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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
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    92

    Post Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Hello

    Sorry to spark up an old debate, but I don't feel like I fully understand purchase options. Next year I hope to be keeping to beehives in april and I live in wisconsin.

    There are many advantages in going foundationless, being lazy and not having to pay for foundation are two that appeal greatly to me. From what I have researched, Foundation is only a slightly faster build up than foundationless.

    I think that plastic foundation is "catching up" however. Manufacturers such as mann lake recognize the movement among beekeepers of utilization of small cell and how it reduces pest issues. Ultimately, plastic is more expensive because, well, you don't buy foundationless.

    I would like to hear the opinions of people who utilize small cell foundation- What advantages does it provide over foundationless?

    Side story. I was hunting pheasant up north the other week and noticed three double deep beehives sitting on the edge of the field- next to a small vineyard. I had never been around bee hives or honey bees before, despite reading and already making up my mind about acquiring a hive or two.
    I approached cautiously, despite my confidence from what I read, for all I knew honey bees were deadly and disliked people. On approaching the hives I noticed one of the bees floundering on the grass some 15 feet away from the hives. My heart beat faster, and in some part of my mind I wished that I was wearing a veil, the imagined sound of buzzing made me flinch slightly.
    When I looked at it however, I simply felt sad. It reminded me of the bumble bees I saw as a child in my mothers garden. The bulbous eyes and non-aggressive look of the struggling insect immediately dispelled any thought in my mind about their aggressive nature. Despite knowing that this bee was likely meant to die I reached out and tried, unsuccessfully, to lift it and bring it closer to the hive. I gave up quickly, however, knowing I shouldn't interfere, and could likely be making matters worse if the bee was out of the hive on purpose, so I left it out to the cold winter elements.
    Upon reaching the three hives I was stunned. They simply did not look like anything I had seen on the internet. The first one on the left had a large gash in its middle. I could see some bees trying to guard this entrance unsuccessfully, there was simply too much hole for them to make any successfully attempt. On top of that I knew that the hole would probably be disastrous when the snow came.
    The second hive didn't appear much better to me. There were elder beetles and a few other insects crawling on the outside of the hive, and I couldn't see any presence of honey bees, even guards at the entrance. The third beehive didn't seem any better to me. A complete absence of life surrounded it.
    After the hunt I returned to the owners and informed them of the large gash in the side of the hive. Hopefully something was done to fix the situation. Despite the odd first impression I had of honey bees, what I saw made me want to keep a few hives even more than before.

    All in all an electric experience for me, I'd only read or seen youtube videos about honeybees, finally seeing them was altogether different for me.

    Thats my beekeeping experience so far.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Myrtle Beach, SC, USA
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Gus979 just because you give bees foundationless frames does not mean that they will draw out small cell combs. If they are large cell bees they will probably draw them at 5.1 as the smallest. They also do not always draw out foundation quicker than foundationless. If you decide to go foundationless, which is a good way to go. You will still need either already drawn out frames, from starting with a nuc, or some empty comb or foundation of some sort, to get the bees started out right. Or else you might get a super of cross comb.
    https://www.facebook.com/stevesbees99
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    watertown,wi.,USA
    Posts
    479

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Gus- Fellow Cheesehead here from Wisconsin. I am not quite sure what small cell foundation is and how it differs from plastic foundation. I started beekeeping this past Spring and chose to use plastic foundation in my 2 hives. I thought about the cost as well, but figured at a buck a piece it was a good choice since I was probably going to fumble a bit while moving my frames and thought that it would hold up a bit more my first year than foundationless. My bees drew it out very well and quickly. I even had sheets of white and yellow foundation, I was curious if color would matter. It didn't. Living where I do(Watertown), I am able to go to Dadant's(Watertown) and Lapp's(Reeseville) to ask some questions and actually look at the products before deciding which to purchase, which as a Newbee, was really to my benefit. juzzerbee

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Hartford, CT
    Posts
    600

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    As a newbee I choose plastic because it was less work and you didn't have to add foundation to wooden frames. Also Peirco frames have 10% more surface area then wooden. That being said I don't think my bees really like it and next year will likely mix plastic is with foundationless. It'll be less work to make combed honey out of and I think the bees don't really like plastic.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    seattle, washington
    Posts
    65

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    As a newbee, first year having bees, I would say go with foundation for extracting ease. I know you can go crush and strain method with foundationless, but with plastic foundation you can spin it for extraction and the bees will have a head start on building new comb when you put the frames back in the hive?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Myrtle Beach, SC, USA
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    You can also extract foundationless, it works.
    https://www.facebook.com/stevesbees99
    Please visit my page, Thanks

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,743

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Gus,
    Sounds like you had a good and not so good experience with the bees.
    You actually took the time to inform the landowner of the deficientcy with the hives, which is a wonderful thing.
    I have noticed that some beekkepers get complacent when it comes to the woodenware. I can't tell you how many times I've seen neglected and just plain worn out hive bodies still in service.
    I use plastic foundation for all my honey supers, but I do use a combination of foundationless and plastic foundation in the brood chambers. Installing every other frame from foundationless then plastic foundation alleviates a lot of comb problems and make the plastic foundation go further.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Houston, Texas, USA
    Posts
    460

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    From my limited run from July, using w. Kelley foundationless and grooved top/bottom with 1/8" plywood guide, I got wonderful results from frames that were between built out plastic. However when I put a foundationless between two new plastic foundation frames the results were mixed and occasionally strange. I had very thick comb that would extend all the way to the surface of the plastic foundation next frame. I also ended up with tunnels under the comb to the surface of the plastic foundation. The bees seem to like it, I am just confused with what they are doing, and it gets messy lifting the frames for inspection.
    Mike
    N5RWH - 9a

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Livermore, CA
    Posts
    1,409

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    I've started swarms on all foundation less without any problems and they drew out the frames very quickly as well. IMO, the problem does arise when you place foundation less between undrawn plastic, this I have experienced also!

    I do run plastic foundation in my honey supers though, just for a little more reassurance against blow outs, but did make one super of foundation less frames to see how that will work next year as they didn't draw it out this year. I do like foundation less though and haven't had a problem with transport or heat.........yet!
    Coyote Creek Bees

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    3,033

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    I didn't like plastic frames before, just working with them felt odd. They flex a little and have the tendency to get bridge combed to the top of the frames below. As I've gotten use to working with them though, I'm finding them to be better in terms of workablility. Easier to pick up, lighter than wood frames, and fit together better. I do like the feel of wood better though and my bees do not draw plastic out very well so I'm phasing them out anyway. Gus, lazy and foundationless don't go together if your bees build wonky comb, it's actually more work. If you can get them to draw them nice and straight on the first pass, then you're ok. Personally, I like foundation because it fascinates me how the bees will cut it down and work it before drawing it sometimes, it's a fun process to watch. Trying some ML small cell foundation, so far the bees like it and they transitioned to it from pf100's very quickly. Got 6 frames drawn out late September in a week with no flow while some of the pf100's were still untouched after 2 months.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Houston, Texas, USA
    Posts
    460

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Another reason I want to have some foundationless is so I can do some cut comb. The Ross Rounds look interesting, but a bit pricy for the setup for me right now.
    Mike
    N5RWH - 9a

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,566

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Plastic usually stays flatter, it's easier to handle, and the plastic frames are lighter.

    Foundationless is the new fad, and it has it's place, but it's more work in most cases than using foundation and the bees will make a mess if you don't get it set up right. Some bees make a mess with foundation, too, but it's worse with foundationless. Certainly you should expect to get it all drawn in the spring, they will leave frames partially drawn in the fall and fill in around what' there with bridge comb, and in the fall it will often be full of honey and messy to fix.

    My advice is to do whatever you feel you want to, just don't be afraid to change when and if things don't work out correctly. A friend of mine was all hot on foundationless, but ended up getting some foundation from be because his bees refused to build comb in the frames until he did. Don't wait until you have a mess where you can't remove frames before you fix it!

    You can also buy thin surplus foundation for comb honey -- it's very thin and has no wires, and fits shallow frames.

    Peter

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    watertown,wi.,USA
    Posts
    479

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Gus- I did a bit of searching and discovered the idea behind small cell foundation. I have read that the main reason is because it is closer in size to that of natural cell size. Whereas, foundation(plastic??) seems to be the largest cell size of all. Having the small cell size is thought(or maybe proven) to reduce the number of varroa mites in the cells. It gave the mites less room to fit in, and because the cell is smaller, required less time for the bees to cap the cells. This shorter time that it took to cap the cell means that there is less time for the mites to infest into the cells with the drone. Is this the reason you wanted to possibly go with small cell foundation? If anyone reading this finds the information incorrect, please correct me, I am not 100% sure of my understanding of small cell knowledge and do not want Gus to be steered in the wrong direction.juzzerbee

    Michael Bush-Once again your knowledge has served me well. I just hope I have understood and explained it correctly

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,566

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    There is a lot of discussion on the issue of "small cell" bees. A point that is often overlooked is that when foundation was "invented" (developed would be a better word) in Europe, one of the people advocating it's use was convinced that larger bees made more honey because they could fly further and carry more nectar. I don't believe this was experimentally verified, which would have been a rather large undertaking, but the idea of larger than typical foundation got tangled up in the notion of using foundation, and the result was 5.4mm cell size becoming the norm.

    Even back then (the 1910s I believe) typical beehives on foundationless frames (the only type of beehives around then) had cells sizes much closer to 5.1mm.

    I don't believe anyone has produced solid science showing that small cell hives have significantly lower numbers of varroa mites, but it seems to work for some people and it won't hurt.

    Like everything about living organisms, the issue is a bit murky and there is lots of variation between hives, so it's hard to tell. You won't hurt your bees by going foundationless or small cell, but you might also not gain much above not doing so.

    Peter

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Campbell River, BC, CA
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Lots of rationalization for every direction. We went all plastic for a simple reason. I can't be bothered to spend hours nailing and stringing frames. I open a box of pf500 or pf520 and put them in the hive. Job done. Costs me a buck a frame more than buying the bits, money well spent. Our bees built just as much comb as folks up the road that started on foundation the same time we did.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    166

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Is there a difference between "brands" of plastic? I am assuming if you are using plastic that they be used 100% until drawn out. After that you can start feathering in foundationless?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
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    166

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Sorry, I resubmitted my previous post somehow. Building my post count. :D
    Last edited by bbrowncods; 11-09-2012 at 02:38 AM. Reason: error

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Houston, Texas, USA
    Posts
    460

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    Lots of rationalization for every direction. We went all plastic for a simple reason. I can't be bothered to spend hours nailing and stringing frames. I open a box of pf500 or pf520 and put them in the hive. Job done. Costs me a buck a frame more than buying the bits, money well spent. Our bees built just as much comb as folks up the road that started on foundation the same time we did.
    Just curious as I went to their web site and did not see the cell size stated for the PF500 & 520. The PF 120 & 100 are stated as 4.9.
    Thanks for your time.
    Mike
    N5RWH - 9a

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,734

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    > Foundation is only a slightly faster build up than foundationless.

    Actually it is slower than foundation. Noticably slower.

    >I would like to hear the opinions of people who utilize small cell foundation- What advantages does it provide over foundationless?

    It is a bit more reliable at getting regression quickly.

    >Just curious as I went to their web site and did not see the cell size stated for the PF500 & 520. The PF 120 & 100 are stated as 4.9.

    Last I measured it it was 5.4mm

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Porto, Portugal
    Posts
    122

    Default Re: Why Plastic foundation? Also Foundationless

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    > Foundation is only a slightly faster build up than foundationless.

    Actually it is slower than foundation. Noticably slower.
    Don't you mean the opposite here? That foundation is slower than foundationless?

    From your own page:

    "Using foundation sets them back in many ways. First they draw foundation more slowly."

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