Mountain Sweet Honey

What hive foundation is best for you and your bees?

As beekeepers we tend to stay with a proven foundation type and really do not look at where time and technology has brought to beekeeping.  Have you ever had bees reject the foundation wax and they build a comb adjacent to the foundation?   After starting more then 4,000 hives over the past several years, I wanted to share the pro’s and con’s of each foundation type.


Pure Bees Wax Foundation 

Pro’s – The natural bees wax foundation is an excellent foundation to get your bees started in combing out the new foundation.  Mostly manufactured in large cell.  With some homework you may be able to find small cell foundation.

Con’s – (1) Natural wax can become brittle and break or crack while in transit to your home during cold weather.  (2) During honey extraction you will need to extract at a slower RPM.  If you use a high RPM during extraction, the foundation will experience a separation from the frame.  This is not good news…  (3) The foundation can warp within the frame during hot summer days during the first 48 hours of being placed in the hive.

Frame: Use a wedge top frame to better hold the foundation in place.

Price – You will see a 25% higher cost when using natural bees wax foundation.

Tip: Take a sheet of foundation and take a deep smell of the foundation.  You should smell the wonderful aroma of bee’s wax.  If it has no natural bee’s wax smell the bees just may reject the wax foundation.


Pure Bees Wax Wired Foundation 

Pro’s – The wired is infused within the wax foundation to offer far better stability in keeping the foundation straight within the frame.   During honey extraction you can increase the RPM’s by 15% over non-wired wax foundation.

Con’s – During honey extraction you will still experience foundation dislodging from the frame if the RPM’s go too high.

Price – You will see a 15% higher cost vs. non-wired foundation.  This is the most expensive foundation a beekeeper can purchase.

Frame: Use a wedge top frame to properly secure the foundation.

Tip: Take a smell of the foundation!  You should smell the wax and it should smell like bees wax.

Tip #2: If you are going to use wired foundation only purchase wired “hook” foundation.  Hook foundation will need to have a “wedge top” frame to hold the foundation securely in place.


Cut Comb Wax Foundation

Cut comb wax foundation is very thin foundation.  You can almost see through the wax as it is thin.  Cut comb foundation has no wire and is used for comb honey jars.  There are really no substitutes for this type of wax foundation.  Cut Comb wax is normally sold only in medium sized frames.

Pro’s – All natural bees wax that will be consumed by us.

Con’s – Can crack during shipment in cold weather.  Handle with care as the foundation is so thin that it can rip or warp easy.

Frame:  Use a wedge top frame

Tip – Smell your foundation!  It should smell like bees wax!


Plastic Wax Coated Foundation 

Plastic wax coated foundation is the newest product to come into the market.  At first the beekeeping community had many questions as to adding plastic into a hive.  Now 10 years later, plastic wax coated foundation is very common in the beekeeping community.  I have toured Pierco manufacturing and the plastic foundation is sprayed on the foundation in a thin layer of bees wax.  You can purchase foundation in the color black.  Black is preferred as it reduces the light within the hive body.  Queens desire darkness within the hive.  Foundation can also be purchased in natural color which will allow you to see the amber of the honey.

Pro’s – No fumes or vapor from the plastic.  The bees do not show any negative effects towards plastic wax coated foundation.  The foundation can be extracted at high speeds with no foundation separation from the frame.   You can speed up honey extraction by 50% using this foundation vs. wired wax foundation at 90 degree ambient temperature.

Con’s – Make sure the manufacturer is using 100% American Bees Wax.

Price – The least expensive foundation.

Frame: Use a grooved top and bottom frame.

Tip –  Smell the foundation, you should smell bees wax.  There are some companies that sell plastic foundation.  Please note that if you purchase plastic foundation it means there is no wax on the foundation and your honey bees will reject the foundation until you roll hot wax on the plastic foundation.  I found this out the hard way…

We have used this foundation exclusively in our operations.


Other insights

There seems to be some suppliers that are using adulterated wax from Brazil, China, and Vietnam.  How do you tell if you have great wax?  Smell it and your nose never will let you down.

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