I have a BS National hive with bees on 3 frames. They went in two days ago, and I've filled the rest of the space with new 14" x 8.5" deep frames, but using shallow super foundation (it was cheaper !). Someone said that the bees would draw drone comb in the space below the foundation, but is that likely to happen ? Would they ever want so much drone comb, especially at this time of year ?
If I want to try the foundationless approach, can I just trim the foundation back to a strip of an inch or so ?
I do starter strips (mostly of 4.9mm or plain wax that I make) or "comb guides" (a triangular piece of wood on the bottom of the top bar) all the time. It's helpful to put at least one frame of fully drawn comb in to give them a starting point, but starter strips or foundation work fine. When they feel the need for drone comb they will sometimes build whole frames of it. When they don't they sometimes will build beautiful frames of really small worker cells. It all depends on what they need at the time.
Usually with full sheets of worker foundation they are feeling the need for drone cells so they build them in any available space. But once they get enough they quit.
How do you make your own wax starter strips?
I cut a one by six pine board 16 3/4" long. I soak it in brine (salt water) and dip it in wax. If it's not thick enough, I wait for it to get cooler and dip again. If you have several boards you can get one coated pretty well and set it aside to cool while you do another. After it's cool I cut the edges off. Two of the are only 5 1/2" and I throw these back in the wax pot. The other two are 16 3/4" long and 3/4" wide. I use these for starter strips. The rest of the sheet I cut into 3/4" wide strips with a pizza cuter or a pair of scissors.
You can nail it in with a cleat like you do a sheet of foundation (if that's how your frames are set up) or you can wax it into a grooved top bar (or one that hasn't had the cleat removed) with a wax tube fastener (Walter T. Kelly has them).
I think it's about as simple to take a table saw and a one by and cut the corner off at a 45 degree angle to make a 3/4" by 3/4" by 1" triangle and nail this to the top bar.
I buy frames from Walter T. Kelly with no groove in the top and bottom and cut a bevel on the top bar at 45 degrees.
The nice thing about no starter strips is there is no wax to get hot and melt or get deformed. There are just nice solid frames of wood to put in as you need them.
If I may add my experience in here for comparison, as another alternative. I tried melting some burr comb beeswax and inserting it into the top bar groove of about 50 new frames. I used a big meat injector syringe, heating the wax in an old pot on the grill. ( avoided the kitchen thus avoiding the wrath of the better half) The bees have started building now on almost all of the frames just fine, and have finished a few of them. You can't tell the finished frames weren't foundation based frames until you realize they have no wire in them like the old foundation they replaced. It worked so well I will not be buying foundation ever again. I do understand that some honey is lost as a result in making the new foundation, but that's ok, we want beeswax too for candles.
Does it hurt anything to use wired frames for starter strips or foundationless?
Thanks for the replies. I won't worry too much about them building acres of drone comb.
This hive is a joint project with my next door neighbour. We're both beginners, so we worry about everything. It's a good job the bees know what they're doing
I haven't used wire in mine (with or without foundation) but some people have. Dee Lusby says it works best to do a few vertical wires instead of horizontal when you do this because they will follow the wire down.
As for drone comb, they needed to get it out of their system anyway.
As for the honey spent to make comb, I get uncontaminated clean wax with no Apistan or Checkmite residue. That's worth something.
With the advice of many here, I just put in empty frames with an "X" of wire between frames with 4.9 foundation.
The last time I looked in the deep boxes (several supers ago) they were building it faster than drawing out the foundation next to it. Boy did it look pretty! Pure and white, no drug residue.
This weekend the temps are supposed to drop to upper 70's lower 80's. I am going to see how things are going, see what I can take out and add another super.
Martha in hot humid KC