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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
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    Lincoln County, Maine, USA
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    15

    Default Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    I am in the process of switching my overwintered hive from foundation to foundationless. About three weeks ago, I took the bottom box off the brood chamber and put a new eight frame box on top, with six empty frames (wedge frames with wedge nailed on edge) and two frames of extracted comb from last year's super. I positioned the combs in the box as follows: EECEECEE, with the E's being the empty frames and the C's being the two combs.

    Three days later, I peeked in the hive and found lots of workers in the old super comb (cleaning out leftover honey, presumably) but no drawn comb in the empty frames. A week ago, they had cleaned the old comb, but still hadn't drawn out any comb in the empty frames. At that point, thinking that the nectar flow might still be a bit light, I put a baggie feeder of 2:1 syrup on top of the frames in the top box.

    I just peeked in the hive again, and found that they still haven't started drawing out comb. I am in Maine. The maples have been flowering for a little while, the dandelions just started blooming in earnest in the last day or so, and the bees are definitely bringing in pollen. It is, however, still down in the 30s at night here. But I worry that they are not yet in the upper box.

    So the question is: Am I just being impatient? Should I wait a week and check again, or should I do a proper inspection now? If so, is there anything in particular that I am looking for, in addition to a general inspection?

    Many thanks,
    mainubeek

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,863

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    me thinks you are being impatient - the bees will move into the box and start to draw comb when they feel a need to - not before. I am a bit North of you but just got into some colonies for the first time in the last week. don't be in too much of a rush.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,346

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    I use many foundationless frames, medium (with and without horizontal support wires), and some deeps (all with horizontal support wires). When I'm adding another super, especially if using foundationless frames, I first wait until the bees have brooded up and then began to bring in so much nectar/pollen that the combs begin to be rapidly filled. Then I place some of the new frames between combs of brood, moving combs that are full of honey/pollen, up, into the new super. I try to always have new foundationless frames placed between finished combs, or at least where combs are well begun.

    Otherwise the bees will more often build their combs without regard to comb guides, or where we beekeepers would prefer them.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    4,526

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    joseph, how many horizontal support wires to you put in your deep foundationless frames?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Lincoln County, Maine, USA
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    15

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Thanks, everyone. Will wait a little while...

    I put the two frames of drawn comb in the upper box to serve as guides. Not enough? I could put two more in, and then the foundationless frames would alternate with comb.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,346

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    joseph, how many horizontal support wires to you put in your deep foundationless frames?
    Three. I build my own wooden frames with End Bars that have three wire holes. I never liked where the four holes were on commercial frames, and using the center two was a compromise. I like where I have my three.

    I'm not sure the image, below, is small enough for the forum. If it isn't it can be reduced to a link.

    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    1,256

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    Three. I build my own wooden frames with End Bars that have three wire holes. I never liked where the four holes were on commercial frames, and using the center two was a compromise. I like where I have my three.

    I'm not sure the image, below, is small enough for the forum. If it isn't it can be reduced to a link.
    Joseph, that hole placement does look better than using the two center holes of a commercial frame, which is what I'm having to do. I'm curious as to why you don't have your comb guides come to a sharp edge. From what I've read, that sharp edge is optimal. On my foundationless frames, I used comb guides with triangular cross sections, and even the package I installed on empty frames is drawing straight comb.

    I like that you have comb guides on your bottom bar as well. Does this help the bees to attach the comb better at the bottom? I've noticed that mine are not usually attaching comb at the bottom, no matter how nicely they fill the frame.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    4,526

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    many thanks joseph.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,346

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    I use a router edge banding bit, on a router table, to cut the comb guides, the bit that cuts the "male" side of the "band". I've set it so I can run it through one side, then flip it over and run it through again, doing this trims the comb guide edge to about 3/16", but if the piece isn't perfectly symetrical, the actual width can vary some.

    I also cut the comb guides on many of the Bottom Bars, too. The objective was to encourage the bees to attach the comb there, more reliably. The verdict is still not in, but it does seem that having Bottom Bars that are at least 1/2" deep is more inspiring for them to attach the comb to, even than the comb guide edge.

    I've also used a 3/8" bull nose bit, which just cuts a half-round profile as a comb guide.

    Both profiles work very well. I haven't had a single comb, built out of alignment. All are built straight down the comb guide..
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,104

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    It's helpful when the weather is still cold, to put the next box on the bottom. The bees need heat to draw wax and are reluctant to leave the cluster. If you don't want to do that, then move some drawn comb up for a ladder.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Lincoln County, Maine, USA
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    15

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    They have now started to draw comb in an empty frame adjacent to one of two frames of old comb I put in the box. Looking good so far, but I will be keeping a close eye on them so I know if they get off track.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    5,991

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Good.

    Remember they can only do what they can do. As they need more room, and collect nectar that needs storage, they will continue building. Don't stretch them too thin.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,691

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Bees build more comb when the population needs it. Focus on building the population first, then they will build.

    Crazy Roland

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Winthrop, WA
    Posts
    53

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    I am experimenting with foundationless in my 8 frame hive(I have a 10 frame as well). I started out by putting the nuc in a deep and placing foundationless frames on the ends. I went on vacation for a week and the temps were warm so just before I went I placed another deep with foundationless frames(I honestly can't remember if I put one foundation frame in the middle of the foundationless) below the first box(upon recommendation of a guy who writes http://letmbee.com/. I checked the hive last weekend and found that they had drawn one of the end frames(quite beautifully I might add)...here are some pics: IMG_1658.jpgIMG_1659.jpg Then I checked the other end frame and they were festooning and had just started on that one. I checked the bottom box and they were just starting to draw on the middle frame. I didn't attach any wires(that's a deep frame), but did put a dowel across the top as a comb guide. I made sure to make the hive very level and lifted very carefully when I took the frame out. The weather is cooler now, but there is lots to be had out there for the bees. Right now I am focusing on the brood boxes..we'll see how it goes.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    1,286

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    We are new beeks. We built the hives and the frames. In some of the hives the frames have no foundation. We have experimented with various guides...paper, wood, beeswax/foundation strip. The bees use them all

    We have not put any wires across the frames of the deeps. These are not frames we will harvest honey from.
    If we get ample honey we will harvest from medium supers. The mediums have no wires either.

    Is having no wires going to be an issue in the deep brood frames?...in the honey medium supers?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Colorado Springs, CO United States
    Posts
    377

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Is having no wires going to be an issue in the deep brood frames?...in the honey medium supers?

    Not having wires is only going to be an issue if you use an extractor to harvest the honey, and even then it may not be, but it is more likely to have the comb bust out on you. Hello cut comb honey?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Buderim, Queensland, Australia
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    I see how the frames have been manufactured with a lip for the bees to attach their comb but I wonder if you could also make a saw cut in the bottom of the top bar and tap a small piece of ply into the groove. I use a 9 frame radial extractor and have had foundationless frames blow apart in the extractor. We can buy exterior grade ply here that is 1.5mm thick (1/16") and I think that if I ran them horizontally across the centre of the frame or two down vertically would it prevent blow-out in the extractor. Of course I could probably wire the frames but that is time consuming. What do you think?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,346

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Comb guides are fine, but cross wires embedded in the comb are definitely the stronger option. It isn't always easy to get the bees to attach the comb to both the End Bars and Bottom Bar, even with additional comb guides placed there.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Lincoln County, Maine, USA
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Bees not moving into foundationless upper brood chamber

    Just to report back on the original topic, they have now moved into full swing in the upper chamber. There was one false start, in which they built a two-frame-wide sphere of comb extending up from the top of the frames in the lower chamber. But I cut that out, and since then they have been building nice straight comb in the frames. Knock on wood, or a block of beeswax, or whatever. Thanks to all for the feedback. --mainubeek

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