Waxing Foundation with a Heat Gun

Quality plastic foundation is coated with beeswax to encourage the bees to build comb off it. But sometimes the foundation isn’t coated in wax for whatever reason and the bees won’t touch it, or if they do, they take much longer to build comb on it. So that’s when beekeepers are forced to coat the foundation with beeswax themselves. There are many ways of going about it. This is one of them.

Doubled waxed plastic foundation could make this issue moot, as might wax foundation or even foundationless frames.

This is the most convenient method I’ve found for waxing foundation. However, even more convenient might be to wax the foundation before inserting it into the frames.

Word around the campfire tells me that only the top inch or so of the foundation needs to be waxed — not the entire foundation. Apparently, once the bees start building comb on the top edge of the foundation, that gets them started and they have no trouble working down the rest of the frame. I’ve seen photos that seem to illustrate this.

Waxing Philosophical About Waxing

But I need more data. I’ve convinced myself of things in the past, especially beliefs tied into natural beekeeping, that turned out to be more wishful thinking than solid-science beekeeping. As hard working beekeepers wanting the best for our bees, we tend to wish for a lot. The beekeeping world is replete with wishful thinkers. It helps to be on guard about our beekeeping biases, because they’re strong.

I started beekeeping in the summer of 2010 and never had a need to wax any foundation until the summer of 2019 when I bought foundation that didn’t have much or any wax on it. So for that reason, I’m not convinced that all plastic foundation requires waxing. It’s probably not something that automatically needs to be done.

But for some beekeepers, it is something they always do because there are direct measurable benefits to waxing foundation. Beekeepers like David Burns, for instance, add extra wax not because the foundation is waxless, but because the bees tend to build quicker on foundation that’s had extra wax applied. (See David’s waxing videos, Part 1 and Part 2, for more info.) So even if the bees are given only a strip of wax to build from, wouldn’t it be better to give them even more wax? Wouldn’t more wax reduce the time the bees need to produce wax themselves and therefore speed up the comb building process?

To prove that the one-inch strip of wax is all that’s required to jump start the bees into comb building on plastic foundation, we need to see a side-by-side comparison, not just the results from a hive that only used foundation with a strip of wax. We need:

Frame 1 = Standard plastic foundation with beeswax coating, plus a 1-inch wax strip on top.
Frame 2 = Standard plastic foundation with beeswax coating, fully covered with extra beeswax.
Frame 3 = Standard plastic foundation with beeswax coating, without any kind of wax applied.

Then all of the above again — but with plastic foundation that begins with just plastic and no wax coating.

To be continued…