Frames and Wax Foundation – Where the bees build

The frames that fit in the hive will be of different sizes depending on which hive you use. Frames used in the Brood Box are generally larger than the frames in honey supers. Both types are fitted with wax foundation sheets to give the bees a solid base and starting point for them to build comb.

Generally, in the UK frames are sold in packs of 10 and may contain the wax sheets as well. These can also be purchased ready assembled although they will come at a premium price. Making up the frames and fitting the foundation sheets is not a difficult task and I find it quite a relaxing a rewarding way to spend some time and save some money along the way.

Frame Parts.

Frames consist of a number of different parts, a top bar, 2 side bars and 2 bottom bars which will be fitted in slots on the bottom of the side bars.

Frame Top Bar

Frame Bottom Bars

Hoffman Side Bars

The top bar of the frame has a removable piece of wood that is used to hold the foundation firmly in place, this will need to be removed before assembly.

Side bars come in three main types, these will all have grooves on the inside into which the wax sheet fit.

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Before we move on lets look at the different types of frame and the spacing.

Spacing Frames in the hive.

The different types of frame have different names unsurprisingly. We have DN1 (Deep) and SN1 (Shallow) both these types have straight narrow sidebars. To ensure that they are spaced correctly (Bee Space) Spacers are placed over the lugs on the top bar, these spacers hold the frames apart (2 Bee Spaces in the Brood box)

Self Spacing Frames.

Hoffman frames as these are known make the beekeeper’s life much easier (see photo above) One edge of these side bars is flat and the other is chamfered, this holds the frames at the correct spacing.

Frame spacing in the supers can be achieved in a couple of ways. Manley Side bars are the same width along their length this stops the frames swinging if the supers are being moved or lifted, These either sit on runners fixed into the super of into castellations which are metal strips, these can have 9,10 or 11 slots depending on how narrow or wide you want the frames.


Wax Foundation.

If we were to put just the frames in the hive, the bees would fill them with comb, however this is not recommended as the would build come across the frames and make life very difficult for you to inspect the colony, also they would use a lot of time and energy to get the combs built. The answer is to use sheets of wax called foundation.

The sheets come ready cut to the size of the frames you are using and they have the hexagonal cell shapes embossed on each side. As, with a lot of things in beekeeping you have a couple of choices here.

Wired Foundation.

Generally in the UK this is how most foundation is sold, the wax sheet will have wires running diagonally through it so as to add strength and less likely to fall apart when placed in the extractor. There are loops of this wire on the top and bottom edges of the wax to hold the foundation firmly in place.

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Unwired Foundation.

Some beekeeper’s use this, particularly if they wish to produce cut comb honey, as there are no wires in the foundation they can simply cut out the whole comb and honey and this can then be spread directly onto the bread or toast and eaten. Special cutters are available for this, alternatively you can just use a knife.

Cut Comb Honey

In my next article I will discuss the assembly of the frames and how to fix the foundation to the frames.

Hopefully this has been informative and helpful, please do leave your questions and comments below as I love to read them and I will reply as soon as possible.


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