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Author Topic: A Fruitless Fall - Cell sizing  (Read 2650 times)
TheMasonicHive
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« on: October 12, 2009, 09:06:47 AM »

As someone going into beekeeping I try to read everything I get my hands on and yesterday I finished a book called "A Fruitless Fall" which is essentially about CCD.

One point in the book had researchers saying that Africanized and Russian bees tend to make smaller cells, which helps them control Varroa mites.  Dadant apparently responded by giving beekeeprs the option of buying smaller cell foundation, which the Italian bees don't take to very well.

The book then goes on to say that researchers have found that bees make a variety of cell sizes to suit their needs which leads to my question.

Why cant you just get foundation with NO IMPRINT in them, giving the bees no template for what size to build cells?  Why can't you just use a foundation of flat wax and let the bees do as they please?

Just curious...
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Christopher Peace
Oakland County, MI

"It teaches us that, as we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves." - Freemasonry on the Beehive
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2009, 09:39:45 AM »

Or you could always go foundationless which would allow the bees total control.  Just give them a starter strip or put a complete frame in the middle to give them some direction in drawing out the frames.
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kathyp
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2009, 10:01:14 AM »

nate has it, i think.  foundationless has a couple of advantages.  it lets the bees build what they need and it saves you money.  you'll find lots of info on here about it.  it's easy.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2009, 10:46:43 AM »

>One point in the book had researchers saying that Africanized and Russian bees tend to make smaller cells, which helps them control Varroa mites.  Dadant apparently responded by giving beekeeprs the option of buying smaller cell foundation, which the Italian bees don't take to very well.

Actually Dadant responded to Dee Lusby and Eric Erickson's research and made the small cell foundation available. 

The Mann Lake PF100 and PF120 plastic frames/foundations are 4.95mm.  The wax Dadant small cell comes in 5.1mm and 4.9mm.  Pierco varies in different formats from 5.3 to 5.2mm

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm#cellsizes

>The book then goes on to say that researchers have found that bees make a variety of cell sizes to suit their needs

That has been my observation.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm#whatarenaturalsizedcells

> which leads to my question.  Why cant you just get foundation with NO IMPRINT in them, giving the bees no template for what size to build cells?

I have made them.  It works better without any foundation than blank sheets.  If you really want blank sheets, cut a board the size you want the sheets, soak the board in brine and dip it in wax.  Peel the sheets off.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm

> Why can't you just use a foundation of flat wax and let the bees do as they please?

You can.  But they do better without the wax at all.  They will build it faster with no wax and they will build it in the frames if you have a good comb guide and proper spacing.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2009, 10:48:21 AM »

But then are you not going to be restricted to Comb Honey?  Or perhaps a crush and squeeze extraction.  No way to spin these type of frames in an extractor right?  So the bees have to keep building and rebuilding their comb.  (Please excuse these newbee type questions)
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TheMasonicHive
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2009, 11:30:51 AM »

That is my thought.

Just giving them a strip to build on doesn't seem to make sense on paper.  How can I be assured that they are going to build comb in a uniform fashion as they would with foundation making the frames easier to handle...not to mention extract.

It just seems that letting them do ALL the building is enough to cause a handling and extracting problem.
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Christopher Peace
Oakland County, MI

"It teaches us that, as we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves." - Freemasonry on the Beehive
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2009, 11:39:49 AM »

I'm sure Michael will respond, but I believe I just read on this forum on another thread that he does extract foundationless honey.

As for starter strips, they work. Not ALL the time, but does foundation work ALL the time? I found in my topbar hives that when I did my job--keeping the bars properly and straightly arranged, they generally built straight comb. When they swerved and veered, I could generally squash it back into place or fix it. The more perfect combs they built, the more places I could add empty bars between to force more perfect combs.

The nice thing about foundationless is that it seems to address a lot of issues all at once--cost savings, no unprotected comb for moths and other issues, no preexisting disease or toxin buildup in foundation, bees choose their own cell size, and I'm sure others that I'm just not coming up with right now.
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The pedigree of honey
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kathyp
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« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2009, 11:44:53 AM »

Quote
Just giving them a strip to build on doesn't seem to make sense on paper

it works just fine.  if you are starting a new box, it is helpful to put one full sheet of foundation down the middle.  it will give them a guideline to start.  there is no guarantee that bees will draw straight comb no matter what you do.  some seem determined to mess things up.  some are perfect from the start.

when i began, i used full sheets of foundation.  after learning about starter strips, but not being convinced, i tried it with a few frames in a couple of hives. it worked so well,  it is all i do now.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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TheMasonicHive
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« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2009, 11:54:07 AM »

So alright, I want to start foundationless.

I believe in what Michael says on his website that I'm better off learning this way then forming bad habits!

The thing is that I'm no carpenter, and I'm a visual learner.  I have to watch someone physically make a "foundationless" frame.

If you are telling me I can just use a normal frame, and modify it, then great!  Show me how!

As I'm buying my first equipment, it would be nice to know if have to use a certain number of frames in the box as well in order to achieve this.
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Christopher Peace
Oakland County, MI

"It teaches us that, as we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves." - Freemasonry on the Beehive
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« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2009, 11:56:08 AM »

But then are you not going to be restricted to Comb Honey?  Or perhaps a crush and squeeze extraction.  No way to spin these type of frames in an extractor right?  So the bees have to keep building and rebuilding their comb.  (Please excuse these newbee type questions)

That's not the case. Everyone who does it says that natural comb can be extracted if it is well attached to the frames.  Besides which - do you have an extractor?  If not, then why worry?


Just giving them a strip to build on doesn't seem to make sense on paper.  How can I be assured that they are going to build comb in a uniform fashion as they would with foundation making the frames easier to handle...not to mention extract.

It just seems that letting them do ALL the building is enough to cause a handling and extracting problem.


Foundationless is not all that troublesome.  Once I got a few frames of straight comb to work with I found that you can easily get them to build straight comb by putting empties next to or between them.  Also, if the comb is built a little bit crooked the first time, they tend to straighten it if you move it around during normal manipulation.  In other words if you put a frame that is a little crooked next to a straight frame they will build up the low spots and chew down the high spots to correct the bee space.  Over a few months it all kind of equals out.

It's debatable whether it's more work for the beekeeper or not.  But for sure, it's the least work to just buy honey at the store.
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« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2009, 12:03:13 PM »

you can use regular frames.  i use the wood frames with the removable wedge.  for security, i glue them in with melted wax.  you may want to add a small block of bees wax to your purchase until you are producing your own wax.

it's not that this is the "right way" to do it.  it just has some advantages.  there are some disadvantages also.  the initial set up take a little longer.  the comb in the frames is more fragile when you inspect until they have built it all the way out.  

you may want one of these
http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2007/04/how-to-use-wax-tube-fastener_26.html

this site will also show you the procedure.

a glass syringe works well also.  you can get them on ebay.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
TheMasonicHive
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« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2009, 12:21:59 PM »

See, to me, its a bit intimidating.

Its not like there is a Foundationless Beekeeping for Dummies book.  Thats basically what I've read, and have gotten some exposure helping others, but I've never put my own woodenware together.

It really in general feels like uncharted territory for me.

Hell, I'm having a hard time convincing myself to adapt to what it is I THINK I know from what I've read.  I can't imagine what its like after you use foundation for so long.
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Christopher Peace
Oakland County, MI

"It teaches us that, as we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves." - Freemasonry on the Beehive
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« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2009, 01:23:42 PM »

i think we all experiment.  if anyone tells you that you MUST do things a certain way, walk away.  there are important things about beekeeping.  for every important thing, there are any number of ways to manage that thing. 

if you start with full foundation, that's fine.  when you are more comfortable with beekeeping and want to try something else, do it.  if you choose to start with strips, any number of us can help walk you through it. it's pretty simple in practice.  no one will bash you for your decision and if they do, we'll get them!   evil

learn all that you can and adapt it to your circumstances.  you will find that some of what works in the book is not for you.  just don't get stuck on a 'method'.  be flexible and trust your gut as you go.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2009, 04:18:17 PM »

>But then are you not going to be restricted to Comb Honey?

No.  I extract them all the time.

>  Or perhaps a crush and squeeze extraction.

No.  But then if you only have a few hives I wouldn't spend good money on a new extractor.  I'd crush and strain and wait for a bargin or a give away.

>  No way to spin these type of frames in an extractor right?

I do all the time.

>  So the bees have to keep building and rebuilding their comb.  (Please excuse these newbee type questions)

Building combs is what bees do.  You make it sound like torture.

>Just giving them a strip to build on doesn't seem to make sense on paper.

Compared to what?  They will build from a strip more quickly than they will a full sheet of foundation.  I can only speculate on the reasons but two obvious ones would be that the foundation interferes with the way they build comb.  If you watch bees build natural comb they festoon and the bees on both sides of the comb work together and communicate as the build the edge of the comb.  Second, they are building the cell size they want instead of some artificial one we imposed on them.  This they do with far more enthusiasm.

>  How can I be assured that they are going to build comb in a uniform fashion as they would with foundation making the frames easier to handle...not to mention extract.

Foundationless or foundation.  Combs are never uniform.  Some bees build them more uniform than others.  (with or without foundation).  But they don't mess up comb any more or less often with foundation or without foundation.  The secret is a comb guide and proper spacing.

>It just seems that letting them do ALL the building is enough to cause a handling and extracting problem.

You have to not turn the comb sideways or extract until it's attached somewhat on all sides, but that's a training issue.  You soon learn not to turn combs sideways without looking first.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm

A comb guide is simple.  You buy standard wedge top bar frames.  Assemble as usual.  Then you break out the wedge.  You rotate the wedge and nail it back in on edge so that it now leaves a protruding edge running the length of the top bar.  I'd glue and nail it, but you can just nail it if you like.  Done.  Less work than putting in foundation.
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Michael Bush
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TheMasonicHive
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« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2009, 04:23:02 PM »

I was watching that video with the wax tube fastener and starter strips and I have to say the more I read the easier this LOOKS.  It looks awesome too.

I know Michael is saying to use the wedge.  Unfortunately I don't have my hives yet, and the only frames I've handled have already been drawn out with foundation in them, so I really don't know how they go together.

I'm DEFINATELY going foundationless, if for no other reason than I really would like to not spend the money on foundation AND my reading has lead me to believe that going foundationless is healthier for my bees!
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Christopher Peace
Oakland County, MI

"It teaches us that, as we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves." - Freemasonry on the Beehive
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« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2009, 05:53:34 PM »

http://www.kelleybees.com/wtkprod/images/products/wedge%20top%20bar.jpg

This is a wedge top bar (courtesy of Walter T. Kelley).  The groove is cut both down the center and from one side.  This makes the "wedge" which is easily broken out by pulling on it.  Usually there is a bit left that you can clean out by running a knife down the edge from both sides to make a square cut.  The wedge is a strip about 1/8" thick by 3/8" wide.  It was intended to put back in the way it came out except with nails to hold it.  But if you turn it, you get a protrusion sticking down instead. 

Here it is being done with a grooved top bar a strip of wood and wax.  I wouldn't use wax, I would use glue.  Glue is fairly permanent while wax will fall out if you put it in a solar wax melter or it gets left in the sun or the wax moths eat it.


http://beehuman.blogspot.com/2009/03/backwards-beekeepers-tv-episodes.html
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2009, 05:58:39 PM »

http://www.nwdba.org/foundationless.html

Here's another link with pictures.
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Michael Bush
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TheMasonicHive
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« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2009, 06:00:51 PM »

Outstanding Michael!  Thank you so much, this has been very informative and will help me a ton come next spring!

I've gotta pick your brain on a lot of things actually so stand by!
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Christopher Peace
Oakland County, MI

"It teaches us that, as we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves." - Freemasonry on the Beehive
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« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2009, 10:47:22 PM »

I'm DEFINATELY going foundationless, if for no other reason than I really would like to not spend the money on foundation AND my reading has lead me to believe that going foundationless is healthier for my bees!
Hey--this is what sold me on it, too! It is SO easy! My bars were basically free, but I guess you have the cost of frames. As for guides, I've had good luck routing out a groove the entire length of the bar/frame, then gluing in a paint stir stick (free) the length of the bar/frame.
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The pedigree of honey
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« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2009, 09:08:24 AM »

Christopher,

I tried a few different variations in my hives this year. My best results was a package started on mann lake pf120's until the frames were fully drawn. Then I took out every other frame and replaced with foundationless. This method gave me the most uniform frames(to me, this=less work/less stress). And it doesn't take long to phase out the plastic frames.

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John VT
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equipment---All medium 10 frame boxes, top entrance's, no foundation frames and mann lake pf 120's (7 hives)
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« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2009, 03:09:12 PM »

Another excellent idea, Podius, and a reminder that we don't have to be ALL one way or all the other. A nice mix may work the best at times.

As for me, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if when I installed my packages I wasn't too overwhelmed to remember to put all the topbars back in place, and straight.
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The pedigree of honey
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« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2009, 02:48:56 PM »

I started out all of my hives on foundationless frames. I never used a sheet of foundation.
I put them in the hive with empty bars and let them go at it.
My frames were made with an angled topbar and then I bought solid bottom bars and end bars from Dadant and assembled them.
If I had bees from a nuc I would put those frames in the hive but remove them after the brood hatched so that all the frames were foundationless.
I have never had an issue doing this.
You may get an odd comb one in a while, its only happened to me once and I pulled it out and cut the comb off and put the empty bar back in and it was fine because I caught it early enough before they copied it.
Its extremely easy to do, I know you feel intimadated but its really really easy, you never have to buy foundation or have to mess with installing it and all that.
Your bees can build any size cell they want and all the comb honey you can eat!
People pay alot of money for comb honey.
 As Michael said you can also extract these frames so there is another bonus.
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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2009, 10:09:41 PM »

I started out with plastic frames for the bees and after getting onto this forum and reading about other ways to do beekeeping, I became interested in the idea of being as natural as possible.

Michael Bush was a great help to me and I listened to all his advise on foundationless frames, etc. I started to introduce foundationless frames into the hives and the hives all did very well in drawing out whatever size cell they wanted to make and all the wax combs were perfectly straight. Now I have finally gotten rid of all the plastic in the hive. The bees have always done a wonderful job of keeping the combs straight, no problems at all.

I do crush and strain only, so I have no need to think about other ways to extract. The bees can draw out a frame of wax very quickly during the major honey flow so I don't believe there is any lose of them gathering honey

Take the chance and do it right the first time, you will not regret it.

You can get all the help you need right here.
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« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2009, 10:54:18 PM »

annette i think that foundationless is the easiest and most practical of all options.  saves money, bees build what they want, you get nice wax when you want it  smiley  heck of a deal!
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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« Reply #24 on: October 19, 2009, 10:22:39 AM »

Its not like there is a Foundationless Beekeeping for Dummies book. 

no, there is not, but i do have it on good authority that in the spring, such a book will be available from the competing series (aparantly dummies aren't smart enough to go foundationless, but complete idiots are)  Smiley

a few thoughts:

1.  extracting works fine when comb is aged (recently drawn comb full of honey is fragile), and well attached.  i don't think i know anyone that extracts foundationless with a radial extractor, a tangential works better (less rotational speed, better support of comb).

2.  i would never add more than 3 foundationless combs into a full box at once.  removing every other drawn frame puts a lot of stress on the bees.  bees have to cluster to build comb, raise brood, and ripen honey.  by doing this, you make them cluster separately for each of 5 frames that need drawing, you make them cluster separately over each frame of brood, and each frame of honey.  this short circuits the economy of scale that the bees use to manage their affairs.

3.  there are some good reasons to use foundation.  if there is a flow on (or you are feeding...see below), the bees will draw and fill foundationless comb at the same time, leaving little or no room for the queen to lay.  foundation on the edges of the brood nest, however, allows the queen to lay in partially drawn cells (that are too shallow to put nectar in), so that the broodnest (and number of workers) can increase rapidly.

4.  whereas feeding lots of syrup works well to draw foundation, feeding when drawing foundationless will tend to get the bees making honey storage comb, which is no good for raising workers.

5.  we prefer popsicle stick guides to starter strips.  starter strips can be warped and pulled from the weight/heat of the bees, and with a glued in wooden guide, an entire box can melted in the sun and the frames ready to get redrawn.

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« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2009, 05:23:30 PM »

>1.  extracting works fine when comb is aged (recently drawn comb full of honey is fragile), and well attached.  i don't think i know anyone that extracts foundationless with a radial extractor, a tangential works better (less rotational speed, better support of comb).

I do it in a radial.  It's all I have.  Otherwise I agree with all of the above.

>2.  i would never add more than 3 foundationless combs into a full box at once.  removing every other drawn frame puts a lot of stress on the bees.  bees have to cluster to build comb, raise brood, and ripen honey.  by doing this, you make them cluster separately for each of 5 frames that need drawing, you make them cluster separately over each frame of brood, and each frame of honey.  this short circuits the economy of scale that the bees use to manage their affairs.

Certainly in an established brood nest and probably not more than one in one less than strong.

>4.  whereas feeding lots of syrup works well to draw foundation, feeding when drawing foundationless will tend to get the bees making honey storage comb, which is no good for raising workers.

I don't feed much so I have no observation on this matter.

>5.  we prefer popsicle stick guides to starter strips.  starter strips can be warped and pulled from the weight/heat of the bees, and with a glued in wooden guide, an entire box can melted in the sun and the frames ready to get redrawn.

I agree.  Wood, whether it's popscicle sticks or a triangle or a turned wedge are better than wax.  A hot day and all your wax strips can fall out.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
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Beemaster's Beekeeping Ring
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