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The Buzz from Cornwall: Frames

Posted by Patrick Murfet on

by Tamsin Harris

Most beekeepers keep honey bees in order to produce honey, their name really says it all. We like to separate their nursery (brood box) from their larder of surplus honey (super box) with a queen excluder between to avoid the queen laying eggs in the honey supers. Once we are happy that the bees have enough honey to last them through the winter months we then may harvest the majority of their surplus. 

So what are the super boxes initially going to contain? During the winter months one of the tasks a beekeeper needs to do is make up super frames (or buy them ready assembled). There are a variety of choices, each with their own merits and over time you will develop a preference, but let’s look at what’s available.

Bee equipment frame

Above: A National brood frame, DN4, with Hoffman sidebar and a longer top lug compared to some other styles.

Frames that are designed to fit into National brood and super boxes have long handling lugs, whereas frames designed to fit into Commercial and Langstroth hives have short lugs. 

Manley Frame

Above: a Manley frame. Note the thicker sidebars.

Manley frames are designed to hold more honey as the bees should draw the comb out to the thickness of the parallel side bars. They have a wide top bar and wide bottom bars, making a box like frame, ideally easier when using an uncapping knife. Wooden National supers will hold 10 Manley frames. When a whole super full of Manley frames with new foundation or starter strips of wax are used then unless there is a good nectar flow on they may not draw out the wax evenly. I like to alternate new foundation in a Manley frame with a drawn frame, either Hoffman or Manley, as I tend to get more uniform comb construction. 

Click here to view our Manley frames »

Hoffman frames are self spacing as the side bars are tapered top to bottom, having one flat and one wedged shaped face. Sounds complicated, but when they are constructed the wedges meet the flats of the adjacent frame. This gives less surface area for bees to be squashed when the frames are moved. This is not often in a super but happens during every inspection when the Hoffmans are used in the brood box. They get moved in the supers should you like to space out the frames when they are nearly full in order for the bees to drawn out a little more wax and cram more nectar in. I prefer to start the season with 11 Hoffmans to a National super and finish it with 9 fat, and very full frames. 

Click these links to browse our Hoffman spaced SN4 » and DN4 »

The last of the more popular designs are the DN1 and SN1 frames – Deep National 1 for the brood box and Super National 1 for the super box. These are narrow, straight sided frames with no built in spacing so a method of spacing has to be used by the beekeeper. This is usually in the form of castellated frames runners fitted to the inside of the super boxes (very rarely in the brood box, although I have seen them used there). An alternative are plastic spacers that are fitted onto the lugs to ensure the correct bee space is achieved between each frame. I’ve seen too many frames of this type used without the correct bee space and the result is badly formed, messy comb that make inspections rather tricky. I wouldn’t recommend these for novice beekeepers but they certainly have their place amongst established beekeepers for whom bee space is second nature. 

Once you’ve decided on which frames will suit both the bees and your needs, the next question to ponder is “which foundation, if any, shall I use? 

Watch this space to learn what foundations are available….


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