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Beekeeping – WAX FOUNDATION

The invention of manufactured sheets of pure beeswax is one of the greatest boons to bee-keepers. The material consists of a thin sheet of beeswax impressed mechanically with the bases of the honeycomb cells and the bases of the cell walls. This is sold in sheets of the correct sizes to fit into the wooden brood frames, shallow frames and sections. 

For brood frames, “worker foundation “is used, as this ensures that the bees are induced to build worker cells in the brood chamber to the exclusion of drone cells. It should be noted that it is a great disadvantage to have too many drone cells in the brood chamber, as too many drones encourage swarming and, as they are not honey gatherers, consume large quantities of honey which might otherwise be stored. Bees, however, will not always draw out the worker foundation as worker cells. Sometimes they draw out the foundation part worker and part drone. The intermediate cells are called transition cells.

Brood frame with wired foundation

Shallow (super) frame with wired foundation

For shallow frames (supers ) “worker” or “drone” foundation can be used. Bees do not store pollen in drone cells but only honey ,so when honey is stored in drone cells it is more readily extracted than from worker cells. In natural surroundings bees build drone cells in which to store honey. It should be pointed out, however, that when drone foundation is used in the supers the use of a queen excluder is absolutely essential, unless the frames are being used for varroa control.

There are some disadvantages in the use of drone combs. 

  • Sometimes the bees hesitate to go into drone combs until the queen has laid eggs in them. This is         frustrated if a queen excluder is used. 
  • Further they cannot be used as food storage combs for the winter. 

There are some who think that the use of a queen excluder outweighs the advantages of drone cells for the storage of honey. It certainly can be a great help to have drawn out worker combs in shallow frames to form an addition to the brood nest. On the whole we think drone combs for supers are preferable. 

There are approximately 28.87 worker cells to the square inch; each cell being approximately 1/5 in. in diameter. The cells are hexagonal in shape; two sides of the cells are vertical. This is important to remember for if the foundation is inserted with two sides horizontal, the bees will break down the foundation and build more drone cells. This causes delay and waste of effort on the part of the bees. 

Wired foundation alleviates this problem, as the foundation can only be inserted in one direction when making up frames. The wire also adds strength to the frames, especially during inspections and when extracting the honey.

Unwired foundation for both brood and supers is also available. The use of unwired foundation is mostly used in the production of “cut comb honey” also known as “section honey”.

Drone cells are larger than worker cells, being approximately 1/4in. diameter. There are 18.48 cells to the square inch.

All foundation should be made from pure beeswax. Any foundation which is adulterated with any other material should be avoided at all costs. At present there is a huge amount of wax foundation being sold online that is coming from China. Although sold as pure beeswax, it contains mostly paraffin wax, which the bees hate, and will most likely reject. 

All of our foundation is guaranteed pure beeswax.

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