. I am trying to decide which way to go with my next purchase any thoughts/suggestions/drawbacks?

Michael Bush
04-07-2004, 08:15 AM
I like the PermaComb. FULLY DRAWN comb and frame all one peice. Only comes in medium. I wax dip it to get small cell, but if small cell isn't important to you it's quite a resouce to have fully drawn comb available.

04-07-2004, 08:46 AM
i think I read somewhere that permacomb was about 3.50 a frame right? Just seems like alot of $$. Certainly would be a plus when you get into a fix and need some drawn comb quickly.... but I guess I just wonder if it's worth the cost!

Michael Bush
04-07-2004, 09:42 AM
I saw someone selling drawn comb (standard large cell stuff) for more than 6$ a frame. And that's wax that the moths will eat up, not permanant comb.

So I guess it's all relative.

04-07-2004, 12:03 PM
Wow $6 a frame....well God bless them if they can find someone to pay them for it. Seems everything is relative....thanks for the info....you seem to be one knowledgeable guy....

04-07-2004, 05:45 PM

Might I steer you towards Pierco (or equivalent) frames. They are full plastic frames (not just inserts) and cost about a buck and a quarter. The bees draw out the wax well on these, as long as there aren't any wax foundation frames to compete with. I prefer the black since you can see the eggs easier, and it absorbs light (which bees hate). I had some old, gummy, Pierco frames in a wax moth hive that I made last year, and I got them out today. All I had to do was shake them like you would with bees on them, and the silk sheets slid right off both sides. Brand new frames after hitting 'em with the pressure washer- you would have a hard time picking out which frame really was brand new vs. the cleaned ones.

Permacomb sounds nice, but I only use deeps and it's just too high for me. Besides, I have to be able to clean the combs well- that's part of my chemical-free foulbrood prevention program. I just put all my old frames in a wax moth hive to clean them out. There is little-to-no wax left in old gummy brood frames anyway, just cocoons. Wax moths won't even touch new wax... because they don't like wax ironically, they only eat brood cocoons.

sugar bandit #2
04-08-2004, 05:19 AM
I've used the black pierco frames that came with a very light wax film I'm assuming for quicker bee acceptance. I noticed that my bees would draw it out more irregular (excessive burr comb & uneven)than the other wooden frames with wax foundation.I've also talked to other beekeepers in my area and say they love pierco's stuff.
I've also purchased some perma comb to try this season. I'm justifying the extra cost based on the longevity of this product. Some have said they have been using the same frames (succesfully)for almost 20 years. I would imagine I'd spend much more $ in the long run replacing woodenware in this same amount of time(I plan on staying with this hobby for a long time.)

Michael Bush
04-08-2004, 06:05 AM
You can boil PermaComb if you want to remove all the old cocoons and you can pressure wash it. It takes up to 220 degrees F temps. Personally I want the small cell, so I WANT the cocoons to fill out the space.

04-08-2004, 07:08 AM
Thanks for all the info... I am leaning toward the one-piece plastic frames for now....If they work as well as the wood frames I certainly would prefer to buy them!

mb- i really do like the idea of the permacomb i just can't swing the cost right now.... as I get more established (and more $$) I think I will give them a try...

curry- could you direct me to where I can buy these plastic frames for $1.25? I can't seem to find them for that cheap!


04-08-2004, 08:28 AM
I was faced with similar decisions this year. I ended up chosing wooden frames with Rite-Cell foundation because if I later decide I don't like the plastic I then don't have to buy entirely new frames, I can just swap out the plastic foundation for wax. If you buy the Pierco and then later decide you don't like it, you are left with no option but to replace the whole thing.


Michael Bush
04-08-2004, 08:36 AM
How about small cell or blank starter strips on wooden frames. Cheap. No contaminated wax. No issues of cell size, because they will build what they want. No wire. No warped, sagging foundation.

04-08-2004, 07:21 PM
The optimum trade-off on frames (and hive
components in general) appears to be somewhere
near where "less labor" crosses "cost" and
"long-term survivability".

Plastic frames are great, except when an ear

Wood frames with plastic foundation are a nice
compromise, as any component can be replaced
without destruction of the others.

Lots of people are buying pre-assembled woodenware,
which simply blows me away. I know of no large-scale
cost-savings model that justifies this approach, even
if one considers buying a compressor and several air-powered
nailguns as "sunk capital". For smaller-scale operations,
it becomes even more silly, a matter of a single Saturday
of assembly work versus a great deal of money.

The fully-drawn plastic comb, while certainly appearing
cost-effective at the current high honey prices, appears to
ignore the basic fact that bees of a certain age have nothing
better to do than make wax, and are going to make wax that
has to go somewhere.

If one had weak hives, or wanted a crop from a package, I could
see how these might tip the scales from "no harvest" to "good
harvest", but one can draw lots of comb in the dog days of summer
by simply putting a feeder on the hive, and presenting them with
nothing but a (compressed) brood chamber and a few supers of

My favorite late summer trick after my last harvest is a feeder
atop 2 supers of foundation, and a pollen trap below the brood
chamber. Fresh comb that you can pull before they even think
about filling it with anything, pollen, and busy happy colonies,
preparing for their own next season and raising brood for the
cluster that will not be aged by foraging, rather than a defensive
and nasty August yard where the primary occupation is attempts
at robbing and stinging the landlord.

04-09-2004, 04:35 AM
hmmmm how common is it for the ears on plastic frames to break? If it is common maybe wood frames with plastic foundation is a better alternative. Also, didn't think to ask earlier but do the bees seem to have a preference of wood over plastic or do they not care?

Thanks again for all the great responses!

Michael Bush
04-09-2004, 04:53 AM
I'd say they like wax over plastic for foundation, but they will work the plastic. I suppose they like wood over plastic for things in their hive, but they are more preocupied with the cells than the frames. I think it's mostly irelevant to them.

[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited April 09, 2004).]

04-09-2004, 09:31 AM
Got throgh my first round last week. I found a mouse in one of my dead outs. Tunneled right through my wood/wax foundation frames, and stripped the wax off the plastic frames. Ill have to render down my wood frames, where I can redraw my plastic frames.
I will never go back to wood frames/wax foundation. I just dont have the time needed to assemble all those frames.
Plastic foundation is more forgiving when drawing it out. It can be left in the hive anytime throughout the year without concerns of damaging the foundation.
When the foundation is missdrawn, wax has to be rendered, where plastic is scrapped down.
Plastic foundation frames will not fall apart in the extractor as wood/wax will. The worst that will happen is the wax wall will strip off, and not damage anyother frame in the extractor load.


04-09-2004, 07:10 PM
<hmmmm how common is it for the ears on plastic frames to break?

I've never had one break... I think it used to be a problem maybe on the prototype versions.

As far as cost... I order in bulk which is why I can get them a little cheaper, but the price seems to be coming down with new competitors. I agree with above that they are superior for time savings, mis-drawn comb, and durability.

04-12-2004, 06:10 AM
Jfischer said >
"Lots of people are buying pre-assembled woodenware, which simply blows me away. I know of no large-scale cost-savings model that justifies this approach, even if one considers buying a compressor and several air-powered nailguns as "sunk capital". For smaller-scale operations, it becomes even more silly, a matter of a single Saturday
of assembly work versus a great deal of money."

For supers or brood boxes I fully agree. They are easy enough to assemble quickly. However for frames, I have to disagree. Whenever one calculates the cost of equipment that needs assembly vs. pre-assembled equipment one should factor in both the cost of ones time and the "hassle" factor. I have all mediums on two hives which equals 60 frames. I think I may have paid at most $25.00 extra to have them pre-assembled. Given that it would have taken me at least 2 or 3 hours to put all those frames together, and I probably wouldn't have done as good a job, the cost was easily justifiable. I would say that for this type of work my time is easily equal to $10.00 an hour. Not including the intangible "hassle" factor, by my calculations with 3 hours of assembly time, I saved $5.00 by having them pre-assembled!

I work all week, and have a wife, a baby, and a dog all vying for my attention on the weekends. For those with similar lifestyles and limits on time, I think pre-assembled frames are a no brainer.


04-12-2004, 08:20 AM
Well... after re-reading all of these posts I am convinced that I'm gonna try one-piece plastic frames/foundation. If I don't like them. I'll just make a different choice next time around....not getting alot of frames right now anyhow. Thanks for all the great advice...


04-12-2004, 10:32 AM

I wish I could glue, nail, put in grommets, wire and put in foundation for 60 frames in three hours.


04-12-2004, 12:12 PM
Well said, wish.

If I didn't buy preassembled or one piece plastic, I would have a bunch of boxes of frame parts laying around and a bunch of hives with no frames in them.

No time.

Rob Koss

04-12-2004, 05:09 PM
>>I would say that for this type of work my time is easily equal to $10.00 an hour.

I factor my time @ $30/hour. My time is too valuable to work for $10/hour, and I am a specialist at this trade, .