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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Jackson, MO
    Posts
    1,858

    Default Plastic foundation causes swarming (?)

    I've had two first-year beekeepers call and complain how plastic foundation caused their nucs to swarm. In both situations, the nucs were hived with five more frames of plastic foundation in a single brood box.

    At first I was ready to disagree, but then I decided it wasn't so much the plastic foundation as it was the bees didn't particularly want to draw out the plastic foundation so they ignored it. The five drawn frames from the nuc filled up with incoming nectar and/or 1:1 syrup. The queen ran out of drawn comb to lay eggs and the congestion triggered the swarming impulse. These beekeepers would have been better off with wax foundation, but the "beginners" kits came with wax.

    It's been my advice to beginners and nuc buyers that plastic foundation really works best in a strong colony under a good flow. Secondarily, adding more melted bees wax to plastic foundation is almost manditory in my mind. But these two tips are not applicable to beginners.

    Anyone else seeing this problem with nucs?

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  2. #2

    Default Re: Plastic foundation causes swarming (?)

    No nucs but I started both of my hives with wax foundation in wooden frames. After they filled those I added deep supers to both with the one piece pierco plastic frames/foundation. One hive didn't have a problem at all with the plastic and have drawn over half of the frames. The second hive was very reluctant to accept the plastic. They jammed the bottom super full of nectar and pollen and there was very little room for the queen to lay. They hardly touched the frames until last week when I started misting them with 1:1 and honey-b-healthy. I noticed significant progress this week when I checked and misted them again. The misting is definately helping them along and I plan to continue it weekly until I think they don't need anymore incentive. I think if nothing else spraying them with 1:1 and honey-b-healthy is important to get rid of the reluctance some show. At least in my mind.

    My honey supers have wax and wood but when I purchase future hives I plan to use all plastic. In the future I plan to put extra wax on them as well as spray them with 1:1 with honey-b-healthy from the get go.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    2,404

    Default Re: Plastic foundation causes swarming (?)

    I started out with wood frames popping in plastic foundation. I then tried wood frames with just starter strips coated with melted old comb. What a pain in the ass. I don't have time for all that work. The bees could never build straight comb on just starter strips. I got smart and decided to go with all plastic Mann Lake black 4.9 PF 125's. (I was tired of gluing/nailing frames together and melting/brushing on wax ).

    My bees draw on anything and seem to like the plastic just fine. No swarms, just nice beautiful white comb. I think all the controversy about what type of frames to use is B.S. Do what works for you.
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Lake county, Indiana 46408-4109
    Posts
    3,540

    Default Re: Plastic foundation causes swarming (?)

    The five drawn frames from the nuc filled up with incoming nectar and/or 1:1 syrup. The queen ran out of drawn comb
    Around here we call that honey bound, I have had packages that were started with 2 frames of drawn comb will it so fast I had to stop feeding
    Ed, KA9CTT profanity is IGNORANCE made audible
    you can`t fix stupid not even with duct tape

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,771

    Default Re: Plastic foundation causes swarming (?)

    Honeyman makes a very good point. This year has been difficult to keep up with for me. I've had a few packages on comb that built up very fast. It seemed like they were hived one week and next thing you know there were swarm cells. In every case where I found evidence that the colony was thinking about swarming, I had a single brood box where I hived the package. As it built up (and as I was feeding), I added a second box. This box was filled with honey / sugar water as were many of the frames in the first box. Adding a third box (these are all medium box hives) didn't matter. The bees were plugged up down below. This is a case of over-compensating for last year when I was barely home and we had a dearth for months in the late spring through summer. Not wanting to lose bees again, I fed all the time and found myself managing a different problem. I now have late spring splits which is fairly unexpected considering that the colonies were only started a short time ago.

    I don't think it has anything to do with the plastic short of the issue that they are often reluctant to draw wax on it. I've seen that plenty of times when I used plastic and began switching over to wood / wax. I'd had boxes with mixed wood and plastic frames and they would skip right over the plastic frames to draw the wood / wax ones. But, once they needed the space, they pulled wax on the plastic without too many problems. I always seemed to have a frame or two of plastic that never got drawn no matter what I did to them....who knows why. Like in my case, it's really management of the colony that's at the heart of the issue.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Jackson, MO
    Posts
    1,858

    Default Re: Plastic foundation causes swarming (?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenseye View Post
    As it built up (and as I was feeding), I added a second box. This box was filled with honey / sugar water as were many of the frames in the first box. Adding a third box (these are all medium box hives) didn't matter. The bees were plugged up down below.
    We encourage pulling five frames from that second box, alternating them with the addition of five new frames. Those drawn frames from the second box go into the third box where they are alternated with the addition of five new frames.

    It seems to give the bees "permission" to move up and also breaks up the crown/dome of honey that holds them down.

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

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