A Review On The Best Bee Hive Frames In The Market Today

removing Bee hive frames with bees

Frames are arguably the most essential part of a beehive. Honeycombs can be very fragile, and these frames provide support on four sides allowing for the transportation and harvesting of them without breaking off pieces. However, the continued use and engineering of frames have allowed for even more versatility and ease of use. With the introduction of foundations to place within the frame, harvesting honey can take even less time.

Foundations are made from either wax or plastic that allow the bees to build on it instead of starting from scratch every time. The choice of foundation you choose will also be the deciding factor as to the type of frame you use. There are three types: wedge for wax foundations, a groove for plastic ones, and the foundationless frames, which as their name suggests, do not require a foundation at all.

bee hive frame with bees

Once you have made this decision, there are still quite a few options available to you as to where to purchase your bee hive frames. When it comes to picking the best frames for your hive, quality and cost will probably be the factors on which you base your decision. Taking that into consideration, we have found frames that just might work for you depending on what you want your hive to look like and your budget.

Dadant & Sons Beekeeping Supplies/Western Bee Supplies Frame

Dadant has been making wooden bee hive frames and other supplies since 1878. They are possibly the largest manufacturer of such products in the United States. They have 10 branches in the US with their headquarters residing in Hamilton, IL, where it has been since 1924 when it moved to a tire factory. They excel in the production of their foundations and their bee hive frames. They offer several varieties of frames with varying grades available.

Product Specs

Dadant makes their bee hive frames from Western Ponderosa Pine which has a higher density and a more prominent grain the Eastern Pine that some manufacturers use. This makes the wood heavier and gives it a more solid feel. However, this makes it more difficult when driving nails. The wood grain also affects the way the nail goes into each piece. Nails will tend to follow whatever direction the grain of the wood is going. This makes driving nails straight and evenly into the wood more difficult if the grain is like that of the Western Pine, more distinct.

The frames have end bars that are 3/8" thick and have pre-drilled holes. The holes do have some loose fibers still attached from the milling process inside on one side or the other. These end bars do occasionally extend past the top bars. The bottom bars are some of the widest that available on the market. They are 1/2" thick and have a deep 3/8" groove that is 3/16" at the top and tapers to 1/8" at the bottom. The original design has the groove following the full length of the bar. However, they are known to split when being nailed due to the grain pattern and the fact that the wood is narrower where it must be nailed. They have introduced a newer design that incorporates the same depth of the groove but one that stops just short of both ends. This allows for a more solid section of wood for the nail to go through and results in much less splitting.

The top bar has chamfered ends as well. This makes for easy assembly, however, this also means that the joints may not be as tight when dry fit. If the frame is moved or shaken without nails or glue included, it will come apart. The nails are included in your purchase. The wedge strip is one of the thinnest made. It is only 5/32x1/2". This causes it to split easily and become splintered when you are trying to remove it. It is not unusual for the use of a sharp tool to be required to get the smaller pieces left behind separated from the rest of the frame.

Pricing

These bee hive frames can be found around $1.16 per frame. However, there are sales going on often, and there is also a discount depending on how many frames are being purchased at once. The larger the amount frames, the greater the discount and therefore, the price per frame will be less. These can be purchased online through both Dadant and/or Western Bee Supplies. There are several branches to found around the US, however, Western Bee is only found in Montana. They are a subsidiary of Dadant and make of their woodenware.

Dadant & Sons Beekeeping Supplies/Western Bee Supplies Frame

Price

Ease of Use  (Easy to Moderate)

Assembly Time  (Comes Assembled)

Design Quality (Best Quality)

Warranty


Pros

  • Thicker end and bottom bars
  • Solid construction
  • Heavier than others

Cons

  • Wedge strip is difficult to remove and often breaks and splinters apart during the process, even with a specialized tool
  • End bars consistently split apart when nailing them due to the design of the wood grain as well as the density of the wood used
  • Nailing the wood together can be difficult as the wood grain makes the nails want to follow it

How it Compares

We picked three similar products available on the market to see how they compare:


Kelley Beekeeping Frame

Kelley offers only one grade of bee hive frames made from an unspecified species of pine. However, they seem to offer the most variety when it comes to the style of your frames. They currently produce four styles (SG, SGX, N, and F). The choice is yours, depending on what foundation type you are going to use.

The wood is slightly rough, and you will notice they have a considerable amount of loose fibers still attached to most surfaces upon arrival. The wood grain is slight, and density is consistent in all pieces, making the job of nailing them together much easier. Unlike with some manufacturers, the pieces have been milled to fit together so well that there is very nice dry fit.

The joints are tight and easily hold together when moved or shaken. All four frame styles include pre-drilled holes in the end bars for cross-wiring or extra support pins. And while these are rarely needed with most wax foundations and groove frames, they are recommended by Kelley, even with the fitted groove included on the end bars on the N style frames. On the wedge style frames, the top bar wedge is easy to break off and remove. While it may split some, the remaining pieces are simple to remove with a finger or tool.

All of Kelley's bee hive frames incorporate a double dado joint for the bottom and end bars. This gives the joint lots of surface area for gluing and extra support but poses a bit of a problem when the pieces are lacking milled accuracy. If there is any misalignment, it usually causes the end bar to split.

Kelley Beekeeping Frame

Price

Ease of Use  (Easy to Moderate)

Assembly Time  (Comes Assembled)

Design Quality (Best Quality)

Warranty


Pros

  • End bars are very thick
  • If parts are milled correctly, there is a strong connection for an end and bottom bars
  • The thickness allows for plenty of surface area when gluing together

Cons

  • Top bars are not consistent in length, some being about a 1/8th in shorter or longer than others
  • The end bars stick out slightly above the top bar which makes cleaning and maintenance difficult as tools are apt to catch on the lip created
  • The SG style end bars tend to split at the bottom bar joint, sacrificing the integrity of the frame

Mann Lake Frame

Like with the Kelley bee hive frames, the ones manufactured by Mann Lake are also only available in one grade and made of an unspecified pine species. However, unlike Kelley, these are very smooth to the touch, with little or no loose fibers on most pieces. There are some to be found within the pre-drilled holes in the end bars used for support pins or for cross-wiring, but nothing in comparison to most on this list. This proves that they have been excellently milled.

They are also consistent in wood grain and density. This means a minimal amount of time is spent nailing the pieces together with ease. The top and bottom bar ends have been chamfered for even more ease of assembly. However, the dry fit is not as nice as that of Kelley's. While the top and end bar joints fit tightly, so they stay together nicely. The bottom and end bars will fall apart when moved or shaken if not nailed or glued together first.

Mann Lake PF126 10-Pack Standard Wax Coated Plastic Frame, 6-1/4-Inch, Natural

Price

Ease of Use  (Easy to Moderate)

Assembly Time  (Comes Assembled)

Design Quality (Best Quality)

Warranty


Pros

  • The top and bottom bar dado joints have been chamfered, which makes assembly easier

Cons

  • The bottom bar often splits when attaching to the end bars with nails. However, the splits are small and don't seem to cause problems.
  • The groove style top bar does not have the thickness that the wedge style does and this makes for minimal space to install nails or staples.

Shastina Millwork Frame

Shastina only offers one grade and one style of bee hive frames. They are grooved on both top and bottom bars and made out of Western Ponderosa Pine. They, like the ones made from Mann Lake, are milled very well. They are smooth and have very few loose fibers still attached to the pieces. However, they do have some mill markings, which leaves one side smoother than the other.

The end bars are slightly chamfered on top and even more so on the bottom for easy assembly. However, they do not come with pre-drilled holes for wiring or pins. The parts all fit together very nicely and securely, and they continue to hold together when dry fit, making moving of the frames will under construction easy and versatile.

When it comes to nailing the pieces together, they can be less simple. This species of pine is denser than the Eastern Pine that some are made from. This makes driving nails in by hand more difficult. They tend to want to follow the direction of the grain as well, which is not always straight and more significant than that of the Eastern Pine.

Shastina Millwork Frame

Price

Ease of Use  (Easy to Moderate)

Assembly Time  (Comes Assembled)

Design Quality (Best Quality)

Warranty


Pros

  • The end bars are chamfered on the top and bottom to improve ease of assembly
  • The parts fit together and easily and quickly
  • The dry frame holds together when shaken and moved

Cons

  • The grain of wood and density make it more difficult to hammer in nails straightly.
  • They only offer one style of frames.

COMPARISON TABLE

PRODUCT

Dadant & Sons Beekeeping Supplies/Western Bee Supplies Frame
Kelley Beekeeping Frame

Mann Lake PF126 10-Pack Standard Wax Coated Plastic Frame, 6-1/4-Inch, Natural

Shastina Millwork Frame

Ease of Use

Assembly Time

Design Quality

Warranty

Conclusion

Dadant & Sons have been producing quality bee hive frames for over 100 years. They are also one of the largest companies to do so. This in and of itself says a lot about their product. They have experience and certainly know what they are doing, more so than most. The bee hive frames they produce are easy to use and made of durable quality material.

Out of all the frames assessed, these are by far the heaviest, which means they will last longer and not be nearly as apt to come apart due to the weight and/or strain put on them by the bees and the honeycomb. However, this heavier durability may cause some extra effort at the onset, and during assembly, they are likely to hold up for many years to come.

Aside from the wood being heavier, the dimensions of the frame itself are thicker and therefore more able to withstand the amount of weight it will most likely come into contact with. And while they initially seemed to have a problem with the ends of the bottom bar splitting during assembly, their newer design of them has made up for that. Now assembly is easier than ever.

Due to their quality design, ease of use, and the assembly time required we give Dadant & Sons a four out of five stars overall. These are quality frames that will last and not cost you a fortune.

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