If you a beekeeper of any sort, your life is very often dominated by the beehive frames that you use. A lot of agonizing and deliberation will go on to decide which type of beehive frame to put in your precious beehive; Wood VS Plastic! This short article will hopefully give you some insight into the differences and help you decide which frames are best for your beekeeping situation 🙂
Just to be clear for any newbies out there. This article is talking about the beehive frames and not the foundation that sits inside them.
Wood VS Plastic Beehive Frames: 12 Key Factors to Consider!
Wood is a natural and much less processed material than plastic. It is arguably more environmentally friendly too, coming from trees rather than the fossil fuel based chemicals plastic is derived from!
As a natural material, you get a lovely wood based scent wafting out of your beehive as soon as you open it (a bit like the beekeeper’s equivalent to that ‘new car’ smell!). You won’t get anything like this when you use plastic frames. I personally think that things like this are what give me the ‘warm and fuzzies’ around beekeeping, and I see the use of plastic as a colder and more calculating version of beekeeping. Of course, this is down to personal opinion!
And finally, there is a school of thought that is worried about the chemicals from plastics leeching into their honey. This is something you will never have to worry about with wooden frames.
Throw those wooden frames away and your local garbage center will have a much better time recycling them than they would a plastic set. And more dangerous fumes come out of recycling plastic than wood, assuming that the type of plastic used in the frame is recyclable to start with!
It would be easy for you to break up old wooden frames and re-purpose the wood yourself if you are the handy type. This is much harder with plastic frames.
Wood as a source material has more potential to be sustainable than plastic frames and the fossil fuels they are derived from. A responsible logger could replant trees but the best miner in the world can’t plant fossil fuels in the ground 🙂
4. DIY Readiness
A wooden frame is something the DIYer could knock up themselves at home, something that is a lot harder with plastic. As 3D printing technology improves and gets more widely adopted this may change, but at the time of writing it far more likely you can hand make your own wooden beehive frames than plastic ones.
5. Ability to Repair
If your wooden beehive frame breaks, you are more likely to be able to fix it at home yourself, especially if you have some basic DIY skills. This is pretty impossible with plastic frames, leading to them just getting tossed in the garbage.
Wood just has a sturdier and more solid feel when it comes to beehive frames, in my humble opinion. Plastic frames just have a more flimsy and flexible feel when handling them as a beekeeper.
7. Bee Friendliness
This is highly debatable, but I have found that when you place plastic and wooden frames alongside each other in a beehive, the bees are more likely to gravitate to the wooden frames first. Of course, if you don’t give them a choice and have a beehive of only plastic frames, they will still happily use them. But for me personally, I feel that adding wood to your beehive is more bee friendly than plastic. This is in fact what they will have experience of in the wild. I would encourage you to test this theory yourself though and don’t just take my word for it 🙂
7. Wear and Tear
Yes, wood has a sturdier feel in the hand than plastic, but it is also more prone to the elements. I have had many wooden beehive frames that have started to crack and split from the exposure to the outside elements. They also have a tendency to warp from excessive moisture and then simply won’t fit in your beehive! These are issues is you will not see in plastic frames, making them much more durable to the natural elements they deal with every day out in the apiary!
8. Ability to Clean
I would much rather clean a plastic frame than a wooden one. The dirt and grime is far more likely to simply wipe off of plastic rather than get stained and even ingrained into wood! Yes, you can sand down wooden frames to get a fresh new look, but this takes more effort and will change the size of the frame over time.
With wooden frames, you really have to find a manufacturer that is reviewed well and knows what they are doing when making beehive frames. Nothing worse than buying frames that have been poorly put together! For example, the joint is very important with a wooden frame and, when done badly, can fall apart at any moment.
This inconsistent construction also means sometimes they might not fit into your beehive perfectly at the start, and may be more likely to stick when removing them. This problem can be made worse when you buy wooden frames that need final assembly by the beekeeper!!
The process of making plastic frames is much simpler and can be more widely done without defects or manufacturing issues. You won’t find so many small problems or inconsistencies in your plastic frames.
Plastic beehive frames are often much easier to mass produce and can be assembled more easily than their wooden counterparts. This means that, more often than not, your plastic beehive frames will cost less than the wooden equivalent. And if you buy cheap wooden frames to make up for this, you are far more likely to get the inconsistent construction talked about above!
I personally like the classic style of wooden frames, but if you are looking for more design in your hives (such as fancy colors) then plastic gives you way more options here.
When compared side by side, the typical plastic beehive frame is lighter than a wooden equivalent. This doesn’t make a massive difference when simply lifting single frames out of your hive. But when moving multiple frames or even hole beehives, you might welcome that lighter overall weight 🙂
You’ve Been Framed!
There you have it, our full rundown on all the factors you should consider when deciding on wooden vs plastic beehive frames. I personally love the natural smell and bee friendly nature of wooden frames, but you should look at the differences stated above and decide which is best for yourself 🙂