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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Foundationless Frames

    I see there are many posts about going foundationless. I have read many of them including most of what I find on Michael Bush's website. I am a new beekeeper and I just got a hive(with bees) a week ago. It came with a deep and a medium super. I purchased another super with drawn comb at the same time that I picked up the hive. The beekeeper I purchased them from said he checked three frames in the medium before sealing the hive for me to pick it up. The were full of brood. Based on that, I added the super (with the frames of drawn comb) when I installed the hive on Sunday.

    Today was the first day opening the hive and everything looked great (in my non experienced eyes). I did have two experienced beekeepers who walked me through the hive inspection. They started filling the newly added super with honey. The medium was indeed full of brood and had a nice pattern to it. I need to add another super and would like to go foundationless. I am not sure how to start or whether I can be fully successful doing it this year. I have been feeding them 1:1 syrup for the past week but will stop now. I hope to get to a point where I don't have to feed them again but I really wanted to get a good jump start this year.

    I am hoping to get some honey this year and will only have one hive until next year, so I don't have a lot of room for error. Is it possible for me to go foundationless this year and still get honey? How would I do that? If not do I just do a few foundationless frames this year in preparation for next year?

    I read that it is best to put the foundationless frames in between capped frames. Would I switch out some of my frames from the super that has honey and alternate? I would have to keep them marked since those frames were made when I was feeding them syrup? I searched the web hoping for a detailed plan but felt uncomfortable with what I found and my situation.

    Thanks in advance for any help/advice that you can give.
    Last edited by scallawa; 07-06-2013 at 06:39 PM. Reason: clarity

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    I don't understand why so many people want to go foundationless. It takes approximately 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of comb. Think of how much honey you are costing yourself. If I wanted some honey this year I would definitely use foundation.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill91143 View Post
    I don't understand why so many people want to go foundationless. It takes approximately 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of comb. Think of how much honey you are costing yourself. If I wanted some honey this year I would definitely use foundation.
    The foundation has to be drawn out as well. Other than the center rib represented by the foundation, the bees have to convert honey to wax to draw comb, be it foundation or foundationless. Is the difference in honey required to draw the equivalent wax of the foundation really THAT significant, especially given that foundationless is generally acknowledged to being drawn faster?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    And if you use plastic foundation, there's even less wax in the foundation-- not a significant amount at all.

    I see many advantages to foundationless, at least for hobbyists like me. It's cheaper, the comb is not contaminated by acaricides and other chemicals which may have a negative effect on bees, you can make cut comb of the very highest quality, and your bees are allowed to draw whatever kind of comb they want. I don't have an extractor, and cutting foundationless comb off the frames to crush and strain is pretty cool.

    Plus, the comb is pretty.

    cappinghoney.jpg

    For someone like me, the wax itself is a significant plus-- I have five colonies now and if they make any honey to speak of, they'll make much more honey than I can use, or even give away as gifts. I'm about to build myself a solar wax melter... it gives yet another facet to an already fascinating pursuit.

    Of course, if you're a commercial beekeeper who uses acaricides, I guess there's little reason to use foundationless frames. I imagine you don't have the time to watch every hive to make sure the little devils are making straight comb, for example. They may mess up foundation, but at least the next comb starts straight. And foundation is stronger in the extractor.

    But for treatment free dabblers like me. foundationless is great. I've already taken honey from my best hive, and it's completely foundationless and a first year hive.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    My intention was not to start a foundation vs foundationless debate. I am just hoping to get some advice on how and if I should move forward with that plan this year or not.

    I want to go foundationless because I want to try and eliminate as much pesticide and things like that from my diet as I can. It might be a small amount but if I can stop it then I would like to. I won't knock other people for using foundation but I would like to try without. I also want to see what all the rage is about with comb honey. I do appreciate your input and opinion. Did not know it takes that much honey to make comb.

    I apologize for the lack of information. I am a little excited as a new beekeep and have a lot (this is turning into a small scale obsession at the moment) going through my head. The deep is full of bees. The reference to three frames was from when the beekeep was giving the hive a final once over before sealing it up for my pickup. He only lifted three frames and based on what he saw (full of brood, good pattern) he decided that was all he needed to see to call the hive healthy (guessing that was his thought process).

    I believe the medium had 8-9 filled with brood. There seems to be a lot of bees but I don't have much of a reference since this is all new to me. If you need more information please let me know.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I look forward to anymore thoughts or suggestions.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Go for it! I run 30 hives, all mediums, and they are all foundationless. I eat the comb all the time. I did crush and strain when I first started, but now I spin it (extract). Do what you want - it's fun and there aren't any rules. Observe, adjust, and enjoy!

  7. #7
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    Feb 2013
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    And if you use plastic foundation, there's even less wax in the foundation-- not a significant amount at all.

    I see many advantages to foundationless, at least for hobbyists like me. It's cheaper, the comb is not contaminated by acaricides and other chemicals which may have a negative effect on bees, you can make cut comb of the very highest quality, and your bees are allowed to draw whatever kind of comb they want. I don't have an extractor, and cutting foundationless comb off the frames to crush and strain is pretty cool.

    Plus, the comb is pretty.

    cappinghoney.jpg

    For someone like me, the wax itself is a significant plus-- I have five colonies now and if they make any honey to speak of, they'll make much more honey than I can use, or even give away as gifts. I'm about to build myself a solar wax melter... it gives yet another facet to an already fascinating pursuit.

    Of course, if you're a commercial beekeeper who uses acaricides, I guess there's little reason to use foundationless frames. I imagine you don't have the time to watch every hive to make sure the little devils are making straight comb, for example. They may mess up foundation, but at least the next comb starts straight. And foundation is stronger in the extractor.

    But for treatment free dabblers like me. foundationless is great. I've already taken honey from my best hive, and it's completely foundationless and a first year hive.
    rhaldridge,

    That is some nice looking comb. I was wondering the the strip you have at the top is just the normal wedge nailed in sideways, or if you make an extra splint of some sort and glue it in th eexisting slot?
    John Sampson-Tucker County, WV
    14 hives - All cutouts and swarms

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    John. I use a comb guide with a triangular cross-section. Pics:

    emptyframe1.jpgusedframe.jpg

    The first image shows the monofilament fishing line I string through the 2 center holes of the deep frames. The second image is from a frame that I harvested, so you can see how the bees attach the comb.

    One of the reasons I think these triangular cross-section comb guides are far and away the best is that the attachment of the comb is so much stronger. The downward pull of the comb is mostly in shear. Engineers will understand what I'm talking about here, but another way to look at it is that because of the acute angle of the guide, there's much more surface for the bees to attach the comb to. I haven't a a single comb wander off the center line, so evidently the bee engineers are pretty happy with the guide.

    I find the arguments against putting any wax on the guides convincing; seems to me the bees can do a better job of this attachment if there's no layer of wax between wood and comb. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the first wax the bees put on the guide is mixed with propolis for a stronger attachment. When I look at partial, or newly-started comb, I see some evidence of this, I think, but that might be my imagination. Anyway, I haven't had any comb fall off yet.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    I don't understand why some people have to scoff at foundationless every time the topic comes up. So what if the bees need more time and resources to make the new comb? It sure is a lot cheaper than $300 extractor!

    Maybe people have methods based on things (ideals, goals) they consider more than you would consider them.

    So please. If you have nothing to offer except incredulous wonder at why anyone would be so silly as to keep bees any way other than your preferred way....consider posting elsewhere.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by brettj777 View Post

    So please. If you have nothing to offer except incredulous wonder at why anyone would be so silly as to keep bees any way other than your preferred way....consider posting elsewhere.
    I thought I was offering something. I didn't intend to ruffle your feathers, but If I am not mistaken Scallawa was asking about possibly getting some honey this year from a hive just obtained last week, and if some honey for this year is the goal then time is of the essence. So my thinking is using foundation or better yet, drawn wax if they could find it, would better the chances of harvesting some honey this year. Again, I didn't mean to make you mad. I was just offering what I thought would help yield some honey this year. My humble apology!
    Last edited by Barry; 07-07-2013 at 06:43 AM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Alternating foundationless with capped frames is wise-- it'll tend to keep things straight.

    Don't put foundationless between uncapped frames, though -- you'll end up with very fat comb in the uncapped frames, and undrawn foundationless frames.

    No one who isn't familiar with your honey flows is qualified to comment on whether or not you'll get honey, as flows vary with locality.

    On a strong flow, you may.

    In my opinion, drawn comb is more valuable than the honey,

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    If you have one super full of capped frames, pull every-other frame and put it in a new super. Put foundationless frames between capped frames in both supers. Be sure and mark the foundationless frames. I use a permanent marker.
    Take a look at www.honeybeesuite.com . She speaks very favorably about comb honey.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill91143 View Post
    ... It takes approximately 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of comb....
    This is so confusing to me. I sincerely tried to understand this and it just did not sink into my brain. OK, we have two identical beehives with exactly the same weight. On top of each we are adding a super, one with drawn comb and another is foundationless. Let's assume that bees are active equally and have enough to forage. When full, we would extract honey from both supers and weight it. We also would weight wax from the foundationless super(s). We shall continue adding supers and weight the honey and wax until flow stops (number of supers may be different). Finally, we shall have some numbers - amount of honey collected from each hive and amount of wax bees produced in foundationless setup. So, if this 1-to-8 conversion is right, in foundationless crop we shall have 8lb*wax less honey than in the hive with drawn comb. Right? My estimate as following: my bees uses approximately 1/4 lb wax to build 4 thick frames (med) of honey, Each frame holds approx. 2.5 kg of honey. For 8 frames ~ 20 kg honey and 1/2 lb wax. It means that hive with foundation in average must produce 4 lb per super more (if 1-to-8 right) than foundationless. Make any sense?
    Серёжа, Sergey

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    You lost me with to much math.

    I don't know for sure, but what I've been told is bees can make 8 pounds of honey for the same amount of effort and resources it takes them to make 1 pound of wax.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    When comparing foundationless frames to drawn comb, the weights will not make sense. To make a fair comparison, you have to compare a frame with foundation to a frame without any foundation. The bees will only have to make the amount of wax that was in a sheet of foundation, to be back at a place where you can now compare apples to apples. Either way, from that point, the bees still need to draw out the comb.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    actually when they draw foundationless...the middle part that the bees make naturally where the foundation would be is so very thin (you can see right through it) that I doubt that a whole deep frame would even weigh an ounce.

    So I don't think there would even be a measurable difference in the use of resources to make comb with or without foundation.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by NewJoe View Post
    So I don't think there would even be a measurable difference in the use of resources to make comb with or without foundation.
    When you burn that wax you can see the energy that it took to make it. Much more than weight. They had to convert sugar to energy.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by wmsuber58 View Post
    When comparing foundationless frames to drawn comb, the weights will not make sense.... compare apples to apples. ...
    This is why I proposed to measure a honey produced. The individual weight of the frames shall be different with and without foundation, so I was trying to convert everything into honey to measure the difference between two approaches. We also shall assume that we extract most of the honey in foundationless approach. Also - we need to compare drawn comb to foundationless. I told you - it is confusing
    Серёжа, Sergey

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by cerezha View Post
    This is so confusing to me. I sincerely tried to understand this and it just did not sink into my brain. OK, we have two identical beehives with exactly the same weight. On top of each we are adding a super, one with drawn comb and another is foundationless. Let's assume that bees are active equally and have enough to forage. When full, we would extract honey from both supers and weight it. We also would weight wax from the foundationless super(s). We shall continue adding supers and weight the honey and wax until flow stops (number of supers may be different). Finally, we shall have some numbers - amount of honey collected from each hive and amount of wax bees produced in foundationless setup. So, if this 1-to-8 conversion is right, in foundationless crop we shall have 8lb*wax less honey than in the hive with drawn comb. Right? My estimate as following: my bees uses approximately 1/4 lb wax to build 4 thick frames (med) of honey, Each frame holds approx. 2.5 kg of honey. For 8 frames ~ 20 kg honey and 1/2 lb wax. It means that hive with foundation in average must produce 4 lb per super more (if 1-to-8 right) than foundationless. Make any sense?
    what that equation is referring to is comparing frames with no foundation to frames with drawn comb. So if the one colony had unlimited room and the desire to build one pound of wax they would end up 8 lbs behind in honey production to a colony that had unlimited room to just fill comb with honey. You are putting a limit on it by trying to compare when full. That's not the point of course to boxes exactly the same size should hold apx the same amount of honey weather foundation, a topbar or full comb was used as the starting point, the point is the bees with comb could fill up more than one super in the time that the bees drawing comb first could fill up one because the bees that have to draw comb use up a portion of their nectar to make the comb.


    to the point about the argument being applied to the difference between foundation and foundationless, I don't get that either, because that is not what the equation solves. In this case the bees have to draw out comb in either scenario and they will usually draw out foundationless quicker so in this case it's a matter of time, not rescources quicker to comb the more honey you get before a flow stops.
    Last edited by Harley Craig; 07-09-2013 at 08:21 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Craig View Post
    what that equation is referring to is comparing frames with no foundation to frames with drawn comb. So if the one colony had unlimited room and the desire to build one pound of wax they would end up 8 lbs behind in honey production to a colony that had unlimited room to just fill comb with honey. You are putting a limit on it by trying to compare when full. That's not the point of course to boxes exactly the same size should hold apx the same amount of honey weather foundation, a topbar or full comb was used as the starting point, the point is the bees with comb could fill up more than one super in the time that the bees drawing comb first could fill up one because the bees that have to draw comb use up a portion of their nectar to make the comb. ..
    colony had unlimited room and the desire yes, agree, this is the key. But now, I am wondering if equation is actually true? Did they provide unlimited room and ... desire for bees? My understanding is that they measure amount of syrup consumed when colony was locked in the beehive. I remember Michael Bush commented on it in some thread. Clarification would be highly appreciated.
    Серёжа, Sergey

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