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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    jersey, Illinois, USA
    Posts
    44

    Default Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    I watched a video of a beekeeper that uses foundationless frames in the second box and left the bottom brood box empty allowing the bees to draw the brood comb from second box down into the empty bottom box. I am a new beekeeper and I'm getting my nucs in a couple of weeks. I'm going with all mediums and foundationless frames, I'm curious what others think about this method. The beekeep on the video said the queen is much happier not having to move across gaps to lay eggs...... sounds reasonable but I'm sure there are other pros and cons to this method........ Any opinions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Big Stone Gap, VA
    Posts
    914

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    Allowing bees to draw comb from the upper brood box to the lower brood box sounds like a disaster to me. The first thing that comes to mind is inspections. How would one pull out a frame to inspect? Definitely try foundationless, but I would recommend against letting them drawing comb in any empty box.

    Shane

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    jersey, Illinois, USA
    Posts
    44

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    Shane, thanks for the response, Yes, I wondered about how the bottom box would end up looking like, comb everywhere probably. Just thought I'd ask, from the lack of response this must have been an obviously dumb question...... Heff

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
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    2,465

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    You will discover, as so many people have, that frameless beekping is a big pain in the sitting part much of the time. There is a reason that nearly every beekeeping system in use today uses full frames.

    An empty box, even with frames in it, is an invitation for the bees to get creative, and as the almost never draw pretty straight, even comb in nature, you can guess that that box of empty frames is going to look like!

    There is nothing exotic about foundationless frames, and since I just spent $150 on foundation, I can see why not using it would be attractive, but it is much more work and you have to do much more poking and prodding sometimes to get the bees to make comb the way you want. My beekeeping buddy went with Kelley foundationless frames last year, and boy, what a mess. First he put them in an empty box because they wouldn't fit in a nuc (9 lb swarm) and he didn't want to use the frames in the deep I lent him. Big mistake, they built comb at a 45 degree angle to the entrance overnight. He bought Kelley foundationless frames, put them in with no wires or starter strip, etc, and they did the same thing, just off the frames this time. I gave him some foundation and that finally got them to start in more or less the right way, but when he left them to their own devices later in the season, they started building comb off the outside corner of the top bar and not on the center guide, so he still has a mess.

    Foundationless works fine under the following conditions: Some sort of obvious (to the bees) starting point like a sharp 90 degree wedge, a wedge type frame with the wedge nailed in sticking down, a 1" strip of foundation, etc. I personally thing the Kelley foundationless frames are too blunt and would recommend a standard wedge type with the wedge flipped and nailed in. They work well for me.

    Never ever give "messy comb" bees open space to play in. Foundationless frames work very nicely in the spring when they are building comb like crazy and the foundationless frame is between two fully drawn and CAPPED frames. If they don't build it down all the way quickly, they are more than happy to draw out the two combs on the sides really fat for storage and will make a mess. I have to fix some of this myself when it warms up, they didn't draw out the drone frames I gave a couple hives and I have really fat comb sticking into the empty space. I'll have to cut it off, which the bees won't like at all.

    You must also make sure the bees can walk to the top of the frames you want them to work. They will start foundation anywhere, quite often in the middle of the frame, but to work a foundationless frame they must festoon off the top bar, and if there isn't an obvious way to get there, they will usually treat the bottom bar of the box of empty frames on top of the rest of the hive as the roof of the hive and ignore the space you want comb in. You need to pull a couple drawn frame, or at least a couple frames of foundation, up into that new box to get them started. Once you have frames fully drawn you can put empty foundationless frames in between and they will make nice comb. That works well so long as they are making lots of wax, but in late summer be careful!

    I also recommend cross wiring foundationless frames. It seems like a lot of work, but it sure beats having a big chunk of fresh comb fall off the frame when you take it out of the hive!

    Peter

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Big Stone Gap, VA
    Posts
    914

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    Quote Originally Posted by psfred View Post

    Foundationless works fine under the following conditions: Some sort of obvious (to the bees) starting point like a sharp 90 degree wedge, a wedge type frame with the wedge nailed in sticking down, a 1" strip of foundation, etc. I personally thing the Kelley foundationless frames are too blunt and would recommend a standard wedge type with the wedge flipped and nailed in. They work well for me.

    I also recommend cross wiring foundationless frames. It seems like a lot of work, but it sure beats having a big chunk of fresh comb fall off the frame when you take it out of the hive!
    Foundationless for me has went well. We have had two issues (that were noteworthy at least). The first, we did not crosswire our deep frames with a wire parallel to the bottom wire holes. The bees drew comb from the bottom up. Since the comb was in a "V" shape, it was a long way to to midde of the frame where the "X" from the wires is formed. When we inspected and picked up the frame, the comb fell over. The bees were NOT happy.

    Sometimes, in the supers, they will draw the frames a bit wider and than the frames. For me, this is an issue to watch for. But, one good comb leads to another.

    Shane

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    Foundationless in medium frames is easy, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Foundationless in deeps I gather is a different story. Since I can't see any good reason to use deeps anyway I don't see this as a problem.

    Something else to remember, if you are using foundation and start adding empty frames one at a time those first couple frames are probably going to be drawn out as all drones since it will be the first time that hive has the chance to do what it wants to. Don't let that convince you that is all the bees are going to do, they just have their own priorities. Once they have a healthy number of drones they will start making worker cells.

    I really think its easier to just go all foundationless from the beginning and fix any mis drawn comb as it happens. Of the four hives I started last year only two of them needed any comb fixing and the total time spent fixing comb was probably about an hour for the entire summer for all hives.
    Last edited by Aerindel; 03-24-2013 at 10:31 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,327

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    I've been foundationless for over 10 years. It's easy and it works. It's no more prone to "creative" bees than foundation. They draw empties faster than foundation too. You don't need special foundationless frames. After cutting 45's on top bars for a few years, I've found that simply breaking out the wedge leaves enough of an edge to get the bees started just fine.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Winthrop, WA
    Posts
    51

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    I have two nucs coming and have an 8 frame and 10 frame hive..I plan on trying foundationless in the 8 frame. I have been in contact with a guy that writes the Let Me Bee blog who is using foundationless. He suggested several ways to install the nuc and one of the ways was placing the five frames with remaining foundationless in the 2nd deep on top of the 1st deep which contained all foundationless frames. The bees apparently will move down and start filling in the foundationless. He said that he handles his swarms this way and has had great success. What do others think?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,340

    Default Re: Foundationless with Empty bottom brood box?

    Adding the second box to the bottom works well (with foundationless frames in it of course), especially if it's kind of cold. Sometimes the bees will build up from the bottom bars otherwise. If you add it to the top, you need to move a draw comb up into that box as a ladder.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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