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Frames - Plastic or wood?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by phill-k, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. Kiwimana

    Kiwimana House Bee Donor 2015 Supplier

    Don't broke what isn't broken, we are sticking with wood. Yep its a pain to wire up the frames, but the bees prefer them in my experience and isn't that what its all about.

    Anyway thats my 10 cents...
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Chris Valentine

    Chris Valentine Guard Bee Commercial

  3. Stu

    Stu Pupa Donor 2016 Commercial

    Last year I went to the Australian conferences and met up with other concerned/disgruntled plastic frame users and as a result we started work on some ideas that seemed logical and reasonably easy to achieve. By the way I am not totally against plastic frames but think that we could use our resources more effectively and come up with a frame that requires less input....have you ever tried to water blast 200+ plastic frames! hard work. As a result this season I have been trialling some new frames that are part essentially wood with a plastic insert but the insert is different and I can explain more and show pictures once I have sorted a few details out. Why bother doing this and try to come up with a new frame? because like the rest of you plastic frames seem pretty unfriendly and don't work well if the season is colder plus the benefits are ....
    1. Use 95% wood and a fraction of the plastic that standard plastic frames use, hence if you have to burn them the environmental issue is minimal
    2. Withstand high temperatures without warping or buckling- yes you can dip the inserts directly into hot wax without any issues!
    3. Can be put through a steam chest and re-used straight away without having to re-wire or put new foundation in
    4. Do not radiate as much heat compared to a standard plastic frame hence bees should build/draw comb more quickly
    5. Massive reduction in maintenance and time perspective compared to putting foundation in every year
    6. Allow the bees to communicate through the frames more effectively...need some more info on this however

    We measured and compared the weights of capped honey frames from one apiary which use either plastic, wood wax and wood plastic (new) frame designs. The results were interesting as the plastic frame actually came out well, however it was a good season for us so not the best to compare as the bees seemed to build wax on anything this year. I will publish some findings soon.

    Talking with Stu Ecroyd the other day and he stated that you are a mug if you dont use heavy wax foundation as the bees will draw much quicker from the thicker foundation? A gap in my knowledge here but it seems bees do not waste any wax in the hive and will use the thicker foundation to draw comb? can someone expand on this?

    I have been talking to a heap of guys who have similar thoughts as I do and use wood frames in the brood chamber, where chemicals are placed prior to honey flow, and use plastic for honey supers. Then at the start of the new season take 5-10 old frames out of the brood chamber/s and put them through the steam chest and put new foundation in. My thoughts are that this must reduce the chemical residue levels in the hive and also gives the bees fresh comb to work, slows development if required etc.

    Will update more later...work to do.
  4. Chris Valentine

    Chris Valentine Guard Bee Commercial

    bees build to there own rules if there no flow to draw comb and you put heavy foundatin on ,they will draw the foundation out useing the foundation whick will make light fountion ,thick down to thin ,that how they like it ,if there a flow they just draw comb and fill it up no time to play with it.
    if you put to much wax on a plactic frame and they have time to play it they will use to draw it out comb
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Beehavn

    Beehavn Pupa

    As a ball-park consideration bees use roughly 6 units of honey to make 1 unit of wax required to build comb. That's why heavy brood or Manuka foundation is really good. The bees decide the foundation is over thick and use the wax up by drawing it up as cell walls - it's much quicker for them to do this and they don't consume honey to do it, so enabling more honey production. As mentioned above the bees will work thick foundation even without a nectar flow on, so it means gains all round - for the bees and the beekeeper.

    A wax coating on plastic foundation (frames) encourages the bees to work them. It disguises the plastic. The thicker and more uniform the coating the more evenly and more quickly the plastic foundation will be drawn into useful combs.

    Part of logic behind returning the "wets" (i.e. boxes of extracted frames of combs) to hives after taking the first cut of the honey crop is saving the bees work and the consumption of energy to make wax. This is more effective than dropping a box of foundation on the hive at that point because of the time and cost in honey to draw it. Depending on time and quantity of honey taken, it is possible to remove the honey off the hive, extract it the same day and return the empty boxes the next day, so saving the bees the effort of building from scratch and having to consume honey to make wax. At a hobbyists level with access to a two or four frame honey extractor - honey extraction can be at frame level instead of box level. You simply return the extracted frames back to the relevant hives.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Alastair

    Alastair Guard Bee Donor 2016 Platinum Donor '17 Breeder

    Interesting point, is there anyone who has had AFB in a plastic framed hive, and if so how did you burn it?

    I know plastic can be burned, is it a health hazard or something?

    Total plastic novice here sorry! :)
  7. Chris Valentine

    Chris Valentine Guard Bee Commercial

    I had to burn about four this year all have plastic ,when u burn just wood it a white flame whem u brun plastic it trun yellow when I burn AFB hives I do it at night no can see the smoke.and stand up wind all smoke bad bad for you
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Janice

    Janice Guard Bee Donor 2016 Hobbyist

    That's what I did this year. Off the hive, extracted and back on the same hive within a couple of hours. Those four boxes are nearly full again.
  9. John T

    John T Pupa Hobbyist

    Bump. Sorry.

    Any updates on this wood vs plastic frames debate? has there been any change in preference towards one over the other?
    Stu, any chance you could post your findings, if possible, as per post 43? Ta.

    I'm a newbie and am deciding whether to use plastic vs wood frames. Am currently considering wooden frames with plastic foundations for the supers (or a mix with wax) and fully plastic for the brood boxes.

    I have been reading various threads on the pros and cons of plastic vs wood/wax . While there's some good arguments, it's like watching two top tennis greats having a long never-ending rally and not knowing who is the more superior.

    I guess it comes down to personal preference and experience?

    • Like Like x 1
  10. Janice

    Janice Guard Bee Donor 2016 Hobbyist

    I think your tennis analogy is right. Either could win on the day. Maybe you could try using half and half and see which you prefer. I reckon my bees usually prefer wood but when they are really cranking they don't care.
  11. Cyathea

    Cyathea House Bee Donor 2016 Commercial

    Thanks for these tips John, I might give this a go, currently waxing 6000 plastic frames with a paintbrush :)
  12. Shaun

    Shaun Guard Bee Donor 2015 Semi Commercial

    Yep personal choice.
    But I'd say make a choice and stick to one style only.
    I've got a mix of them all. (y)
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  13. Pbee

    Pbee Guard Bee Donor 2015 Breeder

    Best for plastic are swarms, they draw 'anything'! Last season I bought a bunch of plastic frames for my existing hives. The bees much rather built wild comb than drawing out the plastic foundation. Mess everywhere! But give them wood and foundation ... (y). One advantage of the plastic I can get 11 frames in a box!
    if you are a 'commercial' I'd go plastic! But if you have a heart for your bees - wood and wax!
  14. Stu

    Stu Pupa Donor 2016 Commercial

    I don't think you should listen 100% to anyone just play and work out what fits your operation...

    It does come down to time, $$, location. My only gripe with the wood frames with insert is that if the frame has 3+ kg of honey on it and it is dropped while in the box or during extraction in the pricker etc the weight of the honey on the frame is transferred to the bottom bar of the frame and will push it off! I will fix this when I get a moment....another project that is a must do!

    I built 10,000 plus wood frames with plastic inserts this year and have begun putting seconds on and very very impressed with the amount of drawn comb all ready! They work very well...much better than a solid plastic frame ever did. But hard to be 100% definitive as I am now also putting a 60-100 grams of wax on plus putting a tiny amount of essential oils into the wax ...which makes all the difference.
  15. Cyathea

    Cyathea House Bee Donor 2016 Commercial

    What kind of essential oils Stu? :)
  16. Stu

    Stu Pupa Donor 2016 Commercial

    I am putting in Lemon grass and spearmint oils from Lotus oils. $70 or so for 2kg of oil. The bees accept them soo quickly you will be blown away!
    You can make honey B Healthy using the oils and Lecithin ...and a high speed kitchen blender!
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  17. fieldbee

    fieldbee Pupa Donor 2015 Commercial

    We used the crock pot and speed brush for staff or if we do it an old electric frying pan and speed brush
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  18. Cyathea

    Cyathea House Bee Donor 2016 Commercial

    what exactly is a speed brush?
  19. fieldbee

    fieldbee Pupa Donor 2015 Commercial

    Go to mitre 10 or Bunnings and ask them to show you, I was painting boxes with one today, though hubby thinks the roller puts the paint on thicker. Whoops - I just googled "speed brush picture" the Pal one is the one we use. For wax we always used the speed brush (useless for paining after)
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  20. Ali

    Ali Pupa Beginner Gold Donor '17

    Hi everyone, am very new to this and simply studying up on everything I can read! Stu, would you be happy to share any more info on your new style wood/plastic frames? Structure set up etc? Yes I am nosy but only want to learn and hope my asking does not offend.

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