ok, I am a begining hobbist and I guess that makes me dangerous to bees in that I know a little about them, but I can make mistakes....
What is the differing view points with wax vs plastic foundation...
Are there differing plastic foundations? If so, who sells what where?
I'll be a bit long winded here. I assume no one answered because they didn't think it made that much difference. It probably doesn't but here goes:
I've used wax and several kinds of plastic. I'm personally going to try regressing to the small cell (4.9mm) so I'm stuck with wax now. Here's my humble opinion of plastic (minus the cell size issues)
Wax: When attached by wax moths it's a mess. If you buy it already wired it's not difficult to work with, but requires a little more work than Duragilt or Rite Cell. If you buy it not wired, then you have to learn to wire it. There are as many methods for this as there are beekeepers, but you can find instructions in some of the bee books. A simply corner to corner design works for brood comb that you just want to get them to draw out for honey and then you want to extract it once. A "W" formation works well for serious extraction. (again you can look at www.beeworks and look up their foundation for a look at what this looks like.) The reasons for wiring are so you can extract it without it exploding. (a very exciting experience) If you're only using it for brood it is unnecesarry but you may like using the split pins to help hold it straight.
Duragilt: I actually used a similar Dadant product about 30 years ago, but it was just a plastic core, with wax on both sides. The newer stuff has a metal edge for stiffness and the holes in the corner (which the bees would have made if it was wax). It's strong enough and easy to put int. It doesn't have the deep embossing of the Rite Cell. I had no trouble using it and the bees were happy to draw it out. When attacked by wax moths it's just as devastated as wax is. I don't see a lot of advantages over wax exept you don't have to wire it and you don't need the pins to hold it straight.
Rite Cell: I like this product (I wish it was available in small cell). It's nice and stiff, so it stays flat. If you use grooved top and bottom bars you can just pop it in. I has the corners perferated so you can break them off where the bees would have made a hole in the wax (if they could) It doesn't require any wire. The bees are not quite as quick to draw it out as wax, but it doesn't slow them down much. The surface has more of the cell started. This speeds up the process once they start. Also it give them somthing to cluster on. If the moths get into it, you can cut out the messed up part and put the rest back in the hive. Now if they made it in 4.9mm....
I haven't used the Pierco, but I would think it would have some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Rite Cell.
All in all it really doesn't matter that much. If it was me, I'd try to get the 5.2mm foundation from Miller's Honey Company (Ph: 909-825-1722) if I was hiving your normal (?) bees raised in the 5.4 to 5.5mm foundation (what you normally get in package bees). The 5.2 is only available in wax. Then the next spring I'd swith to the 4.9mm from Brushy Mt. Bee Farm (1-800-233-7929).
In either case (wax or plastic or small cell etc.) you need to protect your drawn extracted combs from the mice and the wax moths. They can devastate them quite quickly.
Some natural methods of control: First, keep them sealed up well enough that the mice can't get in them. Stack them up on a board with no cracks big enough for a mouse (they can get through remarkably small openings) and put a tight lid on them. You may need some weight to hold the lid tight. In the winter, I like to take my stored combs outside on a really cold day. Once early in the winter. Once in the middle of the winter, and once in the late winter. Freezing kills the moths. This, of course, is hopeless if you live somewhere where it doesn't freeze. I also use a prodcut that I get from www.beeworks called B401 that is a bactera that kills the wax moth larvae. You mix it according to the directions and spray it on the cleaned combs (this assumes you extracted them, left them to the bees to clean up and are now putting them away for storage).
I realize this may be more information than you wanted, but you have to start trying to absorb the concepts sometime.
More on the Miller's Honey 5.2mm foundation. The lady I talked to was very helpful and measured some for me. It was 52mm for 10 cells horizontally. So I order some and it was about 5.5 to 5.6mm. You may as well just do the starter stip of 4.9mm and see what the bees do.
I cut it four cell rows wide and put it in the groove and use the wax tube fastener from Walter Kelly to glue it in.
Look at it this way. Not much foundation to buy and no wires to mess with.
You'll find the combs are extremely fragile until they're fastened firmly to the sides and bottoms of the frames, so be careful to hold them upright. I found that I needed to use strips 2-3 inches wide, otherwise they just draw out close to the original size of cell. You need to keep an eye on what's happening as they sometimes start drawing them at an angle; if this happens, swopping combs around can stop it. Otherwise, the method works, and certainly saves on foundation. I expect to be using it for a few years as I don't want to buy in wax in case it's contaminated, and I don't have much. Has anyone tried wiring frames they were using strips in? How well does it work?
What about plastic frames? Do they hold up?
Does anyone use all plastic? (Plastic frames
and foundation.)Some pros and cons. I like
the wax but it is time consuming to build
frames and install foundation and wire too.
This is my first year in beekeeping and I have about an equal number of plastic(pierco) and wooden frames. I haven't seen much difference in the acceptance by the bees. I have read that bees might reject the pierco if all of the beeswax wears off of the frame but can't report on that yet.
>You'll find the combs are extremely fragile until they're fastened firmly to the sides and bottoms of the frames, so be careful to hold them upright. I found that I needed to use strips 2-3 inches wide, otherwise they just draw out close to the original size of cell. You need to keep an eye on what's happening as they sometimes start drawing them at an angle; if this happens, swopping combs around can stop it.
It's true you have to treat them like a top bar comb, and not go turning them sidways. I have done this before, but not for the purpose of getting smaller cell size. I was oblivious to that. What do you mean by drawing them at an angle? Like sideways angle? I was afraid 2 to 3" strips would just have them tearing it up and rebuilding it into whatever else they got in their head. I once had some comb that the bees didn't like and they rebuilt it like a crazy quilt. Every cell was different sized and running at weird angles. They built several frames like this. So you think less than 2" strips they will just build 5.4mm cells like they had to start with?
BTW I measured the foundation I got from Miller and it was 5.4mm
Sorry, I should have been clearer. they started drawing the comb irregularly, so that it got progressively worse towards the back of the hive, and became dificult to get the frames out. The only solution was to cut out the worst bits, and move the frames around so that they were forced to redraw the bad ones straight. Since then I've been swopping them about as they've been drawn in order to prevent a repetition. I should be over the worst now since I've got my bees regressed, and don't intend to be using full boxes of strips again. I hope.