Skip to main content

Beginner beekeepers - wiring frames and foundation

In case you missed it, Pete and I recently got started with beekeeping!  We bought a whole lot of gear from an old beekeeper, I call that our "starter kit".  It included all sorts of things, and Pete has been far better than me at figuring out what some of it is for.  We also bought some new equipment, such as hives and frames.  Last week I showed you how we (Pete) uses the frame box to make the frames.  The next step is wiring and installing foundation.

There is some debate amongst beekeepers about whether foundation is necessary, or whether is would be better to allow the bees to build their own comb naturally.  Certainly top bar and warre hives do not use foundation.  It is used by commercial beekeepers for a few reasons:
  • The wire keeps the comb more stable during transport (you don't lose as much honey)
  • The foundation encourages the bees to build straight comb in the right direction so that frames can easily be removed by the beekeeper either to inspect the hive or take the honey
  • The beekeeper can control (or try to control) the size of the holes in the comb to encourage larger worker bees but fewer drones (for more honey)
  • The bees don't have to waste energy building as much comb themselves (and can make more honey)
eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation
foundation beeswax
I know that there are plenty of beekeepers using no foundation or only some foundation and I would like to try that eventually.  As well as being more natural for the bees, it gives us better control over the chemicals in our hive (I would prefer this to be zero).  The foundation that we buy is produced from other beekeepers' harvested beeswax, which may or may not contain chemicals (pesticides and antibiotics used in bee hives), so while we are using foundation we can't be sure what is in it.  However, for now, we are doing things the traditional way so that we can learn more about the bees first and figure out the more novel management methods later.  

And so every new frame needs wire and foundation (when we extract the honey, we can put the spent frame back in the hive, these are called "stickies").  Pete is in charge of wiring, using the wiring board that came in our starter kit and a new roll of stainless steel wire.  The wire passes through four pre-drilled holes in the sides of the frames, some people put eyelets in these holes to stop the wire from splitting the wood.  We were told this wasn't necessary, but I'm sure we will find out in time if that was good advice!  The wiring board uses a series of wheels to pull the wire tight on the frame and its finished off by wrapping around a nail in the side of the frame.

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

I get the "arts and crafts" job of melting the wax foundation onto the wire.  We use an electric embedding tool, it is powered off a 12V car battery, with four lengths of copper tube to conduct the electric charge into the wire.  The stainless steel wire has resistance to electric charge, so it gets hot and melts the beeswax foundation.  Its surprising how quickly the wire heats up, it doesn't take much and the risk is cutting the foundation if I hold it too long.  We have a board cut to the size of the foundation sheets that sits in the frame to support the foundation at the right height to do the embedding.  You can also get a little tool like a pizza cutter that you run along the wires to embed, and there's a few other options.  This one came as part of our starter kit and its pretty easy and quick to use.  

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

eight acres: wiring frames and attaching beeswax foundation

What do you think?  Have you wired frames?  Embedded foundation?  Do you go foundation-free?


Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

Popular posts from this blog

Chicken tractor guest post

Sign up for my weekly email updates here , you will find out more about chickens, soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon.... Tanya from Lovely Greens invited me to write a guest post on chicken tractors for her blog.  I can't believe how many page views I get for chicken tractors, they seem to be a real area of interest and I hope that the information on my blog has helped people.  I find that when I use something everyday, I forget the details that other people may not be aware of, so in this post for Tanya, I tried to just write everything I could think of that I haven't covered in previous posts.  I tried to explain everything we do and why, so that people in other locations and situations can figure out how best to use chicken tractors with their own chickens. The dogs like to hang out behind the chicken tractors and eat chicken poo.  Dogs are gross! If you want to read more about chicken tractor

Getting started with beekeeping: how to harvest honey

While honey is not the only product from a beehive, its the one that most beekeepers are interested in and it usually takes a year or so to let the bees build up numbers and store enough honey before there is enough to harvest.  There are a few different ways to extract honey from frames.  We have a manual turn 2-frame certifugal extractor.  A lot of people with only a few hives will just crush and strain the comb.  This post is about how we've been extracting honey so far (four times now), and there are links at the end to other bloggers who use different methods so you can compare. Choose your frames Effectively the honey is emergency food stores for the bees, so you have to be very careful not to take too much from the hive.  You need to be aware of what is flowering and going to flower next and the climate.  Particularly in areas with cold winters, where the bees cannot forage for some time.  We are lucky to have something flowering most of the year and can take honey

The new Eight Acres website is live!

Very soon this blogspot address will automatically redirect to the new Eight Acres site, but in the meantime, you can check it out here .  You will find all my soaps, ebooks and beeswax/honey products there, as well as the blog (needs a tidy up, but its all there!).  I will be gradually updating all my social media links and updating and sharing blog posts over the next few months.  I'm very excited to share this new website with you!