This is a continuation of a previous rant about plastic. In my inspection last week I found a really goofy frame. Take a look:
This is one of the plastic frames I have in the hive. You can see the bees added some comb in a goofy way, a little perpendicular to the foundation. I believe this is a frame where they had stripped off the wax earlier, and now they are hesitant to draw out foundation. This is the result.
I've discussed this on the BeeSource forums and there isn't a consensus. People are passionate each way. But I have my beliefs. Plastic works great once it's drawn out. But it is a nightmare if the bees strip off the wax.
I re-waxed some plastic frames earlier (and did it to this frame as well), and plan on reintroducing the frames to the hive. I also got some wired wax foundation and made up some frames as well:
Wired wax frames are a lot more labor intensive than the plastic foundations. You have to put the foundation in the frame, and nail a piece of wood along the top holding the vertical wires in place. Then you need to do something about the horizontal stability of the wax foundation. The traditional way is to use horizontal wires (there are a set of 4 holes in the side pieces of the frame specifically for the wire), but it's kind of a hassle, because you have to embed the wire into the wax (either using electricity to heat up the wire and let it melt into the wax, or using a star wheel device to push it into the wax). You also need to use some kind of grommets in the wood to keep the wire from slicing into the wood.
But then I found this video from "FatBeeMan" on YouTube:
He advocates using fishing line in an X-shape, and use a couple of bobby pins to secure things. I did that with the 5 frames I put together, and it wasn't too bad.
An alternative to all of these foundation types is to use no foundation whatsoever - it's called foundationless. Here are some such frames:
You can see that there is no foundation whatsoever. There is a groove in the top of the underside of the frame where you normally put foundation. With foundationless frames you glue some kind of guide stick (in my case some wide Popsicle sticks) to give the bees a guide. I also painted a little beeswax along the guides to further help them know what to do.
The downside of foundationless is that there is no wire or other support, so the wax tends to be more fragile. You need to be careful to not tilt the frame and let the wax break off (usually the bees will attach the comb to all 4 sides of the frame, so it's a little better than just one contact point). Obviously you can't put this type of frame into an extractor, but since the frames I am talking about are in the deep brood chamber, and no extraction is intended. I mark the top of the frame with the type of foundation it has, so I don't get them confused if I need to know later.
So I'm going to put some of the wired wax and the re-waxed plastic back into the hive, and see which one the bees like best. Based on my observations, the wax coated plastic is best for new packages, where the bees are gung-ho to build up comb.