QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?
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  1. #1
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    Default QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    20180212_191926.jpg

    I am a new beekeeper starting over in 2nd year. I started and ended last year with foundationless frames, and the results were not great, aside from the fact that I have no bees going into this new season. They had no problem drawing comb from the very start, but they built really curvy and weird comb, which if I use will only lead to more weird comb.

    So, here's the question:

    Which of the following would you use (cell size and box depth is irrelevant at this point)?

    1. Plastic foundation and frames such as Mann Lake PF120
    2. Wax coated plastic foundation added to the existing medium wood frames
    2. Wax foundation added to the existing medium wood frames
    3. Horizontal wire added to the existing frames so they can build their own comb?


    I would keep all frames in the hive the same. Cost is part of the factor, as plastic is the most expensive but the least maintenance (probably).

    Any responses are appreciated. Thanks!
    Last edited by George Page; 02-13-2018 at 03:44 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Maaaan, plastic foundation is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much easier, and in my opinion, sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better. You may just need to wax it a little if you don't buy extra waxed foundation.
    Ask two beekeepers, get three answers

  4. #3
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    For brood boxes I always recommend plastic foundation and if you can get it from Acorn with the extra wax, do so. Why spend the time adding more wax when the folks at Acorn will do it for you for a few cents per sheet? With plastic foundation fewer thing can go wrong and it lasts for years. I tried wax foundation once and my bees chewed through it and made a mess. Never again. For my supers, I do everything foundationless. I do not care if the supers have crooked comb that rambles all over the place. I don't like using an extractor and do crush and strain for all my honey so the comb in the supers will be destroyed anyways.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    I like plastic foundation (though I use Pierco because that's what Betterbee sells.) I give them a generous extra added coat of wax and my bees will draw it out in a flash. I find that if the extra coating of wax is very fresh (less than a week old) they seem to take to them faster. That's why I don't buy the commercially extra-waxed frames, like the Acorn ones. Waxing is very easy to do.

    Mostly, though, I use plastic frames/foundation combos. I like the plastic frames better than wood, though last summer we had a surge of SHB and I wondered whether the ridges and furrows in the plastic frame edges might have given them additional places to hide. So this year I am going to do some testing on that. I really don't like wood frames so I am hoping I find no difference.

    I think the best bet is to try a mix of things and see what you prefer. I started out thinking I'd like the wood frames more, but in practice I found the plastic ones easier to manipulate.

    Nancy

  6. #5
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    That's an interesting thought. So, I could use the existing comb that is crooked for my supers. Thanks!

  7. #6
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by Branman View Post
    Maaaan, plastic foundation is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much easier, and in my opinion, sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better. You may just need to wax it a little if you don't buy extra waxed foundation.
    ^^^ what he said. But as far as the extra wax goes, our experience is this. If there is a good flow running, bees will build comb on anything. Without a good flow (be it natural or beekeeper supplied) they wont build on anything. I tried putting extra wax on frames once, made little difference. Much much easier to just mix up syrup and feed it to them if there isn't a natural flow running, just create an artificial flow with syrup. It also depends a bit on the time of the year, I've found it's difficult to get new comb drawn after August rolls around, the bees seem to switch into a mode of stuffing what comb they have with winter stores and basically refuse to build any more.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Page View Post
    That's an interesting thought. So, I could use the existing comb that is crooked for my supers. Thanks!
    I tried partial foundations in honey supers. Crooked comb makes uncapping a huge pain, and a big mess. Never again. Our honey supers get plastic frames just like our brood boxes. 7 years of running plastic frames thru the extractor, never had a blowout yet, dont expect we ever will, unless I make the mistake of putting a foundationless frame into the extractor. We have a few mediums with no foundation, put them in the center of a honey box and use them for comb honey.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Good points, thanks! What type/brand of plastic foundation do you use? Also, are you saying that you use plastic frames as well? I've heard mixed reviews on plastic frames, plus I have a ton of wood frames that I can fit plastic foundatin into. Let me know.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Plastic for sure,we use black for brood and yellow for supers all deeps with no problems. Must use glue when nailing or stapling the frames together.
    ZONE 5A WVwildernessapiaries.com

  10. #9
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Number 1 for any new frames you buy and number 2 to upgrade the frames you already have.

    Oops, sorry I misread. No to plastic frames, great places for SHB to hide and if cold break easy. New frames wood with plastic foundation and use your old frames and add plastic coated foundation.
    Last edited by Groundhwg; 02-13-2018 at 08:46 PM.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    George this thread is worth reading , real good answers to the same question, in a nutshell it seems like most go with wood frames and plastic foundation and you already have the wood frames so they won't go to waste and you won't get anymore crazy comb. Mann lake makes a good plastic foundation its all in this link . good luck and have fun

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...tic+foundation

  12. #11
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    I find that the all plastic frames don't hole up as well as the wood frame with plastic insert. I seem to crush the ends of the all plastic ones very easily, and I don't like the hive beetle hiding places.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Part of the answer depends on your beekeeping practices. Cutting out queen cells for splits/nucs (most beeks agree that swarm cells make the best queens) is nearly impossible with plastic. It can be difficult with wires.
    Lawrence Heafner
    15 hives; 17 years; TF for 12; Zone 7B

  14. #13
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Wax coated plastic foundation added to your existing wooden frames after scraping and cleaning them up.

    For any added frames, get wooden frames with wax coated plastic foundation.

    For comb honey, one of 2 options...
    Light surplus wax foundation in wooden frames, (designed for comb honey),
    or No foundation in wooden frames, which takes a little bit more management for nice straight comb.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    An update...I called Mann Lake and they have unwaxed foundation with 5.1mm cell size. I will use my own clean wax from last year to coat. Thanks everyone for the comments!

  16. #15
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by RayMarler View Post
    Wax coated plastic foundation added to your existing wooden frames after scraping and cleaning them up.

    For any added frames, get wooden frames with wax coated plastic foundation.

    For comb honey, one of 2 options...
    Light surplus wax foundation in wooden frames, (designed for comb honey),
    or No foundation in wooden frames, which takes a little bit more management for nice straight comb.
    Ditto what Ray says. My first year I used wax coated plastic in wood frames, it's what came with the Beginners Kit. In the few years past I've tried, wax foundation, using fishing line, like FBM, it did not turn out pretty. I also tried just wire and a craft stick as a guide, that turned out pretty good, I used that on some super frames, I crushed and strained that year. Now I'm sticking to plastic, wax coated foundation, especially for supers, no blow outs in the extractor that way.
    Some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthz View Post
    I find that the all plastic frames don't hole up as well as the wood frame with plastic insert. I seem to crush the ends of the all plastic ones very easily, and I don't like the hive beetle hiding places.
    Beetles are not an issue in our area, so we dont worry about that part of it. As for crushing the ends, my experience is, when you buy the cheaper versions of plastic frames, it happens a lot. When we first started, the bee supply store did a good job upselling me to the more expensive Mann Lake frames that have the metal insert. 7 years later, I have yet to break one of those. A few years ago, I tried the less expensive ones without the metal insert to try save a few bucks. That was a mistake, I have broken off the ears on a bunch of those.

    The lesson learned, not all plastic frames are created equal, and upspending for the ones with the metal insert is money well spent. We wont buy frames without the insert anymore, it's penny wise and pound foolish. In the long run, the more expensive ones with the metal insert are cheaper because they last.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    I agree with GWW re plastic frames. I have never had a broken one, ever. Not from cold (I got a chuckle out of Groundhwg in Alabama commenting that plastic breaks in the cold. Mine are all up here in northern NY -
    Z4b - where 30 below is not out of the ordinary.) Or from being pried out of boxes (unlike wood frames which can be damaged by injudicious leverage), or just general damage from being banged around. But mine are all Piercos, which is what my local supplier, Betterbee, sells.

    Never having used any other brand, I can't vouch for those like I can for Piercos. I don't believe they have any metal parts, however.

    Nancy

  19. #18
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    Cool Re: QUESTION: Plastic Foundation, Wire or Wax Foundation added to frames?

    Greetings George ... You are "way up in Ct" and I am" way down" in Alabama.
    I do not know how many hives you plan to have, or how much time you plan to put into this activity.
    I started, intending to be a hobbyist with only a couple of hives.
    When I started , I tried the plastic because it was supposed to be "easier".
    I got some plastic foundation from Mann Lake, and some from Dadant. both products looked pretty much the same to my eyes, but while my bees ( deep 5 frame nucs, in Italian strain) did draw some of it out ok, a lot of it they made a layer of comb between the frames, not touching the plastic. At that time the "(Acorn brand)" was unknown, unavailable, folks here on Beesource said I should have rewaxed the plastic stuff ( I was a new bee keeper, did not know where to get wax ), should have used wax foundation, should have gone foundationless, blah blah.
    Since that first year, I have also seen my bees make this "unatached " layer of comb between wax foundations as well.

    It sounds like most folks are advising you to go with plastic because it worked so great for them.
    I am pleased for their success.

    I have about gotten rid of most of my deep hives, & keep bees ( more mutt, less Italian) in mostly medium frames. ( I am not physically strong any more, & only getting weaker with age.)
    I have some frames with half plastic inserts, as lauri has shared photo's of, and some frames with wax , with wires, and some with wax with or without wires, with the wax sandwiched between fishing line in an "X" on both sides, and some foundationless, with just a wax starter strip, and wire or fishing line for support, some with bamboo skewers for support.( And some with no wire or fishing line for support at all, but I don't recommend this.) ( also, some times the bees avoid attaching the comb to the skewers, too. ) If I hear of another Idea tomorrow, I will probably try that too.

    Everything works "some". The bees almost always draw the foundationless first. most noticeable on my lauri style half-sheets, but they usually come back & fill in the plastic foundation if I had re-waxed it.
    The foundationless space is so small they can't get too crazy, & i can usually straighten it up before it gets too bad, , or just remove the crazy stuff. you need some wax to learn to render wax with anyway.
    I have issues with the bees not connecting the combs to the sides & bottoms of the frames, which is one of the reasons that I went to the x-supports of fishing line. ( this also helps avoid the wax sagging so badly in the summer heat when I have given the bees more than they can draw.)
    I guess if you had asked me how to get straight comb, (which you didn't), I would have suggested placing well supported foundationless, or wax foundation frames between straight drawn frames you got in your nuc hive, or between the plastic foundations if you are starting with package bees.

    ( if you are starting with nucs, do not spread out the brood nest too much at a time! bee sure they can keep the brood warm. )

    Then when the bees have drawn some nice combs, you can decide what to do next, remove the offending frames, or load them up with wax to get the bees to use them or whatever.
    Again to those of you whom have had great success with plastic, ... great!
    I am sharing my personal experiences, and of course, i probably did it wrong.
    George, good luck with your bees ! CE

    ps,
    I do not have an extractor, when I get & use one, my opinions may change.
    Last edited by tech.35058; Yesterday at 10:03 PM. Reason: spelling
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

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