Sunday, April 20, 2014

Beekeeping: Frame Wiring How To

Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about the equipment you need to start your beehive? Well let's refresh a bit on the frames and the foundation that goes inside of them:  

Frames: These are wooden frames that go inside the hive bodies and supers. My boxes will each contain ten frames. So if you do the math, I have 4 hive bodies (2 per hive). I also have 2 supers (1 per hive). Six boxes mean I need 60 frames. That's a lot of work. Did I mention, each of those frames need a beeswax foundation? [Note: Not everyone is a beekeeper for the honey. I am, which means I want to give my bees a foundation to start building out their comb immediately. If I don't give them a foundation, I will have to wait for them to build it themselves. They would, if I let them, but I would rather not lose time when I could give them something to start. The time it would take them to build out their foundation, is precious time the queen could be laying eggs, nurturing more worker bees to life, and sending them out to collect pollen and nectar.]

When you purchase your equipment you have three options when it comes to foundation.
  • You choose to go foundation-less
    • Allowing the bees to build their own. If your main priority is to harvest honey you probably do not want to choose this option. It takes the bees longer to build their own, than it would be if you gave them a base foundation to start.
  • You choose wax and wire (W&W) foundation
    • A great option if your priority is to harvest honey. It's essentially plain beeswax that has been formed into thin layers of foundation with embedded wire to hold them in the frame. The beekeeper is required to add an additional horizontal wire to give the foundation strength. Otherwise, the summer heat can cause the wax foundation to collapse and fall out of the frame.
  • You choose a plastic foundation (Plasticell, Duragilt, Ritecell, etc)
    • Another great option if your priority is to harvest honey. It is similar to wax and wire foundation, only it's the plastic version. It snaps into the frames and does not require a lot of preparation by the beekeeper. 

Most of our instructors in class informed us that the W&W foundation is more natural than the plastic version and they felt the bees drew out their comb faster with W&W. Their advice convinced me to choose wax and wire foundation for my two hives. However, we did have one instructor who has tested both W&W and Plasticell and didn't notice a difference. He has converted fully to Plasticell for convenience purposes. If I had 60 hives to prep and care for, I would probably choose the most convenient option as well. #seriousbusiness 

This tutorial is to teach you how to wire your frames in preparation for your wax foundation. 


1. Gather your supplies and frames.

2. Hammer eyelets into the pre-drilled holes on each side of your frames. For the deep frames there will be 4 on each side; totaling 8 eyelets per frame. For the shallow frames, there will be 2 on each side; totaling 4 eyelets per frame.

3. Remove the wedge top from the frame with a utility knife. The frames should already have a groove, pre-cut, which makes the removal process very simple. Save the wedge top, you will need it again after you insert the wax foundation.

4. Hammer two nails (half way) on the right side of each frame. The first one near the top eyelet and the second one near the bottom eyelet (refer to supplies photo for area of nail placement). Since the nails are small, it helps to hold the nail steady with the needle nose pliers. It prevents bruised fingers too.

5. Continuously string the wire (like a shoelace), beginning from the top left eyelet and ending at the bottom left eyelet. The wire should be strung tight. At our workshop our instructor suggested it should be a "G Flat" - I don't play guitar so it didn't mean much to me. I just strung as tightly as I could.

6. Pull 5 inches of excess wire through the bottom left eyelet, snip the wire with your wire cutters, and wrap the excess wire three times around the nail you "half-way" hammered. Trim the excess wire and hammer the nail the rest of the way.

7. Take your spool of wire at the top left eyelet and give it a good tug to pull the wire extra tight. Then take the spool of wire and also wrap it three times around the other "half-way" nail. Trim the excess wire and hammer the nail the rest of the way.

Turn on some music, grab a case of beer, and repeat process for each of your frames. This took me about six hours to complete all 60 frames. They weren't kidding when they said it was time consuming, so I hope my bees appreciate it. If not, next year I will be converting to plastic. #lazybeekeeper

I will be returning soon with the how-to on adding the wax foundation. Unfortunately, it's not much easier than the wiring process.

PS. Be sure to keep a tight grip on your spool of wire. If you let it go, it has a mind of it's own and will become a tangled mess. Believe me, I speak from experience!

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