Beekeepers who use Langstroth-style equipment and preformed beeswax foundation often wire their frames. You’ve probably noticed that the side bars of these frames have a series of holes punched through them. These holes are used to guide and support the wire as it goes back and forth across the interior of the frame.
The purpose of wiring is threefold. It keeps the foundation from collapsing or sagging before the bees have drawn out the comb. Secondly, it keeps the honeycomb from breaking out of the frame when it’s subjected to the centrifugal force inside an extractor. It also helps to hold frames together even as they age.
A single piece of wire is nailed to the frame on one end. This wire then goes through a hole and straight across the frame to the hole directly opposite. From there the wire is lead down along the side bar to the next hole, goes through, and then is led straight across the frame in the other direction. This is repeated for every pair of holes until you end up with a series of equally spaced parallel wires. The number of holes varies with the depth of the frame. Four pairs, three pairs, and two pairs are all common. When the wiring is complete the end of the wire is nailed to the frame.
Alternatively, the wire may crisscross the frame from upper left to lower right, then run up the outside of the right side bar, through the top hole, and then crisscross in the opposite direction.
Whichever method is used, the wire must be kept tight. It should make a sound when you pluck it—sort of like a musical instrument. There are different ways of getting it tight. One way is to place the frame in a device that pulls down on the bottom bar. This action pulls the side bars closer together. Then you wire the frame and fasten the wire. When you release the bottom bar from the device, the side bars pull apart again and tighten the wire in the process.
After the frame is wired, the foundation is installed. Then the wire is embedded into the foundation by pressing the wire with a tool that looks sort of like a pastry cutter, or by passing an electric current through the wire which causes the foundation to melt around it.
Because a really tight wire will sometimes cut into the wood, metal eyelets are often inserted into the holes before the wiring is begun. A well-wired frame is a work of art—symmetrical, tight, and durable.
Having said that, I think wiring frames is the most miserable, frustrating, exasperating, and infuriating task in all of beekeeping. It causes me to utter words I didn’t know I knew. With that in mind, I will follow up with “How to Survive Wiring a Frame.” Look for it in the near future!