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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,172

    Default The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    I have always used deep Mann Lake Plastic Frames for brood. I started with them because of the perceived small cell advantage - my thoughts at the time were small cell might or might not help but I'll take any edge I can; It couldn't do any harm, and they were cheap.
    I noticed that they were, and still are, often sealed to the frames above and below. Michael Bush was gracious enough to explain that despite appropriate bee space between boxes they probably burred them together because they didn't see the top of the PF frame as a barrier like they do with a wooden frame - if I recall correctly - that the thickness of the wooden frames top bar helped stop them making contiguous vertical comb as they do with a PF.
    I have got used to working them and I like them for brood, not so much for extracting but that's another story.

    My main observation, and thought in starting this thread, is that the honey stored in a PF frame because of the thin (nearly non-existant) top bar extends almost to the very top of the hive, and that when the comb is empty bees can cluster in those empty cells at the top. I am wondering if this helps the cluster when compared to the traditional wooden frame with its thick wooden topbar? In a wild colony there is no topbar at the top of the broodnest just cells. Does the top of a cluster in a hive with PF's have an advantage in retaining heat? When compared to a wooden framed hive, the bees can pack together more closely at the top and have more points of contact with honey? Would this allow survival of a smaller cluster - all other things being equal?

    I have about 430 Mann Lake PF deep frames in my hives now, and no plans to buy any wooden ones. I am curious if anyone is running colonies in both types of frames and has noticed any differences, or has any thoughts, about my above musings.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    3,837

    Default Re: The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    My bees winter fine on them and I run 11 frames. The lack of rigidity makes them a tad harder to pry apart than wooden frames, but it is no way a show stopper. I skim the burr comb off the same as with wood and have no real problem with plastic.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Columbia, Maryland. U.S.A.
    Posts
    252

    Default Re: The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    Interesting observation Adrian. I to have had the notion that larger stretches of unbroken comb could be advantageous. The frames for my 2013 models are 4' tall.
    Cheers,
    Drew

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,473

    Default Re: The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    I would think that the bees stay warmer with a solid top to the hive -- no condensation because the top of the hive (wood, hollow tree, whatever) is warm. All condensation is on the outside surface, not the top.

    Continuous comb would be better, too -- easier for the bees to move up and down, no space for the queen to travel over to get to a new frame, especially upward, but that also would cause problems with being able to remove the frames. That is a legal requirement here, the bee inspector has the authority to immediately burn any hives without removable frames, the result of AFB problems in the past.

    Feral bees build whatever they want.

    Peter

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    905

    Default Re: The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    A beek friend in BC, Canada believes there is a distinct advantage in cold country using taller frames and narrower top bars for a continuous cluster. I'm down in cozy So Cal, where my cold weather opinion shouldn't count for much. Just passing along her info.

    You should definitely try the experiment next winter! Equalize everything else with several hives in several locations and develop some tests for honey consumption, brood, hive weight, spring build-up rates, everything you can think of. Keep accurate records, and get help writing a first-rate lab report. We'd all love to hear about the results!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,172

    Default Re: The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    Charlie, I agree it would make an interesting experiment. I was just curious to see if anyone running both types of frames had any observations.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    905

    Default Re: The top bar of a PF plastic frame versus a wooden frame - observations.

    Please pardon the blasphemy, but she posts on World of Beekeeping. Her feeling was that the advantage showed up between 3 mediums vs. 2 standard Langstroth hives. If I recall correctly, there was mention of narrower top bars for cold country, specifically with cluster ramifications in mind. I should also mention that height above snow can be a big advantage, and a big feeder with a fondant board and a pollen patty board are very helpful according to other Northern beek friends.

    Another thought is that on colonies that don't quite fill out a box is to add Miller-type Hive Dummies (an empty, wooden box the size and shape of a comb frame, although I fill them with styrofoam) to take up volume that the bees do not have to heat. The bees may actually get by on less honey stores if Hive Dummies are used. Add the Hive Dummies in place of the outermost combs, but only if they are NOT replacing honey!

    One more tidbit - I thought I read somewhere that Lorenzo Langstroth also made use of an extra-deep hive. The boxes were 12" or 14" tall (I don't recall the exact measure). I do suppose he used them for wintering, and very probably with winter cluster in mind.

    I'm starting to change over my commercial hives to 10-frame medium (6 11/16") boxes with plastic foundation in wood frames, as the advantages are many out here in warm winter country. My observer hives will l have one with standard 5.4 mm cell sized foundation, one with small 4.9 mm foundation, and one foundationless. Combining these with an apidictor to listen in as well should keep my learning curve going up.

    Best of luck to you.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 01-11-2013 at 09:16 PM.

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