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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    A, A
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    Default First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    In the spring, a friend and I will be starting two hives in south Austin, Tx. We like the idea of foundation-less beekeeping standardized on medium 10 frame supers, but are concerned by the possibility of things going wrong soon after the installation of the first packages. If we use the "Popsicle stick in bar groove" method for guiding the bees to build comb in the plane of the frame, but have no existing drawn comb to use as a guide on both sides of an undrawn frame, what are the odds that all the comb is crazy after week 1-2 and I am going to have to cut it out and pursue other measures?

    Is it worth trying to buy drawn comb from others to put in every other frame in the first two supers? Are there other methods that have worked for any of you for getting a new colony to draw straight, foundation-less comb other than or in addition to the Popsicle stick method?

    Thank you for the help,

    Jeff

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Whitehouse, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Hi,
    I did the same start this year. I leveled the hive, used self made starter stripes/guides and used one frame of foundation. That's it. I got nice straight combs.

    ch.cool

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Marysville, WA
    Posts
    477

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    I too have done the same with good results in both TBH's and Lang hives. That said, I've also seen them make a mess. There are no guarantees. Starting with a couple frames of drawn comb is bar far the best chance at good straight combs. If you don't have any then starter strip can work fine but you need to watch them closely from the begining. If they get off a little on the first comb the second will worse and it gets worse the further they go.

    All in all I've had pretty good success. Michael Bush's website addresses this in good detail.

    Mike
    Beekeeper? Shoot, my bees keep me!
    100 hives in Western Wa State

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Liberty, Indiana, USA
    Posts
    167

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    I have had great luck with using the foundation less frames from Walter Kelley. I have only used deep frames. As long as your hive is level they will work. I don't even use a wax starter strip anymore. Just make sure things are level!
    Jason Bruns
    LetMBee.com YouTube

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Genola, Ut
    Posts
    56

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    The problem I have had is that they build off the edge of the frame and not down the center. Even with comb guides coated in wax they would seem to mess it up occasionally.
    Now I have fully drawn comb that is nice and centered. All that I have to do is put an empty frame between two drawn frames to get new perfectly-drawn frames. It was a pain getting to this point. It can be done, but if I were to do it again I would use full frames of foundation to get them started. This way you get your first combs nice and centered from the beginning. Once you get a few frames drawn just add the empty foundationless frames between the drawn ones.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Posts
    311

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    I'm new to this beekeeping as well - and want to go foundationless. I'm planning on starting the first brood box (8 frame mediums) with foundation and then using those as guides with the 2nd and 3rd brood box. So each hive is started out with 8 frames of foundation and that is it as far as foundation.

    It will be good to keep in touch come spring and see how we do.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Genola, Ut
    Posts
    56

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Quote Originally Posted by rniles View Post
    I'm new to this beekeeping as well - and want to go foundationless. I'm planning on starting the first brood box (8 frame mediums) with foundation and then using those as guides with the 2nd and 3rd brood box. So each hive is started out with 8 frames of foundation and that is it as far as foundation.

    It will be good to keep in touch come spring and see how we do.
    That would be the easiest way. If you are interested in natural cell size you could eventually phase the frames, started with foundation, out. Doing it this way takes care of the biggest problem of foundationless which is getting them to draw the comb down the center of the top bar.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    DFW area, TX, USA
    Posts
    1,123

    Thumbs Up Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    If you start with a NUC, you will have a good start and can do as you wish when the hive matures.
    LeeB
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Indianapolis IN 46227
    Posts
    285

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Quote Originally Posted by JSabins View Post
    Is it worth trying to buy drawn comb from others to put in every other frame in the first two supers? Are there other methods that have worked for any of you for getting a new colony to draw straight, foundation-less comb other than or in addition to the Popsicle stick method?
    Jeff
    This seems like a two part question;
    If you are starting with a package, then buying a few frames of drawn comb (if you can) will move your bees forward a month over foundation or foundationless frames, and can make the difference between a good hive and a great hive first year. I would put the drawn combs together, and not split the brood. Put your new frames on the outer edge of the brood. A 5 frame nuc box works well for this.
    In short, drawn comb is always a good way to get packages going quickly.

    Once they are building up, then checkerboarding with foundationless works well, but again, splitting the brood nest can be devastating if the hive isn't strong enough to cover the brood, so only add one or two at a time, external to the core brood area.
    Like Lee says, nucs provide quite a bit of the initial work by having the combs and brood. Chances are, the cost of a package and a few drawn combs will be as much as a nuc and will not build up as fast.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    3,158

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    "We like the idea of foundation-less beekeeping"
    Don't worry the bees will figure out a way to correct this for you.

    "what are the odds that all the comb is crazy after week 1-2"
    100%

    You can pursue other measures or persist with foundationless. It will not be easy with the first box of frames. Who knows you might get lucky and they build the first frames nice and straight.

    I woudl start them in a nuc though. I use 5 frames but Might even go smaller than that to get the first fraems of comb. then add new frames sandwiched between those they already built to keep them making straight comb. It is much easier to get them to build the next one straight if it is next to a straight one.

    To start I would check on them every two to three days correcting any comb that is wondering off course as they go. It can be pushed around a bit if it has not gotten to far out of control.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    A, A
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Quote Originally Posted by rniles View Post
    I'm new to this beekeeping as well - and want to go foundationless. I'm planning on starting the first brood box (8 frame mediums) with foundation and then using those as guides with the 2nd and 3rd brood box. So each hive is started out with 8 frames of foundation and that is it as far as foundation.

    It will be good to keep in touch come spring and see how we do.
    I like that idea. Would love to go completely foundationless, but it sounds like that may be inviting some unnecessary frustration. Glad to stay in touch.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    A, A
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    3

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Quote Originally Posted by LetMBee View Post
    I have had great luck with using the foundation less frames from Walter Kelley. I have only used deep frames. As long as your hive is level they will work. I don't even use a wax starter strip anymore. Just make sure things are level!
    I had no idea these existed... Thanks.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee
    Posts
    789

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    if you do go all foundationless in the same box, be sure to check on it every couple of days to make things straight. Take a good sharp knife with you to cut comb loose and reposition. As soon as a few frames are filled out, you can alternate them with empty frames until all are drawn. That is how I did it w/ some boxes of foundationless and had good results. If you wait more than a couple of days, the comb will be very catawampus and more difficult to correct. -js

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    968

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    if you want simplicity and safety, Lburou has given some good advice.

    In a nuc you not only get 4 or 5 frames of drawn comb but a functioning colony with bees of all ages.
    Usually it will have an established queen, and not a random one just introduced to the rest of the bees and likely to be rejected/superceded within a few months as package bee queens often are.

    The combs in the nuc will act as guides to promote straight comb drawing in the foundationless frames you insert, if there is a drawn comb on each side of the foundationless.

    Don't just put a foundationless frame in every other slot though.
    Put in one or two at a time so that the brood nest isn't split up the the point that it hinders brood rearing. (Make sure the two frames with the most brood on them stay next to each other until the brood nest is expanded to a few other frames).

    The several frames of drawn comb that come in a nuc will set you ahead alright...at least a week and maybe as much as a month.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Indianapolis IN 46227
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    285

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Quote Originally Posted by Beregondo View Post
    The several frames of drawn comb that come in a nuc will set you ahead alright...at least a week and maybe as much as a month.
    I agree that "a few" drawn combs will set you forward most likely 2 weeks. A nuc is different though, having brood in all stages and a frame of pollen will set you forward more than a month in my opinion.
    I bought some nucs early this past spring and split them again 6 weeks later with store bought queens adding only foundationless frames to the nucs to build with. Can't do that with packages even with drawn comb.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Liberty, Indiana, USA
    Posts
    167

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    I ran all foundation less frames in my swarm traps lat year. I caught 14 swarms and the bees built well on them. This is my second year doing this. As long as I keep things level it works out. I didn't even use a wax starter strip on them last year.

    Painting wax on the frames made them NOT work as well for me. 3 years ago I had a hive go all wacky in one deep. I just let the bees work down. That box is a mess. The 2 deeps under that wacky box are drawn well on the f-less frames. I am going to crush and strain the capped honey out of that wacky box next summer.
    Jason Bruns
    LetMBee.com YouTube

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Sullivan, MO
    Posts
    901

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Most of my thoughts on the matter are included in a youtube video I did. I love how people act like doing foundationless takes all kinds of skill and only an expert can do it. It's just like pretty much anything else with beekeeping, follow the proper principals for success and you will most times be fine, but there will be occasions where the bees decide to do something different.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38SPvuWvVkc

    You can do it with no other drawn combs, but I would recommend not leaving them a week or 2. check in 2 or 3 days, that way if they have decided to build the opposite direction they are supposed to you catch it early.

    Rod

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,410

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    The bees will figure it out.

    1) do have a center guide of some type. I generally just use wedge top frames and break out the wedge. The bees build on the step, maybe 1/16th off center.

    2) do keep all the frames pushed tightly together in the center of the box until drawn out.

    3) do feed if you don't have a strong flow.

    4) don't give them too much room too soon.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    North Bend, WA
    Posts
    504

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    To those I mentor, I generally recommend one frame of foundation and copious use of follower boards (same idea as the nuc, but w/o changing equipment). Grade your drawn frames on straightness from 1 to 4, 1 being the best and 4 being the worst. Try and put new frames between two 1's or a 1 and 2, move the 3s and 4s to the outside. If you do that, you'll have enough success to get the hang of what you're doing.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    191

    Default Re: First Hives - Foundation-less from Scratch

    Last year I just used the inverted wedge as my guide, per Michael Bush, which worked out great. I got straight combs without fail and super fast when I put the empty frames inbetween two frames of drawn comb. If you don't have that, then checkerboarding inbetween frames of foundation may be a good way to go. My spring 2013 bees drew super straight deep combs out extremely fast, in just a few days, when I checkerboarded, and slower on the non-checkerboarded frames. It was hit or miss with wacky combs on a box full of foundationless frames. I had success monitoring the wacky frames and twisting the combs back in place. On a few occasions I cut off some wacky comb and rubber-banded it into place at top center on an empty frame, and they drew those out very fast and then chewed through the rubberbands when they were done. Checkerboard, but take a knife and rubberbands with you and keep a close eye on your frames, and you should be good. :-)

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