Wax foundation

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Wax Foundation
Mittelwand 17a.jpg
Wax foundation with wires inserted into a frame
Typessmall cell
large cell
Used with Langstroth hive
Hive frame
InventorJohannes Mehring

Wax foundation or honeycomb base is a plate made of wax forming the base of one honeycomb. It is used in beekeeping to give the bees a foundation on which they can build the honeycomb. [1] Wax foundation is considered one of the most important inventions in modern beekeeping. [1]

Wax class of chemical compounds that are plastic (malleable) near ambient temperatures.

Waxes are a diverse class of organic compounds that are lipophilic, malleable solids near ambient temperatures. They include higher alkanes and lipids, typically with melting points above about 40 °C (104 °F), melting to give low viscosity liquids. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents. Natural waxes of different types are produced by plants and animals and occur in petroleum.

Honeycomb mass of hexagonal wax cells built by honey bees in their nests

A honeycomb is a mass of hexagonal prismatic wax cells built by honey bees in their nests to contain their larvae and stores of honey and pollen.

Beekeeping care and breeding of honey bees

Beekeeping is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. Most such bees are honey bees in the genus Apis, but other honey-producing bees such as Melipona stingless bees are also kept. A beekeeper keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produce, to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard".



Foundation press in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911) Foundation Machine.png
Foundation press in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911)

Wax foundation was invented by German Johannes Mehring in 1857, [1] a few years after Langstroth designed and patented the Langstroth hive on October 5, 1852. [2] Mehring's wax foundation had only the bottom of the cells, and today's base with the foundation of the cells was invented by US beekeeper Samuel Wagner. [1] The Langstroth patent did not call for foundation and let the bees build their own comb. [3]

Langstroth hive type of beehive

In modern beekeeping, a Langstroth hive is any vertically modular beehive that has the key features of vertically hung frames, a bottom board with entrance for the bees, boxes containing frames for brood and honey and an inner cover and top cap to provide weather protection. In a Langstroth hive, the bees build honeycomb into frames, which can be moved with ease. The frames are designed to prevent bees from attaching honeycombs where they would either connect adjacent frames, or connect frames to the walls of the hive. The movable frames allow the beekeeper to manage the bees in a way which was formerly impossible.

At first, wax foundations were made in the wax foundation press. [1] The first presses were made of wood, while later presses could be made of plaster, cement, and finally metal, which are the ones used today. [1] Wagner also invented the wax foundation rollers, but never perfected them; the first usable rollers were made by Amos Root and precise mechanic Alva Washburn in 1875. [4] In 1895. Detroit inventor Edward Weed invented rollers that can make wax foundation in a continuous roll. [5]

Wood Fibrous material from trees or other plants

Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic material - a natural composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension and embedded in a matrix of lignin that resists compression. Wood is sometimes defined as only the secondary xylem in the stems of trees, or it is defined more broadly to include the same type of tissue elsewhere such as in the roots of trees or shrubs. In a living tree it performs a support function, enabling woody plants to grow large or to stand up by themselves. It also conveys water and nutrients between the leaves, other growing tissues, and the roots. Wood may also refer to other plant materials with comparable properties, and to material engineered from wood, or wood chips or fiber.

Plaster general term for a broad range of building materials

Plaster is a building material used for the protective or decorative coating of walls and ceilings and for moulding and casting decorative elements. In English "plaster" usually means a material used for the interiors of buildings, while "render" commonly refers to external applications. Another imprecise term used for the material is stucco, which is also often used for plasterwork that is worked in some way to produce relief decoration, rather than flat surfaces.

Cement hydraulic binder used in the composition of mortar and concrete

A cement is a binder, a substance used for construction that sets, hardens, and adheres to other materials to bind them together. Cement is seldom used on its own, but rather to bind sand and gravel (aggregate) together. Cement mixed with fine aggregate produces mortar for masonry, or with sand and gravel, produces concrete. Cement is the most widely used material in existence and is only behind water as the planet's most-consumed resource.


Sheet of foundation out of a cardboard box Beekeeping wax foundation.jpg
Sheet of foundation out of a cardboard box

Wax or plastic foundation is inserted into a wooden frame through the top and is usually connected to the side bars with wire. It is not used in foundationless frames or in plastic frames where the foundation is made of plastic and is part of the frame itself. Foundation is not usually used in top-bar applications (where no frames are used) such as Top Bar Hives or Warre Hives except sometimes as starter strips.

Émile Warré was a French priest and beekeeper who published several books and invented the Warré Hive, also known as the People’s Hive.

Wax foundation has some advantages over letting bees build their own comb:

Hive frame structural element in a beehive

A hive frame or honey frame is a structural element in a beehive that holds the honeycomb or brood comb within the hive enclosure or box. The hive frame is a key part of the modern movable-comb hive. It can be removed in order to inspect the bees for disease or to extract the excess honey.

For these reasons, foundation had been used extensively in commercial operations.

Recently there has been a large movement toward foundationless beekeeping by hobbyists for various reasons. Some of which are listed below:

<i>Varroa destructor</i> species of arthropods

Varroa destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks and feeds on the honey bees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera. The disease caused by the mites is called varroosis.

Traceability is the capability to trace something. In some cases, it is interpreted as the ability to verify the history, location, or application of an item by means of documented recorded identification.

A frame has to be wired so that the wax foundation could be inserted into it. [10] The foundation is then soldered with the wire by using a spur embedder or electric current. Also extant are wax foundations with embedded wire that only need to be inserted into the frame. [10]

Wax foundations are made in various sizes, depending on the frame they will be inserted into. If needed, roller knife is used to cut wax foundations. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Beehive enclosed structure in which honey bees live and raise their young

A beehive is an enclosed, man-made structure in which some honey bee species of the subgenus Apis live and raise their young. Though the word beehive is commonly used to describe the nest of any bee colony, scientific and professional literature distinguishes nest from hive. Nest is used to discuss colonies which house themselves in natural or artificial cavities or are hanging and exposed. Hive is used to describe an artificial, man-made structure to house a honey bee nest. Several species of Apis live in colonies, but for honey production the western honey bee and the eastern honey bee are the main species kept in hives.

Bee brood

In beekeeping, bee brood or brood refers to the eggs, larvae and pupae of honeybees. The brood of Western honey bees develops within a bee hive. In man-made, removable frame hives, such as Langstroth hives, each frame which is mainly occupied by brood is called a brood frame. Brood frames usually have some pollen and nectar or honey in the upper corners of the frame. The rest of the brood frame cells may be empty or occupied by brood in various developmental stages. During the brood raising season, the bees may reuse the cells from which brood has emerged for additional brood or convert it to honey or pollen storage. Bees show remarkable flexibility in adapting cells to a use best suited for the hive's survival.

Horizontal top-bar hive

A top-bar hive is a single-story frameless beehive in which the comb hangs from removable bars. The bars form a continuous roof over the comb, whereas the frames in most current hives allow space for bees to move up or down between boxes. Hives that have frames or that use honey chambers in summer but which use similar management principles as regular top-bar hives are sometimes also referred to as top-bar hives. Top-bar hives are rectangular in shape and are typically more than twice as wide as multi-story framed hives commonly found in English speaking countries. Top-bar hives usually include one box only, and allow for beekeeping methods that interfere very little with the colony.

Honey super the part of a commercial beehive that is used to collect honey

A honey super is a part of a commercial or other managed beehive that is used to collect honey. The most common variety is the "Illinois" or "medium" super with a depth of 6​58 inches, in the length and width dimensions of a Langstroth hive.

Honey extractor mechanical device used in the extraction of honey from honeycombs

A honey extractor is a mechanical device used in the extraction of honey from honeycombs. A honey extractor extracts the honey from the honey comb without destroying the comb. Extractors work by centrifugal force. A drum or container holds a frame basket which spins, flinging the honey out. With this method the wax comb stays intact within the frame and can be reused by the bees.

Hive management in beekeeping refers to intervention techniques that a beekeeper may perform to ensure hive survival and to maximize hive production. Hive management techniques vary widely depending on the objectives.

This page is a glossary of beekeeping.

L. L. Langstroth American beekeeper

Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was an American apiarist, clergyman and teacher, and considered to be the father of American beekeeping. He created the modern day Langstroth hive.

Langstroth Cottage United States historic place

Langstroth Cottage is a historic building on the Western College campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 22, 1976. The cottage, built in 1856, is now the home for the Oxford office of the Butler County Regional Transit Authority. It was purchased for Beekeeper L. L. Langstroth in 1859, and he lived there for the next 28 years, conducting research and breeding honey bees.

Honey extraction process in beekeeping of removing honey from the honeycomb

Honey extraction is the central process in beekeeping of removing honey from honeycomb so that it is isolated in a pure liquid form.

Beekeeping in Ireland has been practiced for at least 2000 years and has seen a surge in popularity in modern times, evidenced by the numerous organizations promoting and assisting beekeeping. Despite the increased pressures on bees and beekeepers through new diseases and loss of habitat, there are now in excess of 3,500 members within beekeeping associations.

BS National Beehive

The Improved National Beehive was a form of Langstroth beehive standardized by two British Standards. The same standard contained the specification of the Smith beehive: these two forms represent the most popular designs used in the UK.

Flow Hive

Flow Hive is a beehive designed to allow honey to be extracted simply by turning a lever: the hive does not have to be opened and the bees are not disturbed as in normal extraction.

Franz Hruschka Czech inventor and beekeeper

Franz Hruschka also known as Franz von Hruschka or Francesco De Hruschka was an Austrian/Italian officer and beekeeper known as the inventor of the honey extractor, an invention he presented in 1865 at the Brno Beekeeper Conference.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Katalinić, Josip (1985). Pčelarstvo. Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Znanje. pp. 220–221.
  2. "Istorijski razvoj košnice". Union of Beekeeping Associations of Serbia. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  3. US Patent # US9300A
  4. Katalinić, Josip (1985). Pčelarstvo. Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Znanje. p. 222.
  5. Katalinić, Josip (1985). Pčelarstvo. Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Znanje. p. 224.
  6. 1 2 3 Natural Cell Size - Micheal Bush - Bush Farms http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
  7. Scientific Beekeeping - Fighting Varroa - http://scientificbeekeeping.com/fighting-varroa-biotechnical-tactics-ii/
  8. 1 2 Bee Culture - Ditch the foundation - http://www.beeculture.com/ditch-the-foundation/
  9. Beekeeping Like a Girl - Why Try Foundationless Beekeeping http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/why-try-foundationless-beekeeping/
  10. 1 2 Katalinić, Josip (1985). Pčelarstvo. Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Znanje. pp. 229–231.
  11. Katalinić, Josip (1985). Pčelarstvo. Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Znanje. p. 233.