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Plastic frames

2898 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  johng
I purchased some plastic frames for my honey super after being told that my bees would not mind them, since my current wood frames have plastic foundation.
I wonder if this may not be true, as the bees are not using these plastic frames and seem to be placing another layer on what looked like capped honey last week. (They are all over the plastic frames, just not making any comb)
I went in with intention of stealing some honey, but wound up leaving it as I was concerned about the water content in the uncapped honey.
Is this common?
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For every person who says plastic frames are fine, you'll find one who says their bees won't touch them.

The only plastic frames I have are a couple of the green drone frames. Our bees took their own sweet time drawing them out. One hive finally made some pretty drone comb on one side and laid a lot of nice drones for us to make dronesicles of. The other side was a few mushrooms of partial comb, filled with honey.

The other hive put off drawing the drone comb until they had done almost all the wax foundation deep frames. But as of yesterday it was prettily drawn out and full of perfect drone-sized cells full of honey. They never laid a single egg in it.

I should note that the queen in that hive also refuses to lay in a cell on wax foundation that has a wire in the bottom of it. She leaves these nice, straight rows unfilled.

The problem is, they sell these things to beekeepers, but never put instructions on them for the bees.

Our mentor has the darndest collection of frames, including plastic, plastic foundation,, wax foundation, and foundationless. Eventually, the bees draw and use it all. It may take a while. One thing that helped my plastic foundation and frames was to melt some of their burr comb down and paint the foundation with it. They'll start messing with the painted part fairly quickly. Honey Be Healthy in sugar water is also supposed to get them interested. And they won't draw anything if they're hungry. If there is no nectar flow, feed them to make them draw.
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I have gone to using plastic foundation in wooden frames with a few foundationless frames thrown in. I save my cappings from year to year to paint new plastic with. The bees seem to deal with the plastic but I easily believe that it is not their first choice.

Many places are in a dearth right now and bees tend not to draw foundation if they don't have an immediate need to put something there.

(Trying to type on a train sucks)
If they don't need the space, they won't make the space. However, in my experience, plastic is the last place they'll pull wax. I started with plastic years ago and then didn't want to deal with something that wasn't natural and something that I had to coat with wax to make it presentable so I switched to wood / wax. But everyone has their preferences and I think you just manage your colonies accordingly. If I were you, I'd make sure that there's a good coating of wax over the plastic so that they don't really know it's plastic and wait until they finally accept it. Once they start, it's usually fine unless you have to start over.
I do not want to contradict Ravenseye as what he says about plastic is true. Some beekeepers in addition to the convenience factor choose plastic to avoid the low level pesticide contamination present in wax foundation. Many (but not all) of the pesticides found in wax were first used by beekeepers as mite treatments.
My mentor has a mix of everything and said he would love to go to all plastic, he likes to put the plastics in strong hives to let them start then move them. He did say some hives take better to plastic than others not sure why.

I put some in and the bees were ignoring them until I brushed some wax on and that seemed to help.
I started 2 brand new hives this year on all plastic foundation, and the bees absolutely did not hesitate in drawing comb. One hive has nearly drawn and filled 4 medium boxes now - these are brand new packages in April. They did slow down for a few weeks there, but have started back up in the past week (must be some sort of flow happening).
I use a mix, and I don't notice a difference. But I have noticed that, no matter the type, if they don't have nectar coming it, they won't draw comb. I have a few foundationless frames in my strongest hive, to replace a few combs I took to add elsewhere...they haven't drawn those. The plastic I started with was fully drawn when the flow was fast in May and early June, but the second batch of frames is still just sitting there.
Over the years I have mainly used wood frames with plastic foundation and have been really happy with it. Last year I decided to experiment with some all plastic frames and introduced them along side some other drawn out frames. My hives did experience a drought last summer so many of the the hive didn't draw it out. The other thing I noticed is that the bees were more likely to draw out drone comb on the plastic frames then on the wood frames with plastic foundation. Overall I feel that the wood frames with plastic foundation is a better way to go and have no plans of introducing anymore plastic frames into my operation.
I would not make any decisions right now on whether or not your bees like the plastic frames. It's quite possible they are just not in a comb drawing mood. Bees that would not touch those frames right now may draw the prettiest wax you ever saw come spring time. One thing to watch out for though with plastic frames or plastic foundation that spend some time in a hive without being drawn out is the bees will strip the thin layer of wax off the foundation. Once this happens it is much harder to get them to drawn them out. So after that happens brushing some new wax back onto the foundation will help tremendously.
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