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Foundation is of great importance in beekeeping, as it is the basis for the construction of honeycombs by bees. The quantity and quality of honey largely depends on the quality of the foundation. Today, many beekeepers know how to make this product on their own. There are several types of foundation that you can make yourself at home.
What is foundation in beekeeping
Foundation is a wax sheet in which hexagonal depressions are pressed. The indentations are necessary for the quick construction of honeycombs by insects. The foundation is attached to a special frame, which is subsequently placed in the hive.
What is foundation and what is it for
The main purpose of the foundation sheets is to relieve the bee colony. The insects do not need to build a base for the honeycomb, as the beekeeper places ready-made wax sheets in the hive.
Natural foundation is the base for honeycomb, which bees use as storehouses for honey and "nursery" for breeding. If you do not install the foundation in the hive, industrious insects will build their own combs, however, this will negatively affect the amount of honey, since construction takes a lot of time and effort from the bees.
Artificial foundation plays a very important role and is intended for:
- Expansion of the bee colony's nest.
- Increase the productivity of honey by the family.
- Normal formation of a bee swarm with the onset of spring.
Important! One bee in just a day can form about 4000 honeycomb cells.
Bees make honeycombs using honey and pollen as building materials. The man went further and applied his own technology to make honeycombs.
Types of foundation
Today beekeepers use do-it-yourself foundation made from natural and artificial material. Ideally, the honeycomb base should only be pure white wax. It is environmentally friendly, melts easily and leaves no residue at all. Honeycombs made from natural wax have many advantages: they are easy and convenient to work with, the wax is plastic and melts at low temperatures.
The main disadvantage of natural foundation is that wax is a very soft and plastic material that requires special storage conditions and careful handling. Natural wax sheets cannot be reused.
Artificial foundation is made of special plastic. It has some advantages over wax:
- Lasts much longer.
- Sheets can be used many times.
- Less labor, time and money.
- A plastic sheet is much stronger than a wax sheet and hardly deforms during operation.
- Artificial sheets, like wax sheets, can be made by yourself.
- The plastic sheet is easier and more convenient to store, since it does not break, bend and is not afraid of high temperatures.
Important! The world's first artificial honeycomb substitutes were first made in 1869, and since then they have not lost their popularity among beekeepers around the world.
In addition to the advantages, artificial bee wax has several disadvantages:
- Foundation needs constant examination and treatment from all sorts of parasites and diseases. This should be done 3-4 times per season.
- Before attaching the leaf to the frame and placing it in the hive, a thin layer of wax must be applied to the leaf, which is time consuming.
- If the sheet deteriorates, it cannot be repaired and must be replaced with a new one.
Today there is no reliable data on how bees perceive plastic foundation. In general, the use of artificial materials in beekeeping is undesirable.
How foundation is made
Few beekeepers can boast of making their own foundation for their hives. The lion's share of the needs of beekeeping is provided by enterprises for the processing of wax materials. In the process of making foundation, the raw material is melted and poured into special rotating drums. The mixed hot wax mass is fed to the rollers, from which the finished plates with embossed hexagonal recesses come out. At home, foundation is made in several ways: using foundation rolls or a special press.
Rolls for making foundation
They are a rather simple, but effective device for making do-it-yourself foundation at home.
The simplest hand rolls consist of:
- Two engraved rolls through which wax is passed. They give the sheet the necessary relief, more often they are made of strong hardened steel. The corrugated surface is treated with special polymer compounds so that wax does not stick.
- Two gears with which the rollers are set in motion.
- Several adjusting bolts, the purpose of which is to set the required distance between the rollers (adjusting the sheet thickness).
- The base on which this whole simple structure is attached.
Important! One of the main characteristics of high-quality rollers is the angle of the hexagonal protrusions - manufacturers try to make it as close as possible to the original, which is formed by the bees themselves - 120 °.
During the production of foundation, both finished sheets purchased from the manufacturer and the material of our own production can be passed through the hand rollers. Making a sheet of wax is not difficult. The easiest way - a sheet of plywood or glass of the desired size is immersed in a container with molten raw materials. After the wax has cooled, it peels off easily from the base. As a rule, in order to obtain a sheet of the required thickness, the base has to be dipped into the wax several times.
Another, more civilized method, which allows you to get the foundation of the desired thickness the first time, involves the use of special rollers with smooth shafts. A heated block of wax is passed through them and a finished sheet is obtained at the exit.
How to make rolls for making foundation
Homemade hand rollers are a convenient and practical thing that does not need electricity. The simplest foundation machine consists of two shafts, roll clamps and a chain drive. All of this is attached to the main bed.
Making rolls with your own hands is not an easy task, but if you have the necessary skills and tools, you can save from 20,000 rubles (the cost of a factory model). When manufacturing, you can use ready-made drawings or make your own. The drawings must clearly reproduce the operation of all moving parts.
The approximate work procedure for the manufacture of rollers is as follows:
- Installation of the bed. It can be made from a pipe, a massive profile, etc.
- Installation of a U-shaped profile, which acts as a vertical support for the mechanism.
- A deforming structural element is installed in the upper part. After that, the part is secured with a threaded clamp.
- Installing the chain drive on sprockets, tensioning the chain, testing chain travel, installing the handle for rotating the chain drive.
- Manufacturing of shafts. It is recommended to use hardened steel as material.
- Forming the embossed surface of the rollers.
- Manufacturing of a mechanism for adjusting the gap between the shafts.
- Fastening of the rollers to the bed using rolling bearings.
How to make bee wax at home
To begin with, the rollers are placed in a container with a separating solution. The liquid prevents hot wax from sticking to the rolls and promotes high-quality formation of hexagonal indentations on the wax sheet. The solution is usually made by the beekeepers themselves. The recipe is very simple - either liquid honey is used, or a solution of 1 liter of water, liquid soap (about 100 grams) and 2 teaspoons of glycerin.
Important! Queen pheromones are often added to the separation solution, attracting bees.
The process of making foundation is as follows: a sheet of wax is placed in a container with a solution so that it stays on the surface, gently guide it towards the rollers. Then they begin to slowly turn the roller handle away from themselves and pass a sheet of wax through the shafts. The surface of the wax sheet passed through the rollers is covered with hexagonal indentations.
During operation, it is necessary to ensure that the working surface of the rollers is constantly moistened with a release solution. The finished foundation is dried, after which it can be attached to the frame and installed in the hive. After finishing the work, the rollers are washed with warm water and dried. You need to store the tool at a positive temperature in a dry room.
This is a fairly simple device with which you can get a limited amount of a finished product (the average productivity of a hand press is no more than 10 sheets per hour). Therefore, the use of a press in large apiaries is impractical. The principle of operation of the device is similar to a waffle iron - the press consists of two halves with corrugated inner parts. The factory press consists of two heavy plates, usually made of aluminum. They are connected to each other with a small gap, which is equal to the sheet thickness - from 0.2 to 0.6 mm. Sometimes beekeepers manage to convert old waffle irons into a press for foundation, fixing silicone matrices for foundation inside.
DIY wax press
Despite the modest productivity, such a foundation machine is still popular among beekeepers. Unfortunately, there are no domestic presses on sale, and the price of a foreign tool is over 50,000 rubles. For this money, you can buy good rollers from a Russian or Ukrainian manufacturer. The simplest press can be assembled independently without any problems and costs. For this you will need:
- Silicone for the mold. Any kind of non-toxic silicone or synthetic raw material used to make molds will do.
- Two wooden plates, plate fasteners.
- Foundation sheet - 1 piece.
First of all, they take one wooden plate and a finished sheet of foundation, a layer of silicone is applied to it. The silicone must be very carefully smoothed over the surface of the wax sheet to fill all the cells. Then the silicone is applied to the plate itself and smoothed it thoroughly. Next, the foundation sheet is covered with a second layer of silicone, smoothed out, and connected to the wooden plate with the silicone-coated side.
As a result, the reverse side of the sheet remains clean, as does the second wooden plate. They are also treated with silicone in the same way.
The first layer of silicone is gently smoothed over the surface, after applying the second layer, both wooden plates are connected together so that the wax sheet is between them.
Now you can attach metal hinges to the wood-wax sandwich and wait for the silicone to completely harden. You can speed up this process by placing the structure in the oven and keeping it for some time at a temperature of 70-100 ° C. Once the silicone is strong enough, you can unclench the plates, attach the handle and additional side restraint plates. For ease of use, you also need a tank into which excess wax will drain.
How to make foundation on the press yourself
Working with the press is very simple: first, the melted wax is evenly poured over the bottom wooden plate with a corrugated silicone surface and pressed with the top plate.
Important! There is no need to try to accurately calculate the amount of wax, its excess will drain into the tank and can be reused.
Remains of hardened wax on the edges of the plates can be cut off with a spatula. After that, the plates are unclenched, they wait until the wax finally hardens, and carefully remove the finished sheet.
To prevent the wax from sticking to the silicone, it is recommended to lubricate the matrix with a solution of laundry soap. However, as practice shows, sometimes bees build up foundation sheets very poorly, on which there are traces of soapy water.
Important! Instead of a soap solution, it is recommended to use honey diluted in warm water (honey feed) as a lubricant for the silicone matrix.
The result is a light, translucent corrugated sheet of fairly high quality. The only possible drawback of this design is that the edges of the hexagonal cells can be expressed a little worse, which practically does not affect the construction of honeycombs by bees. Of course, this description of the wax production process is very superficial. In fact, every good beekeeper has his own secrets for making high-quality foundation: special preparation of the wax, its repeated melting in a wax melter and in a water bath, dehydration, heating the press plates to a certain temperature, etc.
Separately, it is worth considering the process of making plastic foundation in the press. In fact, it is not much different from the manufacture of foundation made of natural material. You will need:
- Silicone (as a substitute for plastic) and silicone hardener.
- Spatula, scotch tape.
- Actually, the press.
The workflow is as follows:
Silicone and hardener are mixed in a separate container in the required proportions. Using a spatula or knife, the silicone is applied in a uniform layer to the matrix, after which it is firmly pressed on top of the press lid. After the silicone hardens, the finished sheet is taken out of the press and kept for some time until the artificial foundation is completely hardened.
Important! Before installing the plastic product in the frame, the surface must be covered with a thin layer of natural wax, since bees are very reluctant to build honeycombs on pure silicone.
The melted wax is applied to the silicone with a soft brush or roller. You can also dip the fake foundation into the melted wax for quicker results.
Products made of silicone and other form-forming synthetic substances serve for quite a long time, and silicone matrices in a home-made press will last for more than one season. The only condition is not to overheat the mold. Thus, using a press even of such a primitive design, it is possible to provide a small apiary with the necessary amount of natural high-quality foundation.
DIY foundation can be made by any beekeeper who has the desire and enough time for this. This is done mainly by amateur beekeepers who keep a small number of hives. They can afford to recycle the surplus wax in order to save money and get a quality natural product. Some farms produce colored foundation. It is used to make natural colored candles for sale and for interior decoration. People who maintain large apiaries simply do not have time for this, and they buy foundation from trusted suppliers.