Advances in beekeeping supplies have given apiarists new and exciting choices to make for piecing their ideal hives together. One common decision for many of today’s apiarists is choosing between wooden and plastic bee hives. While the material you choose for your bodies and frames (and foundations, if you choose) may not make a profound difference regarding your honey yield, but they will present you with different challenges and benefits throughout the beekeeping and honey-collecting process.
So which material should you choose? Should you abide by tradition and stick to your wooden hives, or embrace the future and opt for plastic? Let’s look at the facts and examine the pros and cons of each.
The pros and cons of wooden hives
Wood hive advantages
- Natural and renewable – For the environmentally–conscious apiarist, wooden frames are the natural choice. They are also renewable and can be safely disposed of.
- Familiar and comfortable for bees – Your bees will find wooden frames and foundations familiar and comfortable and won’t hesitate to embrace your hive and begin production.
- Complements honey flavour and aromatics – The fresh smell of white pine will add a touch of scent to your honey. Honey connoisseurs may even pick up a little woodiness in the taste as well.
- Can be disassembled – Wooden frames are made to be disassembled and easily stored. This is because wooden foundations split or warp easily, particularly when you’re scraping them clean. Components can be mixed and matched, making storage easier and maintenance more cost-efficient.
- Cheaper and lighter – Wood is abundant, and pine in particular is inexpensive. Wooden frames are also lighter and cheaper than plastic frames.
Wood hive disadvantages
- Split and warp easily – Wooden frames don’t have a very long lifespan, and often split or crack when prying them loose from hive bodies encrusted with propolis. Wooden hives are also vulnerable to warping in hot and humid summers.
- Difficult to scrape clean – Wooden frames must be scraped clean of remaining propolis before reuse, which can be laborious and challenging.
- Vulnerable to wax moth damage – Wax moth larvae will find it easy to burrow through wooden foundations, corrupting hives with veins of silk web.
The pros and cons of plastic hives
Plastic hive advantages
- No assembly required – Plastic bee hives come pre-assembled and ready to install.
- Impervious to wax moths – Plastic foundations feature hexagonal combs that wax moth larvae are unable to burrow through. This prevents their spread and preserves your honey.
- Hold up well in extractors – Plastic hives hold up well in extractors and are easy to scrape clean for reuse. You can even blast them clean with a pressure washer!
- Makes spotting eggs a breeze – Black plastic frames, in particular, offer a stark contrast to the little white orbs that are the queen’s eggs, which will make locating them much easier.
- Very durable – Plastic frames are built to last. They won’t split when prying them free from propolis encrusted hive bodies or when scraping them clean.
Plastic hive disadvantages
- More expensive than wood and non-renewable – Plastic frames will last longer than wooden frames, and this is reflected in the cost. Plastics are also non-renewable, so you’ll need to ensure you recycle them when they are replaced.
- Bees may reject them – Plastic hives typically come coated in a layer of beeswax so that bees will accept them, but this isn’t always the case. On rare occasion, bees may refuse to engage with plastic hives, particularly if the plastic foundation offers inflexible hexagons that are not the size the bees desire.
- Infectious bee diseases must be treated with expensive radiation – Diseases like American foulbrood that can destroy a hive need to be eliminated. Wooden frames can simply be burnt and replaced, destroying spores and larvae and clearing the way for a new hive. Plastics, however, need to be treated with expensive radiation.
Find the perfect apiary for you
Whether you’re looking for wooden or plastic beehives or some combination of the two, Nuplas Apiarist Supplies have the components you need to build your dream hive. As Australia’s foremost supplier of apiarist beekeeping accessories, we can guarantee we’ll have the components you need. Contact Nuplas Apiarist Supplies today and speak with our beekeeping experts about the right components for you.