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Author Topic: Why do we use foundation?  (Read 3221 times)
greenbtree
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« on: May 21, 2012, 10:27:09 AM »

I'm not trying to poke the hornet's nest here.  I really want to know - why do we use foundation?  I can see that the plastic is sturdier during extraction, but the bees really hate to draw it out.  To get larger bees?  Why is that an advantage?  (I've had people tell me the larger bees can take advantage of Red Clover, but have yet to see a honey bee of any size on Red Clover).  Is it potentially faster for them to complete cells on foundation?  So far I am not seeing a lot of difference between wax foundation and them filling a totally empty frame.  In my drone thread the consensus seems to be that it is not to limit drones.  I can see that a couple of frames of foundation to get a new batch of bees building in the right direction would be good - anything else?  Is it that larger cells hold more honey?  If so, how much more honey would there be in a frame of large cell verses small cell?

JC
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FRAMEshift
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2012, 11:33:29 AM »

You've touched on all the reasons that are usually given.

Baudot in 1898 was the first to come up with the idea of using larger embossed cell imprints.  He was a Lamarckian who believed that by altering the experience of the bee (i.e. placed in a larger cell) the behavior of the bee would be altered (i.e. that they would make larger cells and thus larger bees in the future.).  He was correct about the behavior change, but not the reasons for it.  The genes of the bees are not altered and so their long term behavior is not altered.   But large bees are not able to draw natural cell comb because they are physically unable to turn withing a small enough area.  Big bees will draw comb intermediate between large cell and natural cell.  After a two or three generations on newly drawn comb, the cell size will return to the genetic programming.

Baudot reasoned that bigger bees would have longer tongues and would thus be able to drink nectar from the purple clover that dominated his part of Belgium.  Again he was correct that the big bees had big tongues, but I don't think the changes he made enabled the bees to utilize purple clover.  I understand that purple (or red) clover that is grown in the US is not a forage source for honey bees.

Foundation can provide a good guide for drawing straight comb.  but you would only need a few frames of foundation to get the bees started right.  And even that is not necessary if you use a comb guide of some sort on each frame... like a 1/4 inch wedge of wood hanging down or a strip of wax.

Foundation does make the comb stiffer, especially in the case of newly drawn comb.  And plastic comb is much easier to handle than wax comb.   Any kind of foundation which has cells all of the same size has the draw-back that it is not what the bees actually want.  They want frames with a variety of cells on different parts of the comb. That's why they build it that way.   grin
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 11:48:26 AM by FRAMEshift » Logged

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Javin
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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2012, 12:47:30 PM »

The reason I use foundation is strictly for starting a hive.  It's forces the bees to draw straight comb.  Then, once hive body is drawn out, I split it into two bodies, replacing every other comb with an empty frame with a "starter strip" so they can build natural comb.  Once THAT'S built out, the foundation comb can be tossed and replaced with more empty frames with starter strips, and voila, a hive with all natural comb.  Keep cycling the comb and after awhile they'll have natural comb built.  Still, I use foundation to get them started just so I don't have to fuss with poorly drawn comb in the beginning.

As for the commercial keepers, the extra effort would be a too much when dealing with thousands of hives.  The foundation keeps the bees making straight comb that is centered correctly in the frame so the machines can be used to uncap and process it.  I've also read that bigger bees produce more honey by being able to carry more back in a single trip.  Dunno how accurate this is, but maybe that's a reason, too.  If I had to guess, I'd say it's just to reduce the work required to get the bees to put the comb where you want it, and make it stable enough (bees often won't draw to the edges or bottom naturally) and with the wiring allows them to put it through the mechanical extractors without destroying the comb.  This means reusable comb, which a single hive body can lose about 8 lbs. of honey if it has to redraw all its comb.

So that'd be my guess.  For the hobbyist, I'd say if you're wanting to go the all-natural route, and not planning on using an extractor, then foundation isn't entirely necessary if you're going to stay on top of them and keep them creating their comb in the right direction.  I tend to take the lazy out and get them started with foundation then weaning it out personally. 
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Irina
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« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2012, 01:20:52 PM »

Frameshift,
<But large bees are not able to draw natural cell comb because they are physically unable to turn withing a small enough area. >

I have a concern now.

I am still a learner, and, first year I added the frames with the small cell foundation to my brood box. Actually I added a box of the small cell foundation frames with 2 frames with drawn combs. I did this using M. Bush advice on small cells... just to be natural and partially work on varrow mites problem. I did this on my 2 hives on 04/21 and checked them yesterday - only few bees are in upper box. Now, I don't know if the reason they don't move to upper box is the small cells or they just are not that strong. They have plenty of storage in bottom box; 1st hive has 4 frames with brood; 2nd hive has 2 frame with eggs only.

Thank you.
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Finski
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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2012, 01:38:56 PM »

I really want to know - why do we use foundation?  JC

You seems to be quicker to ask than think
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Javin
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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2012, 01:51:13 PM »

The hives don't sound particularly strong.  If one hive only has two frames of eggs, and nothing else (in other words, 8 empty frames) then this hive needs to be fed the sugar-water or better still, raw honey through a feeder to keep them going.  If you have two hive bodies, remove one to reduce the amount of space they have to heat and protect.  (You can get roaches and stuff getting into the empty cavities if bees aren't there to protect them).  Also, make sure your hives are COMPLETELY level, putting a level on the top of them to make sure they're straight all the way around.  (This is based on another theory of mine, but it doesn't hurt.)

Wait until you've got about 8 drawn frames of comb before adding a new hive body.

Same would go for the hive with 4 frames of brood.  It sounds like you're saying the hives are particularly low on food stores and brood heavy?  I don't normally recommend trying to save a dying hive (they could be dying because of disease, bad genetics, etc.) but it SOUNDS like you've got some good layers, they just don't have the food stores.  Is that about right? 

You say you've had them for over a year.  How much honey were they left with at the end of last year, and how did your feeding go over the winter and now?
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Irina
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2012, 02:28:06 PM »

Thank you Javin,

These 2 hives survived the winter and now each hive has probably more than 4 frames of honey mixed with the pollen as a food storage. When I checked them in April, they both have some capped brood, eggs and plenty of honey in upper hive body. All bees were in upper hive body. So I removed the bottom hive bodies, stored the frames with honey for emergency feeding if I need in future. Then my upper boxes went on bottom board. At that time I though that the hives are doing fine so I added one more hive body on each hive. And, like I said previously with the frames with small cell foundation.
They still have plenty of honey stored. I am not planning to feed them. But, from my inexperience view, they are not that strong now. I am not sure why?

Thank again.

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Irina, NB

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Javin
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2012, 03:05:10 PM »

Hrm.  Where are you located? 

Now I'm just spitballing here, but they could have moved to the upper portion of the hive while overwintering, and since that's where the queen's hanging out, just started up this year's hive there.  I suspect the queen would have eventually moved to the lower combs eventually once things got rolling. 

So let me get an idea of just what you're working with:

You have two hives, one with 2 frames of brood, and some honey.  The remaining 8 frames, are they empty?  Drawn comb?  Just foundation? 

What's the exactly layout of the second hive?

Both hives currently only have the single hive body?

How long ago was your last inspection?

How many frames of honey/pollen were in the lower hive bodies, and how many were empty?

Was the comb in the lower frames also fully drawn?

What kind of foundation are you using?  Wax?  Plastic?  None?

Is it safe to assume this is a langstroth?  (Sounds like it from the talk about frames/hive bodies, but I suppose it could be a Warre too).

Thanks!
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Irina
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2012, 03:32:14 PM »

I am in Southern NH.
I started my Winter with 2 deep hive bodies/10 frames. And, I want to convert my hive into medium boxes only this year.
I did my last inspection on 2 hives yesterday

1st hive - 1 deep box with 4 frames of brood, 4 frames of honey and some pollen; 2 frames
              with  drawn combs and little storage of honey & pollen.
            - 1 medium box on top of deep with 7 frames (wax small cell foundation) and 2 plastic
               frames w/fully drawn combs and small pollen storage; 1 frame w/honey.
2nd hive - 1 deep box with 1 frame of eggs only and some storage around it; 4 frames of honey and
                some pollen; 2 frames with w/fully drawn combs and little storage of honey & pollen.
              - 1 medium box on top of deep with 7 frames (wax small cell foundation) and 2 plastic
               frames w/drawn combs and small pollen storage; 1 frame w/honey.

The previous inspection was on April 21. They were in good condition, not great. Both hives had eggs, capped brood, food storage.
And, like I said I removed the bottom hive bodies (all bees/cluster was in the top bodies), stored the frames with honey for emergency feeding if I need in future. Then I added medium hive body on top of each hive. 
Thank you again for helping me to understand the situation.
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Irina, NB

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Javin
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2012, 04:25:27 PM »

Ha!  Well, I don't know how much I'm helping you understand the situation.  From what I can figure, everything sounds pretty good. 

Hive 1: 4 frames of brood, 4 of pollen/honey, and two frames of drawn comb...
Hive 2: 1 frame of eggs w/storage, 4 frames pollen, 2 frames comb (that's 7 frames?)

These should theoretically be markers of a healthy (or at least growing) hive.  How was the winter in NH?  It was remarkably calm here in VA, so I don't know how much of a role it could have played up there.

Have you identified the queen in both hives?  If you have eggs in one, that's an excellent sign, but what about the one with capped brood?  Any queen activity there?  If I were missing a queen, I may be tempted to just merge the two hives (just put the hive body from the weaker hive onto the stronger one) to try and salvage one of them if they were particularly weak.  You'll lose the foragers, but it doesn't sound like there's many of them around anyway.

What does the egg pattern look like?  If it's sparse and scattered, you may already have a laying worker problem, in which case you'll have a lot more drones than you should lulling about. 

If both hives have laying queens though, I'd be tempted to just tough it out until the brood hatches, though I would probably take one frame of brood from hive 1 and put it into hive 2 to help it out.  If memory serves (which often it doesn't) you could expect to get about 2000 new bees from a single, well laid deep frame of brood, so the extra workforce would help the second hive a lot.

I'd also like to hear the input of more experienced keepers.  It's been a decade and a half since I previously kept bees, and I've only just picked up the habit again myself.

I really hope it works out!  Keep me posted!
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AndrewT
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2012, 05:15:55 PM »

When I first started keeping bees, I used nothing but wired foundation in my deeps, along with cross-wires that I added after I put the foundation into the frames, and thin unwired foundation in the shallows for cut-comb honey.  I did this because that's how the old guy at the bee store, as well as the book he gave me, said it must be done (I'm a team player).

I'd like to know how many of those deep frames I carefully cross-wired over the years.  I'd also like to know how many times I ended up cutting honey out of those multi-cross-wired deep frames.  You can do it, but you end up with lots of little squares of comb and very sticky hands.

Like many beekeepers, I eventually found myself in a situation where I'd be hiving a swarm or dividing a colony and didn't have enough wire-enriched foundation.  In those cases I just used empty frames, or frames with a little strip of my thin cut-comb foundation at the top of the frame.

Much to my surprise, I found out that the bees actually have the ability to build their own comb without human guidance at all.  What I also found was that, even in deep frames, that amazing free-lance, bee-designed comb was really pretty darn durable too.  I haven't wired a frame in almost ten years.  I can't say that my bees are any happier, healthier, or handsomer without foundation, but I can say that it's easier, cheaper, and more fun for me.
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Javin
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2012, 05:20:37 PM »

I'm curious, AndrewT:

Do you "level" your hives when setting them up?  And what do your winter losses look like?
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AndrewT
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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2012, 06:07:31 PM »

I try to keep them level side to side, and leaning just a bit towards the front to keep rain water out.

The past few years, I've not had more than four hives at once, and I have averaged loosing probably one colony each winter.  It's mostly been one of the "older" colonies that I loose, with the splits that I make almost always living through their first winter and giving the most honey the next year.  Since I don't treat for mites, it may be that the older hives that don't swarm, and don't have that interruption of the brood cycle end up with a lot of mites by the end of the season.  So, I just watch my colonies in the spring and I take a few frames of brood and honey from the strongest ones and put them in nucs and let them raise their own queen.  I've been watching all my colonies more and I didn't loose any this past winter.

With the early warm weather building things up sooner than usual this year, I made my splits too early.  For the first time, I lost first one, then the other during a long, really cold spell that we had in late April.  In a couple of weeks, I plan to make two more and try again.
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« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2012, 09:50:29 PM »

Frameshift:  Do you have a reference for the Baudot development of foundation in 1898?  I'd like to have it for giving talks about foundationless frames.

Linda T (posting this rather than PM because I think the answer would be helpful to others)
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« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2012, 10:34:31 PM »

The original case for selling foundation was that you would consistently get workers and not drones.  Collison pretty well debunked this in his research, but the idea persists.  The other selling point has always been the x pounds of honey to make y pounds of wax (sold at various levels) and the idea that a pound of foundation would save you several pounds of honey because the bees don't have to secrete it.  I don't buy it as what seems to matter most is that in a flow there is somewhere to put the nectar as quickly as possible and they draw foundationless faster than foundation.

Later, Baudoux started stretching foundation to get larger cells and larger bees.  He started this research in the late 1800s and continued it into the 1900s.  The most I've found on his research is in the ABC XYZ of Bee Culture editions in the range of the 1920s to the 1940s.  They include many of his charts of measurements of bees anatomy from different sized cells from 4.7mm to 5.6mm and some mention of foundation down to 4.4mm.  Several of these charts used to be on Beesource under POV and Dee Lusby, and perhaps still are, but the links I used to have are now broken so either the folder structure changed or they have gotten lost.  You might try google books and see if you can find a scan of an early 20's edition of ABC XYZ.  If I was home and if I had a scanner that was working, I'd scan them for you...


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« Reply #15 on: May 21, 2012, 11:22:41 PM »

Thank you, Michael.  You are always so generous with your information.  I am so excited to be coming to the conference in July and finally will get to meet you in person !!!!

Linda T
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« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2012, 11:23:40 PM »

and the idea that a pound of foundation would save you several pounds of honey because the bees don't have to secrete it. 




A langstroth box has 1 kg foundations. It is needed 6-8 kg honey to make it.
3 boxes foundations is  20 kg honey.

So you get waste wax in beekeeping.How to recycle it?  Do you burn it as candles or do you make new foundations. To me new foundation is 4 US dollar/kg when I give waste wax to the foundation maker.


If you crush the combs and sieve the honey, or make comb honey, you loose 2 kg wax against 25 kg honey.

So in comb honey production you yield is half that of ready combs.

It has been shown in researches even if folks do not mind it.
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« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2012, 11:42:16 PM »

I just found it on Google books in the ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture - thanks so much - helps to have the source...people are always asking me about the reason foundation is larger and I quote M. Bush, but didn't have the original.  Hooray!

Linda T in Atlanta
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« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2012, 11:50:39 PM »

Finsky: I know what I think.  What I think might be wrong.  I would like to know what other people think, and figure others might think it was an interesting topic.  I kind of thought that was the point of the forum.

JC

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« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2012, 01:17:06 AM »

Finsky: I know what I think.  What I think might be wrong.  I would like to know what other people think, and figure others might think it was an interesting topic.  I kind of thought that was the point of the forum.

JC



Because of stupid head suffers the whole body.

This is eternal debate about consuming honey for "natural" wax production.
I have changes ideas quite many times with Michael Bush, but ideas remain the same.


Foundation is just natural. I uncap honey and melt old combs. Something wrong in that?
Then I give it to wax maker and he makes to me foundations.


I just bought strawberry dribling fertilizer and blueberry dripling fertilizer. It about 100 US dollar per 25 kg.
Some think that it is poison. But it is their problem. Not mine.


When Jesus lived 2000 years ago there was a potitical movement in Israel. They said that human world is too technical and humans must return to nature.

And organic honey producesr cannot nurse bees in plastic hives but they sell their honey in PLASTIC JARS AND IN PLASTIC BOTTLES.

.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2012, 02:46:19 AM by Finski » Logged

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