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  1. #1
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    Default switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    I'm sorry if this has been asked and answered already ... I did search but couldn't find specifically what I'm looking for. I've been a beek for about 2 months. I want to transition my hives to all foundationless. I've read that you can gradually move frames with foundation out of a box laterally or up into the next box, while checker-boarding new foundationless frames in the center of the box.

    Unfortunately, I can't move my frames up because my hives are deeps with mediums. Speaking of which, I'd like to transition to all mediums as well. I'd have started that way, but I couldn't get a nuc on mediums this year. So, I'm wondering if I can kill two birds with one stone and while I'm introducing foundationless frames, go ahead and use mediums in the deep box, and then when the transition is complete, move all of them to a new medium box. I realize there will be burr comb on the bottoms that I'll need to remove.

    Someone told me I can make the transition to mediums next winter by swapping out the deep when the cluster is in the second box. But I don't want to wait that long if I don't have to. I've also read conflicting information about whether the cluster reliably moves up like that, and don't want to count on it.

    Any reason I shouldn't do both at once?

    What kind of time range am I looking at for making the complete transition (one season, a year, many years?)

    Should I time this process with a flow, with feeding, or other factors?

    One of my hives just swarmed and I've yet to confirm the new queen is laying. There are a few empty-ish frames in there that I could remove. Is this a really good time, or a really bad time to start this process with that colony?

    Should I be targeting specific frames for removal (honey, empty-ish, drone brood, etc.)?

    How the heck do you get the bees off the frames you remove?

    Anyone who can give me a numbered step-by-step wins a smiley face.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    I might suggest bottom supering with mediums and then take the deeps off when filled with honey at some point in the future. This will take a year or two especially if you're just starting out. After that's done, you can trim your deeps down to mediums and replace the frames, or if you want to expend the extra effort to trim the frames as well. It's far easier to trim the boxes.

    I don't think checkerboarding is the term you're wanting to use here. Checkerboarding refers to the late winter practice of inserting empty frames of comb in between honey frames ABOVE the brood nest.

    You can use mediums in deep boxes, you'll just have to trim the comb off them when you go to move them. You can also use two mediums stacked and put deep frames in there. However, I would take a more systemic approach by using medium boxes and moving the deep boxes up as a whole.

    Are you talking about just removing the bees so you can do something else with the frame? There are many methods, but I use a bee brush, available from any beekeeping supply place. Don't brush like you're using a broom, do more like short flicking strokes to remove bees. You just want to knock them off, not roll them down the face of the comb.

    As an aside, from a utilitarian point of view, I would not recommend going all foundationless. I avoid putting more than one frame of foundationless in a hive at a time and am going to generally use them in place of medium plastic drone frames since nobody makes them.

    Sorry no smiley for me.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    What's your main reason to go foundationless? Use a bee brush or the shake method to remove bees from a frame. Some people can do a single shake and get 90% of the bees off. Some people hold the frame and then give your wrist a good thump with your other hand. To transition, isolate the queen in your current medium(s) if you can, move it/them down and put an excluder on the medium with the deep above. The deep should be mostly hatched out in a week or two (depending on if it's mostly capped brood etc..) and you can transition out of it. You can use a bee escape when it's almost hatched out to get all the bees to move down or use it as a honey super (since it's going to have drawn comb anyway...). My guess is you want to get rid of it though, so I would add a new medium under it if it's loaded with bees and use a bee escape to move them all down nice and peacefully unless you want to brush or shake all the frames off. You can remove the excluder when you add the escape. If there's honey in there, just decap it, place it by your hives and let the bees rob it out and clean out the frames.

    And what Solomon says... you can try and put empty frames in, but you can't group them together in big groups or the bees willl make a mess. With Lang's, the bees need something to scaffold onto when drawing comb top down. In a TBH, they use the adjacent comb. A starter strip would work as well. I was planning on transitioning a few frames. So in my 8 frames, I was going to leave frames 2 and 7 foundationless and see how they do.
    Last edited by JRG13; 06-06-2012 at 11:03 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    I'm really new also, so I'm just saying what I would TRY. 3 options.
    1. Put a med above the deeps and wait for the queen to start laying up there and then queen exclude her up top, let the brood hatch, which might have drones which is why I'd have them under, and then remove the deep box.
    2. Hang the deeps that the bees are using in 2 med boxes and have 2 meds stacked on the sides. They will start moving out to the outside meds and you can start replacing 1 deep at a time with 2 meds. I started with a 5 frame deep nuc so this is what I did. I only had the 5 deeps that I got so this was my only option.
    3. You said that they just swarmed and that the queen hasn't started laying, so pretend this is a swarm also and just take off the deep, which shouldn't have many capped anyway, and just remove it. Put a new med box on the bottom and shake the bees into it. You will have to watch them close for a little while to make sure they are drawing straight comb, but it's just like starting with a swarm.

    I might go with wax foundations for at least half of the frames just to get them to draw straight. You can have them just in the middle or every other one, think both would work.

    Personally, I would just add a med to the top and let them draw it all out and wait till winter when they move up to it to remove the bottom deep. My bees use 3 meds boxes for brood so they should move into 1 deep and 1 med pretty easy.
    Disclaimer: I know enough to know I don't know anything yet.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Thanks for the advice.

    JRG, My reason for getting rid of foundation is to reduce contaminants in wax and let the bees draw comb at whatever cell size they want - in short for the health of the bees, and my health if I ever decide to harvest products from the hive.

    Solomon, I appreciate your concern about the practical challenges. However, I've read about research that shows that contaminants in foundation wax can diffuse throughout the hive, even into the wax in foundationless frames if the two are mixed together. I know I'm making a challenge for myself by using all foundationless, but I think I'd rather deal with a little more management of comb than contaminants.

    Thanks for clarifying the term "checker-boarding". I meant alternating foundationless with drawn frames, so that they draw the comb straight and not too thickly in the foundationless frames. I do already have medium foundationless frames with a starter strip as a guide.

    Seems like you are both recommending the same thing - putting mediums on the bottom. However, Solomon makes it sound like it will take a couple of years, and JRG suggests a couple of weeks? Is the difference due to the use of the bee escape? So neither one of you recommends gradually moving frames out laterally, as I saw at the link below? Why?

    http://www.backyardecosystem.com/bac...eping-part-ii/

    I'll make my own step-by-step based on your suggestions - please let me know if I'm misunderstanding:

    1. Make sure the queen is in the mediums.
    2. Move the mediums to the bottom.
    3. Put a queen excluder on top of the mediums.
    4. Put a bee escape on top of the excluder.
    5. Put the deep on top.
    6. Wait till the brood in the deep hatches and move out via the escape
    OR, if not using an escape, brush/shake off the hatched frames
    OR, wait till the deep is filled with honey and remove it, de-cap it, and let them rob it back, or harvest it.
    7. Replace the deep with a medium.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrHappy View Post
    1. Put a med above the deeps and wait for the queen to start laying up there and then queen exclude her up top, let the brood hatch, which might have drones which is why I'd have them under, and then remove the deep box.
    2. Hang the deeps that the bees are using in 2 med boxes and have 2 meds stacked on the sides. They will start moving out to the outside meds and you can start replacing 1 deep at a time with 2 meds. I started with a 5 frame deep nuc so this is what I did. I only had the 5 deeps that I got so this was my only option.
    3. You said that they just swarmed and that the queen hasn't started laying, so pretend this is a swarm also and just take off the deep, which shouldn't have many capped anyway, and just remove it. Put a new med box on the bottom and shake the bees into it. You will have to watch them close for a little while to make sure they are drawing straight comb, but it's just like starting with a swarm.
    Thanks Mr. Happy. I like numbered lists, as you can tell from my earlier reply, so you get a

    Can you say more about option #2? Do you mean the order should be like this: MMDDDDMM? (I'm working with 8 frame boxes). How will I know when it is time to replace the deeps? When they look mostly hatched?

    I like your option #3 the best - that is what I was thinking too - that I should take advantage of the current post-swarm situation. Does anyone have an argument against that?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Perhaps I am being a bit conservative in my time budgeting, I don't know your conditions or flows.

    Personally, I would dispense with the excluder and bee escape, and actually, I see no utility in the bee escape at all. It would only be used for the honey option, not in concert with the queen excluder. Also, there should be no bee escape below a box with brood in it as nurse bees will be depopulated and the brood may die.

    My recommendation would be the 'filled with honey' option. You can continue to add mediums to the bottom when needed.

    Ultimately, even home drawn wax will become contaminated (depending on what concentration meets your definition of contamination). It's the nature of wax and the chemicals in the environment. I figure foundations and wax coatings of plastic frames are such a small proportion of the wax in the hive that they are of little concern to me. That is borne out in that I've kept my bees treatment-free for nine years on wax foundation and have produced honey that contains chemical contaminants most certainly in far lower concentrations than are available in store-bought honey. The threshold is up to you.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    ...Also, there should be no bee escape below a box with brood in it as nurse bees will be depopulated and the brood may die...My recommendation would be the 'filled with honey' option...Ultimately, even home drawn wax will become contaminated (depending on what concentration meets your definition of contamination). It's the nature of wax and the chemicals in the environment...
    You make a good point about the contaminants, Solomon. Thanks for that additional perspective. It would certainly be helpful to know the actual amounts of chemical contaminants with each method, and then what levels are considered dangerous for the bees, and dangerous for us, so one can make a decision about what threshold they are comfortable with. I don't know if such data is out there, or not.

    Regarding the nurses, are you saying that the nurses currently tending to the brood will age out and leave, and new nurses from below won't be able to get in through the bee escape? Again, I'm a newbie, so forgive my ignorance, but wouldn't the nurses be repopulated from the hatching brood itself?

    Can you clarify why you think the excluder is unecessary? It made sense to me to use it to facilitate the transition from brood to honey. Are you suggesting the position of the box up top is enough to discourage her from laying there?

    Thanks again for all your input!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanna View Post
    Regarding the nurses, are you saying that the nurses currently tending to the brood will age out and leave, and new nurses from below won't be able to get in through the bee escape? Again, I'm a newbie, so forgive my ignorance, but wouldn't the nurses be repopulated from the hatching brood itself?
    They won't age out and leave, they'll go below to get more supplies and won't be able to return. Bees move throughout the hive all the time. A bee escape takes advantage of that and disallows their return. This will happen quite quickly leaving few if any bees to tend the brood and keep it warm/cool. Additionally, access to queen pheromone will be blocked, leading the bees in the top to possibly try to rear another queen or devolve into a laying worker state. Any number of things can happen. Bee escapes are meant to depopulate honey supers of bees so that honey can be removed. Any other purpose needs to be carefully thought out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanna View Post
    Can you clarify why you think the excluder is unecessary? It made sense to me to use it to facilitate the transition from brood to honey. Are you suggesting the position of the box up top is enough to discourage her from laying there?
    The excluder is unnecessary ultimately because bees prefer to store honey in the upper parts of the hive. I'm not saying it won't be useful, just not necessary. As it becomes filled with honey, the queen will stop laying there naturally. She needs open cells to lay in and honey eliminates that. It is also commonly stated that queens won't usually cross capped honey forming an effective natural queen excluder.

    I'm a big proponent of avoiding things in beekeeping that are not necessary. http://parkerfarms.biz/unnecessary.html Especially for new beekeepers, all the appurtenances can become overbearing. There's a whole lot of stuff in beekeeping that just doesn't need to be done. Michael Bush calls it lazy beekeeping. Some of it can be counter productive or downright superstitious and some is useful but not for the amount of required effort. You'll figure out what works for you.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  10. #10
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Solomon, you get a just for all the extra info!
    Thanks!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    [Edit]You remove the excluder when the escape goes on, and you put the escape on when everything has hatched or close enough where you don't care if you lose some brood in the deep. [Edit] Maybe I should explain more. I apologize as I assume people know how escapes work. As Solomon said, don't put the escape on early, unless you do not care about the brood there, the bees will vacate and you can remove the deep altogether. I only advised the escape as zanna seemed hesitant to shake frames, wants the deep box gone as soon as possible, and this would be the fastest transition from deep to medium w/o much interruption to the bees. I also said she could just leave the deep there for honey.

    I think an escape is a handy tool. Stick in under your honey supers a couple days before you want to harvest and they empty out easy as pie. No shaking, no brushing and you barely have to disturb the hive to remove them when it's harvest time. I'm all for being a lazy beekeeper too sometimes.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 06-06-2012 at 01:28 PM. Reason: Civility

  12. #12
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Hi there, yeah, what I did with option 2, which is what I had to do, was use the deeps in the middle of 2 boxes stacked on top of each other for the depth of the deeps.
    MMMDDDDDMM
    MMMdddddMM
    The little "d"s are just the bottom of the upper deeps. And yes, I replaced the deep when it looked like most of the capped had hatched. I left it on top of the hive for the rest to try to crawl down to the hive and for the bees to rob the honey on the sides. I forgot to scratch it though so they didn't do much and I ended up just scrapping it off and straned it for myself(1 quart just on the sides of 5 frames)

    Have you looked and seen just how much capped brood is there? Any eggs or larva? I would start pulling empty frames now. It might be like in a tree where they just have a few combs to live on. If they aren't really doing much though I'd swap them out or put the meds on the top for them to start working on.

    As for the pollution, I, personally, don't think it's any more than using plastic cups, plates, bowls... When you wash them in the dishwasher they get hot and start expelling the oils in them. The drying cycle I think is the worst, since it gets super hot and nothing washes off the oil that comes out. At least with the plastic in the hive, the bees cover it with wax and it would mostly just get in the wax and not in the honey. As for the stuff in the honey, I'm more scared of the Roundup, insectacides, and car pollution that is on the flowers that the bees are collecting from than the wax. I do try to make sure not to treat with anything I wouldn't eat(so far just powdered sugar and Crisco) but that's just me. I do have a bunch of foundationless, but that's mostly so I can cut it out and try to sell comb honey.
    Disclaimer: I know enough to know I don't know anything yet.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    [Edit]

    Thank you for clarifying, JRG. You're right, upon re-reading you do say the excluder should be removed before putting on the escape.

    [Edit]
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 06-06-2012 at 01:37 PM. Reason: Reference to edited material

  14. #14
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrHappy View Post
    Have you looked and seen just how much capped brood is there? Any eggs or larva? I would start pulling empty frames now. It might be like in a tree where they just have a few combs to live on. If they aren't really doing much though I'd swap them out or put the meds on the top for them to start working on.
    Thanks for clarifying, Mr. Happy. On my last inspection (Sunday), the deep had a lot of empty hatched cells. A few had some uncapped nectar, but they were mostly empty. There were no eggs and no larva. Only sparse, spotty capped brood. There were several hatched and destroyed queen cells, which is what makes me think there was a virgin queen somewhere that I couldn't spot. If I had been thinking about this at the time, I'd have acted then to swap out frames. I'm hoping the new queen won't have started laying much by the time I can get back in there tomorrow or Friday, and I think I'll try what you suggest. If not, I'll try the deep-on-top method.

    Yes, maybe I'm being overly concerned about the contamination. I do think there are probably benefits for the bees of foundationless frames as well. But as you all suggest, I won't stress myself too much about making that switch. I just wanted to take advantage of an opportunity if now is a good time to try this.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    I would go ahead and make the switch if not many are left and even if a few eggs have been laid. I'd also feed 1:1 so they can start making reserves and building out the wax for the queen to start laying when she gets back. I've been waiting a month to see my new queen and still nothing on two hives. Just swapped in a frame of eggs to see if they will make another queen.
    Disclaimer: I know enough to know I don't know anything yet.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Ultimately, even home drawn wax will become contaminated (depending on what concentration meets your definition of contamination). It's the nature of wax and the chemicals in the environment. I figure foundations and wax coatings of plastic frames are such a small proportion of the wax in the hive that they are of little concern to me. That is borne out in that I've kept my bees treatment-free for nine years on wax foundation and have produced honey that contains chemical contaminants most certainly in far lower concentrations than are available in store-bought honey. The threshold is up to you.
    It is true and not true. The main issue here is that frames with foundation and drawn comb are re-used. I read in many places that recycling of the wax (returning back in beehive) on frames with foundation increases the amount of bad chemicals in the wax to the level, when it is dangerous. The rationale of using frames without foundation is that wax is used only once (crash and strain method) and thus did not accumulate bad stuff over a few seasons... As for "checker-boarding", Zanna I did exactly what you proposed - I systematically removed every other frame and replaced it on foundationless. Eventually, most frames become foundationless. Luckily, I had all mediums and it was easier. I think that frame exchange should be done when hive is strong. There were a hot discussion on foundationless frames in general beekeeping forum. Good luck with your bees, Sergey.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Just a quick update:
    I did an inspection with my mentor last week and we found and marked the new queen in the swarmed hive. We put her in one of the mediums, moved the mediums to the bottom, put an excluder on them, and put the deep I'm trying to remove on top.

    It didn't look like she was laying much yet, but my mentor thought she had just mated, based on the timing since the swarm and hatched queen cells. Many of the frames were empty, in fact, neither of my colonies is looking good in terms of stores. I'm wondering if some robbing happened that I didn't identify.

    At first we thought we might be able to just go ahead and remove the mostly empty deeps that just contained some very spotty and sparse capped brood. But there were a few frames with minimal stores on them that my mentor thought would be needed for any new brood laid by the new queen. I thought about just removing the emptiest frames and replacing them with mediums that I would then transfer to medium box at a later date. But my mentor discouraged it. I think he was concerned that the bees would put energy and resources into building comb off the bottoms of the frames that I would just remove, when their energy should be on building comb inside the foundationless frames for stores and brood. His theory was that the bees will use the stores in the deep to raise new brood in the mediums, emptying them out further. He suggested I just wait until this happens, and then remove the deep.

    My concern is that the timing of this is so tricky. It seems like the risk of them filling the deeps up with nectar when our sourwood flow starts (soon, if not already) is greater than the risk of comb on the bottoms of frames. If they start filling the deeps up with nectar, I think I've lost my window for removing the deep, unless I want to risk taking some of their winter stores. Anybody have thoughts about that?

    My plan for now is to inspect my hives later this week to verify that the new queen is laying and that the deep is emptying out and not getting filled with nectar.

    Thanks again for all the tips!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    The direct method is to take your deep frames and cut them down. You can tack on a bottom bar or not. You can also just add a medium foundationless super and feed. The bees will draw it and the queen will move up. Later, put an excluder on until the brood has hatched in the deep, then either extract it or let them rob it out. Let the bees do the work. I started in all mediums and I've been foundationless for years.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Before my standard hives where destroyed by bears my plan to convert was to simply cut down my deeps in the spring and alternate them between empty frames in medium boxes. I was also going to split up the existing foundationed frames between two hives and dump a package of bees into the new hive. The next year as part of swarm control I was going to remove the cut down foundation frames and discard them.

    But alas, none of that was to be. If you don't mind starting your bees from scratch you can just shake them all out into a medium filled with empty frames (properly setup for foundationless mind you) and go from there. I don't know how long your season is there but if you extract whatever honey you have in your deeps and feed it back to the bees at least it won't be wasted.

    I had very little trouble with mediums filled entirely with empty frames when I restarted beekeeping this year from packages. They tried to draw two combs to a frame in some places but with about fifteen minutes work spread over four hives I fixed the problem and they have been on track ever since.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: switch to foundationless AND mediums - when and how?

    Zanna, I feel like you are writing my story. I too am switching over to mediums. I moved a medium on and moved the deep up on 2 hives (queen excluder used) that has comb that is not worth keeping another season and they filled nicely with stores. I think I will leave on through the summer in case we have a bad dearth. If they manage to fill and cap with golden rod, I will be very happy. I also have been inserting deep frames with plastic foundation, as I really had some wax moths early on, plus I wanted to move to small cell. I will over winter in a deep & medium this year, and work on the 2nd deep next spring. It would have been easier if I started earlier. In hind sight, I think I should have sacraficed the brood on those deeps and put in with new foundation. I do want to keep the deep frames for nucs. Live and learn.
    Good luck to us both!

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