Friday, February 10, 2012

Wooden Hives vs. BeeMax Polystyrene

Wooden Hives versus BeeMax Polystyrene

Does anyone have experience with polystyrene hives? I spoke at length with a customer service rep at Betterbee who uses them and one of the biggest features is that the bees survive the winter better. From their web site ( they are: ultra-insulating polystyrene hive equipment to give honeybee colonies a better chance at overwintering in extreme Northern temperatures, while also helping to keep your colony cool in the hot summer months due to the material from which it's made.

Another plus is that they are lighter, so shipping costs would be reduced. However, they do come only with Pierco Frames which are plastic and substitutions are not allowed. When I mentioned that the general sentiment with the class leaders and mentors is that bees prefer wood, the representative said that she uses the Pierco ones and has had better output. She said that she dips them in the sugar water and the bees just take to the frame.


~ Roxie Pin

A great question for discussion, everyone please leave you comments below, let's see if we can help Roxie out.


  1. I think most of our members will tell you wood, wood, wood. I'm new and had a great first season with wood, so I'm adding a hive and sticking with wood. However, it's YOUR beekeeping experience and the only way to know if the polystyrene works for you is to try it. It seems like you've done your research, and the more you know, the better you'll make out regardless of what you use. I say good luck, and please keep us posted on what you decide and how it goes. We can blog your progress here, if you're willing.

  2. the poly hives i have not tried so no input from me on them..but the insulation quality sound good ..i believe sue has tried them ?? frames no doubt wood are better pierco will work but you have to keep an eye on the bees they build extra combs in between that have to bee removed and let them do over ..i have tried spraying them with sugar water still had issues ...i have not tried the plasticell but it looks similar to pierco ???
    tom flebotte

  3. I have two colonies and an expansion nuc, all BeeMax equipment and all Pierco frames, which I've been using now for all 5 years of my beekeeping. Chose it for its weight (I'm not a weight lifter) and insulation properties. :-) I am strictly a backyard beekeeper, and do not take honey from the bees except to freeze a couple extra frames for later reintroduction during late winter. An officer in our local beekeepers' association, I'm located in Stafford, Virginia, with hive locations in my suburban subdivision and at a small soy/hay farm a couple miles away. The equipment is sturdy, primed and painted surfaces have held up very well, and the insulations properties are great. I've never found any sign of the condensation which kills inside woodenware. BeeMax nuc boxes have also worked fine for me; although to create a "second story" on them for overwintering, I had to saw the nuc bottom off a perfectly good BeeMax nuc. Wish BeeMax or Better Bee would come up with a bottom board and open bottom expansion frame... When I say I am "all BeeMax," I mean bottom board, deep and medium hive bodies/supers, and telescoping outer cover. I use Better Bee wood feeding shims (made for BeeMax) and inner cover (also made for BeeMax) when needed. I read someone's comment someplace about wax moth being able to chew on them. This is true. However, I've also seen wooden frames and bodies completely devastated by the same beast in a complete infestation. I've had a bottom board chewed, but not completely destroyed, and can recommend BeeMax without any hesitation. NOTE: PAINT EXTERIOR AND CONNECTING SURFACES ONLY--NOT INSIDE WALLS OF EQUIP.

    1. Pamela,
      I enjoyed your post about the BeeMax hives. Except for my 3 Warre hives that got me started in beekeeping I am all BeeMax too.
      I have found a paint additive (ceramic beads encompassing a vacuum)and some 0 VOC masonry paint helpful. The beads add 20% to the R value of the hive with two coats(I use three outside to guard against hive tool), so far they have completely stopped anything chewing the boxes (don't know if it is the beads or the paint but masonry paint is recommended by the manufacturer of another poly hive to prevent chewing), I use 1 coat inside and this provides a better surface for the bees to propolize, plus no chewing here either.


  4. Does anyone use the beemax ventilated bottom board? Do you leave it open in the winter, or have you rigged some sort of way to close it? Its design doesn't have any sort of solid board that slides in like most screened bottom boards have. I'm in the midwest where it is usually cold & wet. This is my first winter with bees & I'm afraid of killing them...

    1. I do not use beemax, I'm all wood, but I do use a ventilated bottom board AND a slatted rack. I keep both in place open year round and I keep bees in CT. I think maximum ventilation is important for keeping moisture out of the hive and off of the bees. I've been keeping bees for 3 years and been very successful overwintering.


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