I’ve always heard about how honey bees won’t draw comb on plastic foundation, but I didn’t experience it in a big way until this summer. I had three nucs set up in deeps that I wanted to expand into medium supers because I want to try on the all-medium-super beekeeping game and see if I like it because I know I don’t like lifting 40kg deeps full of honey (about 100 pounds). If I was a seniorish citizen with back, hip or leg problems, or just a regular human being who wasn’t in the mood for any heavy lifting in their beekeeping, I’d consider switching to all shallow supers. For now, though, I’ll see how it goes with mediums.
I bought 100 sheets of medium plastic foundation and my bees wouldn’t go near the damn stuff. They just did not want to work on it. I heard from another beekeeper who had the same foundation and had the same problem. The bees wouldn’t build comb on the plastic foundation — probably because the foundation didn’t have any wax on it.
Quality foundation is dipped in wax. Super duper quality foundation in doubled-dipped in wax. The wax encourages the bees to build comb on it (spraying the foundation with sugar syrup can help a little bit too, but it’s all for naught without wax). No wax causes them to ignore it for as long as they can. Even the “rite cell” plastic foundation that has deeper cells imprinted on it so the bees won’t have to draw out as much wax — if it’s not dipped in beeswax, the bees are usually reluctant to build on it. They will eventually, maybe, but “eventually” is often too late for beekeepers in Newfoundland whose bees don’t have much time to build comb before winter sets in.
I would have been better off (that is, my bees would have been better off) if I’d started with foundationless frames this summer and thrown the plastic foundation in the garbage. That, or I should have painted my plastic foundation with an extra coating of clean beeswax, except I didn’t have any beeswax, so what are ya gonna do?