There are various types of frame available for use in the brood box, and each beekeeper will have a preference for a particular type of brood/honey frame.
Wax & wire foundation frames
- These were invented in Germany in 1857. They provide the bees with a structure onto which they draw their comb and (with conventional honey harvesting) allow the frames to be put into a centrifuge for honey extraction.
- Wax foundation frames are wooden brood frames with wire threaded through. You put a wax foundation sheet across the wires and melt the wax onto the wires using a 12V power supply or car battery.
- Bees prefer wax foundation to plastic, and will usually start building comb quicker than on plastic foundation.
- The foundation ensures that the bees will draw straight comb.
- Putting wax onto the wired frames takes a lot of time and effort.
- The introduction of wax from outside sources increases the chance of contamination. Much commercial wax contains traces of pesticides.
- Wax and wire frames force the bees to use a uniform cell size, which can have adverse effects on the health of the colony.
Plastic foundation frames
- These can be wooden or plastic frames containing plastic foundation. The foundation is usually made from ABS plastic.
- Plastic frames are easier to install than wax and wire frames.
- They are also tough and durable.
- You cannot cut honeycomb out of plastic foundation.
- Bees tend not to prefer plastic foundation and may be slow in building comb. You can add wax to the plastic foundation to encourage the bees to begin building comb.
- Using plastic foundation forces the bees to use a uniform cell size, which can have adverse effects on the health of the colony.
- Foundationless frames allow the bees to draw their own comb. A comb guide helps the bees to draw their comb correctly.
- They are less expensive and quicker to prepare than other frames.
- You can cut out large sections of honeycomb from these frames.
- They allow the bees to build cells of varying sizes, which can improve the health of the colony.
- Avoids introducing wax from other sources into your hive, reducing the potential for contamination.
- Naturally drawn comb can be fragile, and you need to be careful not to break it during handling and inspection.
- If your brood box is not level or if your frames are not set up properly, the bees may build their comb sideways across the frames (‘cross-combing’), which is difficult and time consuming to process.