Waxing or Waning on Plastic

We opted to start out with plastic foundation because it’s cheaper than wax, easier to set up, and reusable.  Mostly because we’re it’s cheap.  But we did do some research and found that a lot of people love plastic foundation, commercial and hobby beekeepers alike.  There’s no mess wiring the frame – just pop it right into the frame and you’re done.  Plus when the comb gets old and needs to be replaced, you can reuse the plastic foundation after cleaning the old comb off of it.  So what’s not to like?

bad comb on plastic
Poorly drawn comb on plastic foundation

Apparently our bees don’t like it.  The hive we purchased (with wax foundation) needed to be expanded.  Our package seemed to be doing well enough with the plastic foundation so we added a second deep brood box containing undrawn plastic foundation.  But in the following week, they made a real mess of their comb.  Between the plastic foundation the bees had built the comb perpendicular to the foundation, not parallel, in essence gluing frames together.  It wasn’t just one or two frames, it was most all of them.  The little that was drawn correctly was very sparse, and poorly drawn at that.  A real mess.

After a little research we found out we’re not the only ones that have seen this problem.  While we did know that coating plastic foundation with some beeswax to encourages the bees to draw it out, we assumed the pre-coated foundation we bought was sufficient.  As it turns out, while the plastic frames are coated with wax, they aren’t coated thick enough.  It is highly recommended that you put an additional coat of wax on the frames.  With all the messed up comb, we ended up with a fair amount of wax that we melted and used to coat undrawn foundation.  With the partially-drawn frames we just shook off the bees and put a quick coat of wax on the undrawn portion.  Hopefully the bees will be much happier now.  We’ll post an update in a week or so to see if this actually works.

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