When it comes to purchasing beekeeping equipment there are so many different options it can be confusing to a beginner. Each bit of equipment has options, be it the frames, the supers, the extractors or the foundation. And unfortunately there isn’t a set of options that are “the best”. As with much of beekeeping it’s simply a matter of opinion.
First, what is foundation? Foundation is the thin rectangular sheets that are used in each frame of a beehive. The bees “draw out” the wax of these to make combs to store honey, pollen or to lay eggs and grow more bees. Drawing out simply means to make the wax thicker.
If you’ve ever seen wrapped beeswax candles with a comb pattern you know a bit about what foundation looks like. Unwrap the sheet that makes the candle and you have something very similar to foundation.
There are many types of foundation that you can use but the two main differences have to do with using plastic or sticking to straight wax.
Beeswax foundation uses only wax. One benefit is that the bees like this foundation and draw it out quickly. If you want to keep bees naturally you’ll likely consider this as a main option. Of course everything has drawbacks and for beeswax foundation is no exception. In deep hive bodies you’ll have to wire in this foundation so it doesn’t fall under the weight of honey and brood. This adds a lot of extra time to assembling frames.
Plastic foundation is covered with a thin layer of wax. Unlike pure wax foundation this foundation does not need to be wired as the thin sheet of plastic in the middle support the weight of the honey or brood. Of course this type of foundation has plastic and isn’t considered purely “natural” for that reason. Also if bent the wax can come off of the plastic base causing the bees not to pull out comb on that part of the foundation.
So what type of foundation should you choose? That’s really up to you. If you’re in a hurry you’ll want to skip the straight beeswax foundation. If you have time and want to be completely natural than give the pure beeswax a go!
Let us know what type of foundations you’ve tried and what you prefer in the comments below.
Picture by Jessica Dally