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Author Topic: Foundationless frames  (Read 1815 times)
beesNme
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« on: February 21, 2014, 01:19:29 AM »

hope i posted this right. i am totally new to bee keeping but have read and talked to a few people about setting up a hive, i raise all my animals as natural as possible and would like to do the same with bee's. so i am thinking of going foundationless with frames. My thinking is if foundation can contain chemicals then why chance it in a new hive ? My question is some of you say put a frame with foundation next to one without foundation but wouldn;t that defeat the purpose  of trying to reduce chemicals in the hive ?. or am i going in the wrong direction,

thank you for your input

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sawdstmakr
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2014, 03:25:48 AM »

The reason for using the foundation is to get the bees started in the right direction. Once you have them started, you can keep adding foundationless frames between existing drawn frames. Check out Michael Bush's Wes site on foundationless hives.
The Practical Beekeeper
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Foundationless

Why would one want to go foundationless?

How about no chemical contamination of the combs and natural Varroa control from natural cell size? As far as contamination, some of my queens are three years old and laying well. I don't think you'll find anyone who is using chemicals in their hives with that kind of longevity and health in their queens. You can also get clean wax combs with natural cells in a top bar hive.

How do you go foundationless?

Bees need some kind of guide to get them to draw straight comb. Any beekeeper has seen them skip the foundation and build combs between or out from the face of the comb, so we know that sometimes they ignore those clues. But a simple clue like a beveled top bar or a strip of wax or wood or even a drawn comb on each side of an empty frame will work most of the time. You can just break out the wedge on a top bar, turn it sideways and glue and nail it on to make a guide. Or put Popsicle sticks or paint sticks in the groove. Or just cut out the old comb in a drawn wax comb and leave a row at the top or all the way around. The main thing is that there is an edge that protrudes, preferably at least 1/4". Waxing wood guides is not only not necessary but I don't recommend it. The wax you put on won't be attached as well as the bees will attach it.
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"If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper you are misinformed."--Mark Twain
Vance G
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2014, 06:55:58 PM »

I applaud your ethos and your desire to do right by the bees.  That being said, you will have a real lot to learn when starting to keep bees.  Learning to keep frames properly drawn straight and not breaking the fragile things when performing new and stressful inspections can be a difficult thing.

 I hear every year how the pure of heart foundationless beekeeper watched the package they shake into a box full of empty frames boil back out and go hang in a tree or fly away.  Not saying it can't be done, just asking you to consider when to take the training wheels off.  After you get bees living and raising brood on nice straight combs, inserting your foundationless ones is much easier.   


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buzzbee
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2014, 07:47:52 AM »

I agree with Vance on this one. Throw a bunch of empty frames in and it gives you other issues to deal with on top of learning the bees.
 As far as chemicals, likely the foundation will have some, but so will the natural drawn comb after the bees drag it in.It's out there, and the bees will contaminate the wax they draw themselves.
Get some foundation drawn, then cycle in the empty frames.
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beesNme
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2014, 08:56:38 AM »

thank you for the great info !!!. sawdstmakr, yes i was reading michael bushes info on foundationless and really liked it, vance G and buzzbee, you make a good point about i have alot to learn, it is great to find a place like this with eager people willing to take their time to help guide others, and i hope to help others as well as i learn.  I am joining a local club, as well as the state of maine assoc,  i also have been watching Michael palmers videos, real fascinating
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HomeSteadDreamer
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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2014, 08:09:09 PM »

Hey beesNme,

There is definately some learning to do but but you can go foundationless.  My best advice (I am a newbie) is make sure to get at least two hives.  This way you can be alot more flexible with helping your hives. Our first year/try we only had one hive so we could do any of the typical natural helps like add a frame of capped brood, add a frame of eggs.  They didn't survive the winter (of course that year 50% of the 'normal' hives died too).  The next year we got two packages and went into the winter with 5 hives from splits and we missed two swarms. I didn't want to take too much honey from them because I think they should be able to have honey through the winter instead of not as healthy sugar water.  Spring is here now and the bees are flying.  We have some housekeeping things to take care of but most of the hives look good and healthy.  As a bonus, we were able to take some honey out today that they didn't use over the winter.

However you go good luck with your endeavor.  

* modified to add we are foundationless and all natural
« Last Edit: February 22, 2014, 08:57:26 PM by HomeSteadDreamer » Logged
Steel Tiger
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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2014, 08:37:40 PM »

 I went straight foundationless. As long as the hive is level and there is some sort of starter strip on the frames, there are very few problems as far as the bees drawing out straight comb.  I use popsicle sticks for my starter strips. I didn't bother putting any wax on them. Out of the entire year, I had to fix maybe 6 combs that were being drawn funny.
Fix any "wonky" comb as it appears and you'll soon have plenty of frames filled with straight comb to put empty frames between.
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Duane
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2014, 05:51:44 PM »

Maybe you can tell beesNme (and me!) how to "fix" the comb.  I started with foundation and then started adding empty frames with a strip of wood in the groove.  As long as I put them between existing brood frames, they were pretty much straight.  But when I added the second box on, they started the first frame ok, I remembered from the previous year that the honey frames were wider, so I pulled them apart.  I then noticed they were using the second box for brood - which was a pleasant surprise, for me since they barely made it through the winter.  So I then crammed them closer together, but by that time they switched to making honey.  So I had the frames beside the brood, they started on the guide stick, but then bowed out.  Then, of course, the next frame bowed out more....  It makes it hard pulling frames out.  I never did get to look at them all this fall, but did see they had honey and the hive was pretty heavy.

If I catch them when they are starting the comb, I can bend it in, and move the frames.  Bending it in has not worked the best for me as the bees seem to think they need to "fix" it back.  Spacing the frames appropriately works best if you catch it soon.  But if it's half the frame, and already attached to the sides, what should we do to "fix" it?  Past experience makes me a little cautious about how fragile the comb is.  Almost made me think about giving up, but I realize I'm just learning and I know others have success without foundation.  And the bees go so much faster!

And while one could start the brood box with foundation, what about the honey supers?  That seems it would be a recurring problem each time you extract and put empty supers back on.
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beesNme
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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2014, 06:23:11 PM »

hey steel tiger  southern nh is close to me, i like the idea of popsicle sticks,  as far as extraction with foundationless  why couldn't a guide made from say fishing line in a x pattern on each side of frame be used to 1 help support the natural comb and 2 help hold the comb together during honey extraction,  Duane good point 
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Steel Tiger
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« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2014, 11:47:58 PM »

 As long as the comb is attached to at least three sides of the frame, there shouldn't be much of a problem with extracting the honey as long as you start slow, go for a few minutes then flip the frame. Extract the second side then flip the frame again and finish the first.
 Adding wire may strengthen it, but you'll still have to take it easy to keep the weight of the honey from pushing out the comb.


 
 Half full frame. You can see how they encase the popsicle sticks.



 Here's the other side of the frame. As you can see, the combs aren't being drawn straight across, but the bees don't seem to mind.



 I forgot to put popsicle sticks into this frame. The dark part of the comb was cut out of a deep frame which was then cut in half and put into two medium frames.



 Even though there weren't any sticks, they still solidly attached it to the top of the frame.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 06:30:42 PM by Steel Tiger » Logged
buzzbee
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2014, 08:48:32 AM »

The third photo looks like wax moths may have been working the brood comb.
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sc-bee
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2014, 09:40:38 AM »

The third photo looks like wax moths may have been working the brood comb.

Yea I noticed that also..... sure he probably knows? The fishing line will break after a while. Try the frame wire instead but fishing line, a fairly heavy test is cheap and easily available. If you have the wedged frames just turn the wedge down sideways and staple or nail. If no wedge Popsicle sticks or some use the corrugated plastic like political signs are made of. Just cut and staple a small strip.

I tried the foundationless thing a very short time. Just did not stick with it. Frames become very heavy with brood and honey and my 95 plus temps make the wax soft and easy to rip away from the frames. Always a pain to work. And as Ken said they are going to drag the contaminates in, unfortunately. But I do undersatnd trying to start with less contaminates. I do however keep saying I am going to alternate some foundationless frames in a honey super for some comb honey. It just never happens Wink
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John 3:16
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« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2014, 10:40:58 AM »

I did most of my foundationless frames between drawn frames.  You can still get some that are going across or wavy.  You just gently press with fingers or between both hands back into place.  If it gets bad before I get to check, I cut it loose in places leaving it connected where possible and straighten.  You may have to rubber band it to keep it there.  Most of my supers are shallow frames, and when the comb gets attached fairly well you can extract.  It may bee the last extraction of that year by the time it is ready, and start it off slow in extractor.  Good luck

I use paint stirring sticks cut down the middle and a few drops of hot glue in the groove.  I also have a TBH that I built frames for.




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Steel Tiger
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« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2014, 01:03:04 PM »

The third photo looks like wax moths may have been working the brood comb.

 The frame looked like that when I pulled it from the hive back in fall. I was stuck in the freezer for a couple weeks and is fine now Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2014, 01:06:58 PM »

If you see that in the fall, it is a sign of a weak hive. It is a good time to condense the hive down to a point the bees can cover the frames.Wax moths are mostly a symptom of a hive collapsing from being weak. Not the cause of a collapse.
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Duane
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« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2014, 02:34:16 PM »

I see I said "extract" supers.  I meant to say crush and strain.  Then you wouldn't have the comb and they have to start over.

Thanks for the information about cutting the comb loose and repositioning it.  I forget I can actually cut part of it.

Looking at the photos of the Popsicle sticks, they look to be about 2.5 cell widths, and some of the cells were made elongated to fill in.  I noticed on my frames that they started at the edge and then seemed to have a delayed time before they attached to the bar.  Would it be better for the sticks to be exactly one cell width so it fits in better?  I know some have said 1/2 to 3/4" but I think that included a 45 degree angle.  The effective point of attachment would be less.  I'm just thinking of height of the sticks is exactly one cell, then it fits in and they might attach it sooner, easier, and therefore they can get on to doing the next frame?
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chux
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« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2014, 04:29:31 PM »

Duane, I'm only entering into my second year with bees, so take this word with that in mind...I have a TBH started with a swarm-capture, with no frames. I also have five langs. Four of those langs have cutout bees in them. Foundationless frames. I used the wider popsicle sticks in some of my frames, and had trouble. The sticks stuck out so far that the bees preferred to build on one side or the other instead of centered on the guide stick. Those frames with a thinner starter strip seemed to be built out centered much better. They don't need a lot of help knowing where to center the comb on the frame. I believe the larger strip gets in the way many times. A strip one cell deep would be more than  enough, and would be strong enough once the wax aged a little.

 
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« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2014, 04:35:56 PM »

Some bees will draw picture perfect frames of foundationless and some are relentless at drawing crooked combs. If you are doing crush and strain it is not as much of an issue as you can just slice down between the frames to seperate them, but crooked combs make it a bear for doing inspections.
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Steel Tiger
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« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2014, 06:36:17 PM »

If you see that in the fall, it is a sign of a weak hive. It is a good time to condense the hive down to a point the bees can cover the frames.Wax moths are mostly a symptom of a hive collapsing from being weak. Not the cause of a collapse.

 That makes sense. The hive this came out of never took off as well as the other hive. They were dead and clustered on top of the brood box back in Jan. More than likely they died early Dec. Brood box still has honey and there was a full medium on top.
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beesNme
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« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2014, 10:22:19 PM »

thanks for putting that up steel tiger.  I can't wait to get going, i started making deeps today
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