There are various types of frame available for use in the brood box, and each beekeeper will have a preference for a particular type of brood/honey frame.

Wax & wire foundation frames

  • These were invented in Germany in 1857. They provide the bees with a structure onto which they draw their comb and (with conventional honey harvesting) allow the frames to be put into a centrifuge for honey extraction.
  • Wax foundation frames are wooden brood frames with wire threaded through. You put a wax foundation sheet across the wires and melt the wax onto the wires using a 12V power supply or car battery.
  • PROS:
    • Bees prefer wax foundation to plastic, and will usually start building comb quicker than on plastic foundation.
    • The foundation ensures that the bees will draw straight comb.
  • CONS:
    • Putting wax onto the wired frames takes a lot of time and effort. 
    • The introduction of wax from outside sources increases the chance of contamination. Much commercial wax contains traces of pesticides.
    • Wax and wire frames force the bees to use a uniform cell size, which can have adverse effects on the health of the colony.

Plastic foundation frames

  • These can be wooden or plastic frames containing plastic foundation. The foundation is usually made from ABS plastic.
  • PROS:
    • Plastic frames are easier to install than wax and wire frames.
    • They are also tough and durable.
  • CONS:
    • You cannot cut honeycomb out of plastic foundation.
    • Bees tend not to prefer plastic foundation and may be slow in building comb. You can add wax to the plastic foundation to encourage the bees to begin building comb. 
    • Using plastic foundation forces the bees to use a uniform cell size, which can have adverse effects on the health of the colony.  

Foundationless frames

  • Foundationless frames allow the bees to draw their own comb. A comb guide helps the bees to draw their comb correctly. 
  • PROS:
    • They are less expensive and quicker to prepare than other frames.
    • You can cut out large sections of honeycomb from these frames.      
    • They allow the bees to build cells of varying sizes, which can improve the health of the colony.
    • Avoids introducing wax from other sources into your hive, reducing the potential for contamination.
  • CONS:
    • Naturally drawn comb can be fragile, and you need to be careful not to break it during handling and inspection.
    • If your brood box is not level or if your frames are not set up properly, the bees may build their comb sideways across the frames (‘cross-combing’), which is difficult and time consuming to process.