The bees will be fine whether you go foundationless, small cell, all plastic, or grooved wooden frames with plastic insert foundation (like Rite-Cell from Mannlake). I chose the latter.
The all plastic frames are heavy and harbor small hive beetle in their edges (something in abundance here in Texas) -I don't like that. Years ago, I had pure wax foundation droop in the heat and it resulted in a mess so I went away form that in the 1970's. Foundationless frames are not fastened at the bottom & ends of the the frame this time around, that makes it more tricky to inspect -I put up with it because I plan to cut some comb for queen mating NUCs.
Nailing a frame and inserting the plastic foundation takes a couple minutes per frame -I don't mind that, in fact I enjoy it. If you buy anything plastic, be SURE it is wax coated, the bees won't work it without the coating (in my experience).
I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)
Where can I buy 5,1mm plastic foundation?
I believe that the mann lake rite cell are 5.1mm. Source? I asked their online chat rep because oddly enough their plastic frame plastic standard foundation is 4.9 but nothing else seems to be.
Thanks for all the opinions on this subject everyone!
I believe Mann Lake Rite Cell is 5.4, not 5.1. As far as I know nobody sells 5.1 in any type of plastic frame or foundation, however I think Dadant sells wax foundation in 4.9 and 5.1. John
Olympic, why do you want 5.1?
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When I studying for bees, my understanding was that in natural environment, varroa mites prefer to feast on drones in their large cells. When honey bees were artificially "enlarged", it confuses varroa and our problems began - varroa attacked worker bees. Thus, the idea behind smaller cells is to return to original status quo when mites dine mostly on drones. I really do not know how much truth in this. Speaking about foundation vs foundationless, there are bunch of factors to consider:
- there is believe that foundation with uniform cell size prevent from excessive drone's cells creation. Some beekeepers believe that it is beneficial to ... who? bees? In the same line - it is believed that foundationless approach stimulates drone's cells formation and thus bad... or good for other beekeepers.
- in my opinion the advantage of the foundationless is that bees could create cells whichever they needed, it is more "natural" way.
- many think that, the major advantage of the foundation is that honey may be extracted from the comb and honeycomb reused to accelerate honey production. Having extra frames of drawn comb (extracted) is considered to be an advantage. Note that it is proven by many research studies that chemicals used for bee treatment as well as other pesticides have a tendency to accumulate in the wax especially in recycled drawn comb - search Internet for details.
- you probably noticed already, that many beekeepers obsessed with that honeycomb must be straight - it is essential for mechanical honey extraction (centrifuge). So, you expected to follow tradition and use mechanical extractor. If you do not use extractor, than straight comb is not such critical.
- as many already pointed out, foundationless is not less work, it require more attention and sometime messy corrections, which upset bees!
On the personal note - my two beehives allowed are foundationless and I am very happy with my bees. I do crush-and-strain honey - it is very simple, natural and does not require expensive equipment. My observation is that girls (bees) made perfect straight comb without any foundation. If comb stays in the hive for long period of time, girls start do renovation - they created cross-comb etc. As long as "mess" is in the super (honey compartment), I personally do not care - I will crush comb anyway. The brood part of the beehive is another story. Being completely foundationless, I would probably recommend for beginner to start from nuc with foundation - somebody suggested the same above. Once nuc established, you could start adding foundationless frames if you desire is to be foundationless. My bees never saw foundation. Nevertheless, the average cell size is 5.1 mm. It is never smaller than 5.0 mm. Barry, the moderator also suggested 5.0-5.1 mm average.
journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives
I was curious about mann lake and their cell sizes so I sent an email. The reponse was it is 5.1mm-5.4 mm. Also- Interesting link about the effectiveness of small cell http://www.beeculture.com/storycms/i...y&recordID=676
Maybe it depends on how deep the cells are pressed and the queen's preferences. In my experience the queen usually doesn't lay in it until it's about 1/4" deep or so.
i have been keeping bees now for 5 winters.all are foundation-less in the deeps "brood chamber" one thing that i have noticed is the the accessibility for the bees to go from frame to frame with out having to go either up or down.good for wintering over and moving food to the center also i never had to insulate them for the winter -15 degrees for 2 week periods.I do keep all plastic frames for my honey suppers tho. ease of extracting purposes I remove them for the winter only the only down side of foundation-less that i have found is when the spring comes is taking the frames out to make splits sometimes the comb falls apart or sticks to the other comb and it difficult to get them out.I can live with that since it seems that the bees are healthy i have never treated them for anything.currently today i have 13 hives two of which are overwintered observation hives all foundation-less they both swarmed this year successfully caught them and also made a split from one by taking the outside frame with the queen shes on her second winter this year in a double deep.she has a great brood pattern.foundation or foundation-less either way works keeper preference i suppose.
Foundationless I think means a frame without foundation (with several configurations of guides or no guides). Foundation can mean all wax (surplus wax, wax, wired wax, wire supported wax, etc), wax over plastic, Plastic can mean low cell pressed or deep cell pressed, waxed (or not waxed ?) and so on. Then you can have different cell size in this mix.
I have read this thread several times and it confuses me.
Right now I have started with 1. wax on plastic interspersed with some 2. wax with bar supports and some 3. empty frames with guides (usually tongue depressors or tapered top bars). All my frames are wood.
Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.