View Full Version : Wood or Plastic Frames and foundations?

Mike in Amboy
02-14-2012, 10:14 AM
I'm taking the plunge and getting into Bee keeping...:D

I think I want to go wooden everything, more traditional, more hands on and gratification from putting my frames together. My father in law is getting a couple hives at the same time I am. He is leaning towards plastic frames and foundations.

Anyone have any pro's/con's to plastic? :scratch:

Also, if I go wood (and I'm pretty sure I'm going to) how do you get the foundations into the frame after the frame is assembled? Do they just pop in?

I could wait until I order things to find out...but that doesn't seem like much fun :)

02-14-2012, 11:19 AM
I'm curious too. Wooden frames seem to take more time to assembly where as plastic can be rewaxed with a foam roller. They seem to be similar in cost too.
Some frames the foundation pops in and some you have put in before finishing the frame.


02-14-2012, 11:26 AM
Re: Do they just pop in?
Yes, the wood bound frames with a saw kerf in both the top bar and bottom bar will receive a plastic sheet of foundation.
No, if you are going to use wax foundation.
Located in the upper right is a search function and you will see that there are many replies to your question about wood bound or plastic foundation, Pierco etc.

02-14-2012, 12:40 PM
When you buy your frames, there will be assembly and installation instructions with them. Pretty self explanatory.
Wood and plastic each have advantages and disadvantages, proponents and opponents. As suggested, use the search function.

Mike in Amboy
02-14-2012, 04:24 PM
Well, when I do a search, there are lots of threads. However, most of them are related to other topics and don't really address what I'm asking. As to frames coming with instructions, I just got 40 wooden frames and not a lick of instructions with them. I may be new here and to beekeeping, but I'm not dumb.

Just looking for some feed back from those that have/do use plastic as to whether they are good choice, or if sticking with the traditional wood frame is the way to go.

Mike in Amboy
02-14-2012, 04:29 PM
I'm curious too. Wooden frames seem to take more time to assembly where as plastic can be rewaxed with a foam roller. They seem to be similar in cost too.
Some frames the foundation pops in and some you have put in before finishing the frame.


Thanks for the video link! Youtube is becoming just as valuable a search option as google!

Being new to this as I am, in what situation would you need to rewax the plastic frame/foundation? When you extract honey? Do you have to scrape off the comb thats built up on the foundation, or after extraction can you just put the frame back in the hive and the bees will go about their business refilling that same foundation?

02-14-2012, 04:53 PM
Mike, relax...I did not mean to indicate at all that you were dumb. I buy most all my wooden ware from Kelleys...so I went out and opened a new box of frames, and bingo! Instructions. I do not understand why some vendors are not considerate of their customers.
Personally, I have used both plastic and wood, and won't ever return to plastic frames...nor plastic foundation, compared to Kelley's wax foundation, or foundationless. But other beekeepers feel much differently, and just as strongly.

You haven't asked, but I'm going to suggest nevertheless, IF you decide to go foundationless, you first must get some frames of foundation drawn out nice and straight, to provide a guide for your bees. If you put only foundationless frames in a hive with bees, you'll have a really big mess... :lpf: believe me, I learned the hard way!
Best wishes on your new endeavor,

02-14-2012, 05:13 PM
I think the trick to plastic is applying a wax foundation to it every year. My plan and I'm new too, is to do all plastic but use a foam roller and rewax every frame before I put it in. Bees care about the wax and not what it's on. You also have more surface area with the plastic allowing for 1-2lbs more to be produced. That's just my opinion and what I plan to do my first year.

02-14-2012, 05:54 PM
Pierco foundation and frames come waxed. Wooden frames are more traditional, are a little less flexy, and do not have the little pockets small hive beetles seem to ignore anyway. Wood rots, breaks, comes apart if not glued when assembled and wax moths will bore into it. Plastic frames do not come apart, rot, and wax moths cannot gnaw into them. You do not need to recoat every time extracted.
There are several frame variations depending on the foundation, or lack of, used - grooved, wedge, solid, etc. Total cost can be higher with wax foundation after you add wire, eyelets or staples to keep the wire from tearing into the frame ends, embedding tool, and the foundation which is the same or more than plastic.
Regardless of frame and foundation type, it will be drawn better if you
do not mix types before drawn,
do not use a queen excluder until they start drawing,
put the super with foundation on only when it is needed (during a flow) or by feeding them light sugar syrup so they have to draw comb.
I have used natural foundation, plastic frames, and plastic foundation in wood frames with equal success. I had 41 hives last year for comparison.

02-14-2012, 06:14 PM
Flip a coin. There isn't a correct choice, we use the mann lake 1 piece plastic frames. They are small cell, & I'm satisfied with them.

Mike in Amboy
02-14-2012, 06:55 PM
So, being as new as I am...this will most likely seem dumb to some of you, but...once you remove a frame for honey extraction, whats the process for using it again? Do you just scrape everything off and clean it? Or can you just extract the honey from it and put it right back into the super for more honey to be produced on?

Mike in Amboy
02-14-2012, 07:00 PM
I had 41 hives last year for comparison.

Wow!!! By not mixing types, you mean different brands of frames? Right now Im looking at the "Rite-cell" Pro Frames from Mann Lake.

02-14-2012, 07:10 PM
Scratch or cut the cappings off, spin in an extractor, or scrape down to the foundation and drain through a collander or screen. Either way just put them back on and the bees will clean and use them again. http://americasbeekeeper.org/extracting_honey.htm

By not mixing types I mean plastic and natural, or natural and foundationless, or any type combination. Once drawn you can have any and all in the same super. I have many hives with multiple types together. I have top bars and Hoffman frames in the same hive when I am preparing a top bar hive.

Vance G
02-14-2012, 11:44 PM
Mann Lake Plastic frames are cheaper when you consider freight than you can put together wooden frames and foundation. If you want the fun of putting together frames, you need to match the frames to the foundation you choose or vice versa. A wedge top bar with a slotted bottom will work for virtualy any foundation, it doesn't make the job easier, it adds a step and requires a different tool to do it well. so pay attention to that too. When nailing your frames, seriously considering nailing the top bar on from the side too. Once a lad I was didn't and it was great fun separating hive bodies when the top bars pulled off the bottom box. If you do any home remodeling, now is the perfect time to get a combo crown stapler/brad nailer to do the frames and hang trim. Boys always need more tools!

02-15-2012, 02:44 PM
Well I started with plastic. Bees swarmed rather than draw it in most cases. Then I found out that there were "tricks" to getting them to draw it. There didn't seem to be any "tricks" to using the wax/ wood except "don't mix the two or the plastic will go untouched". Now I am buying wax $4 a lb, rollers, and used pots to put wax to new equipment. Now if find it is easier to buy wood and use my own wax to "make the foundation more usable", Just my 2cW of disappointment. If you get drawn foundation it is a very valuable resource that you know the origins of. Donít scrape it. Most bee clubs have somebody that will either; loan, rent or extract it for you. Sounds like you already did a search on plastic. Most will be on how to get it started. Yes, plastic may last forever but getting started I wish somebody had ranted to me just like that.

Joseph Clemens
02-15-2012, 03:10 PM
I've used many different types of frames and foundations/foundationless. The ones I like least; aluminum and plastic cored beeswax foundations, like duragilt.

I presently enjoy using predominantly Mann Lake's PF-120 plastic frames, some with the PF-120 foundation cut from their frames and inserted into wooden frames, and foundationless frames with horizontal wire reinforcements and built-in comb guides, top and bottom. I also prefer completely narrower frames, 1-1/4" wide End Bars with 7/8" wide Top Bars (to maintain bee space with the narrower End Bars).

I also have some frames with full sheets of foundation, some Honey Super Cell (cut down to medium depth), some with starter strips of foundation, some of each - with and without wire reinforcement, some with plastic fishing line as reinforcement, and perhaps others I'm not thinking of, right now.

Mike in Amboy
02-15-2012, 03:28 PM
So the ones I'm looking at say they already have a bees wax coating on them. Do i need to apply more?

Joseph Clemens
02-15-2012, 03:53 PM
It depends on the strength of your hives. If you're just starting the hives, the best answer would be, yes. If your hives are well established and strong, with a concurrent strong honey flow, you may be able to get them drawn into comb without any additional added beeswax. Personally, I like to add an additional coating of beeswax (harvested from my own hives when possible), so I can be sure they will quickly draw them into usable comb, with minimum delay or stress and the beeswax is from untreated hives.

It was another member here, Grant, who I believe developed the technique of coating plastic foundations with extra beeswax for better acceptance and quicker drawing into comb. It can sometimes get plastic foundation drawn into comb even without a flow or supplemental feeding.

Mike in Amboy
02-15-2012, 03:57 PM
These will be brand new hives with new bees so I won't have any of their wax to use. I guess I'll just go for it and see how things go.

02-15-2012, 06:39 PM
We use the ones you're talking about in our honey supers, We use their cheaper black Standard frames in the brood boxes.
Have put several packages on them right out of the box, without doing anything to them. Haven't had a problem.

Mike in Amboy
02-15-2012, 06:46 PM
We use the ones you're talking about in our honey supers, We use their cheaper black Standard frames in the brood boxes.
Have put several packages on them right out of the box, without doing anything to them. Haven't had a problem.

Thanks KQ6AR, thats exactly the feed back I was looking for!

02-17-2012, 11:46 PM
The bees seemed to take to the plastic frames just fine. However, do not leave black frames in sunlight for very long, or they twist and become unusable. Regardless, the PF-100 & 105 tend to warp over time, worse if exposed to sunlight. These frames have registration marks on the top at one end; keep them aligned to minimize usability issues (bee-space will be more or less maintained if warped in the same direction).

With 60+ hives using mostly PF-105, I now intend to phase them out in favor of wood frames with plastic foundation. Good luck with whichever way you choose to proceed.

02-18-2012, 08:23 AM
You may consider feeding bees syrup while they're drawing out frames. I have Pierco & wood w/RiteCell.
Mine went crazy drawing with extra wax rolled on, & syrup (5:3).
I haven't enough experience to suggest ratio. Email Michael Bush would be my first suggestion. Good luck.