Mann Lake PF-100 Plastic Frames

The Idea

Mann Lake's PF-100 plastic frame

Mann Lake’s PF-100 plastic frame.

Need a frame/foundation based natural beekeeping system?

Mann Lake PF-100 plastic frames have several advantages:

  • convenient
  • economical
  • 4.9mm cell size
  • pest resistant
  • available in both medium and deep sizes
  • great acceptance

And they have a few drawbacks:

  • bees build ladder comb between boxes of PF-100s
  • feel flimsy
  • require different handling techniques compared to wooden frames
  • hive beetle haven – maybe

Can you live with the drawbacks? If so, then these frames can become part of a frame based natural beekeeping system.

Don’t like plastic frames and would rather use wood? It would be great if Mann Lake offered plastic foundation based on the same mold pattern. But they don’t. So Barry Birkey adapts PF-120s for use in wood frames. Check it out.

The Details

Advantages

Mann Lake PF-100s are the only 4.9mm plastic frame/foundation combination available in the US. In quantity, these frames are cheaper than a wooden frame. And they don’t require near the time or hassle. That makes them convenient.

And common pests like hive beetles or wax moths shouldn’t destroy them. I expect that with a little cleanup, the bees could draw them out again. But I don’t have any actual pest experience with them.

Acceptance

But it’s the bee’s acceptance of these frames that makes them so outstanding. My bees drew out perfect small cell size comb with only small patches of drone comb.

That’s a far cry from the expensive and time-consuming process of getting bees to drawn out small cell size beeswax based foundation. And it’s a far cry from the complete lack of acceptance I’ve experienced with other small cell sized plastic foundation.

Disadvantages

Ladder Comb

My bees build ladder comb between boxes of PF-100s. Normally that indicates there’s a dimensional spacing problem with the equipment.

Hives are all built to the same dimensions, right? No so. A Bee Culture article found dimensional differences in commercially manufactured hive equipment. Those differences were significant enough that some frames were a poor fit in another equipment brand.

So, it may not be fair to blame the PF-100s, as they may work perfectly when matched with Mann Lake equipment. But my woodenware was manufactured by Western Bee Supply and might not be such a good fit.

There’s another possibility. Maybe the bees just don’t sense the end of a comb and the beginning of another on the plastic based frame like they do on wooden ones.

Flimsy

If you are used to wooden frames, these frames feel flimsy. Unlike wood, they flex. Yet, they might actually hold together better and longer than a wooden frames.

Handling

PF-100s can’t be handled like wooden frames. The thin edges of the end bars just can’t take much compression. If a beekeeper squeezes that last PF-100 frame in, like most beekeepers do with wooden frames, you’ll hear a crinkling sound. That’s the end bar getting slightly narrower as those thin edges crumple.

Don’t ask me I know. And don’t ask me how many frames I crumpled before I figured it out. 🙂

So always make sure there’s enough room to insert them without exerting any force on the adjoining frames. Just use a hive tool and make more than enough space for that last frame before inserting it.

Hive Beetles

These frames are full of crevices that are inaccessible to the bees. Could hive beetles hide there? Would the bees use them as hive beetle jails. Maybe with all the open cells available in drawn comb, the extra frame holes make little difference.

Again, no pest experience with them. But it makes me wonder, especially when compared to the unlimited access and control bees have in top bar hives.

I’ve seen the hive beetles, but not the larva in Florida. In Wyoming, they aren’t a problem yet. But this video sure gets my attention. It’s a Wyoming beekeeper’s nightmare thinking of stacks of stored equipment getting slimed. Don’t watch it if you’re squeamish!

And if my wife gets her way, I’ll soon be clueless and living in hive beetle country. Any southern beekeepers have beetle/plastic frame experience or thoughts?

-bW

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