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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Central Oregon
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    41

    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
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    adair county, kentucky, usa
    Posts
    461

    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
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Skagit, WA, USA
    Posts
    220

    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
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Milw, WI
    Posts
    126

    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.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
    Posts
    1,256

    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.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Central Oregon
    Posts
    41

    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.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    79

    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!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Central Oregon
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Beetastic View Post
    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!
    Thanks. Any advice on how to make the transition?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    adair county, kentucky, usa
    Posts
    461

    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.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    965

    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,

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Heber Springs, Arkansas, USA
    Posts
    92

    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.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camas, WA
    Posts
    1,933

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    I now live near NW Oregon, have hives near Elmira in central western Oregon and grew up in NE Oregon. I suspect that your honey making days are numbered for this year unless you have your hive in a unique spot, such as irrigated alfalfa that they let flower. I think that almost all of Oregon is done for the year by the end of July and most of Oregon my the middle of the July.

    I don't know how heavy your hive is, but your goal this year should be to have enough honey for them to survive the central Oregon winter. You should take stock of honey frames and be on the conservative side your first year to see how many frames are needed for winter.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    79

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by scallawa View Post
    Thanks. Any advice on how to make the transition?
    What was already said. Alternate drawn comb with new. I take my drawn brood frames that are hatch ready, and even move those up sometimes. They draw really nice comb in the brood nest. Yes, you can get a premium for comb. I sell mine for $16/lbs. It's a special treat that many people have never or rarely ever have.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Central Oregon
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Thanks for all the responses. I am assuming I will want to use a queen excluder then?

    I believe Central Oregon is quite a bit different than the rest of the state. A coworker keeps bees and he gets his best flow (bitterbrush, rabbitbrush) during August. He says it makes really good honey. I am also expecting a significant lavender and wildflower bloom in the next month. Time will tell but I am hopeful.

    I first came across the idea of comb honey on the site you mentioned.

    So my hive is comprised of a deep and two supers so far. I am going to add another super. The current top super is all uncapped. I am assuming it is filled with sugar syrup since I have been feeding them since last Sunday. By Wednesday they were drinking a quart a day. I did not refill the bottle yesterday and don't plan to unless I should to allow them to draw out the frames?

    Would I take capped brood frames from the super on top of the hive body and alternate those with the foundationless frames? Once they draw out the frames in the bottom super, would I switch them back with the capped brood frames that were placed in the top super? Or should I wait a few days to a week to see if they will cap the "honey" (sugar syrup) in the current top super.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,791

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

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

    In the brood nest, yes. Pull some of them up to the next box and feed your empty combs into the brood nest. Otherwise pull a capped frame up for a ladder for the new empty box. Make sure you have comb guides.

    I think using foundation will cost you honey. Foundation is drawn slower and the real advantage is to have comb sooner for the bees to put the nectar in. They will have it sooner with foundationless than foundation.

    Drawn comb is effective for the same reason. Not because of the "cost of making wax" (there is very little weight of wax in a comb of honey) but because it gives the bees a place to put the nectar so they can be harvesting instead of wasting the flow building comb.

    http://bushfarms.com/beesharvest.htm#expenseofwax
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Central Oregon
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Michael,

    Thanks for your reply. I have two other questions. Once the comb is drawn on the empty frames in the brood nest would I move those into the honey super and move the others back down?
    I believe you are an opponent to feeding for long term colony viability but I wanted to know if I should feed until they have drawn the comb?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,791

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    >Thanks for your reply. I have two other questions. Once the comb is drawn on the empty frames in the brood nest would I move those into the honey super and move the others back down?

    If the brood box is all brood, and I was feeding frames into the brood nest, I would move some brood up. You will reach a limit on what they want for brood and then they will backfill it with honey. You could move those up when that happens.

    >I believe you are an opponent to feeding for long term colony viability but I wanted to know if I should feed until they have drawn the comb?

    I would feed until you have some capped stores and there is a flow. If there is no flow and they need to build up for winter I would keep feeding. If there is a nectar flow, I would stop when they have capped stores and start again in a dearth. If they were an established hive with plenty of capped stores to get them through the winter, I would not feed them at all...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Central Oregon
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    41

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    Great. Thanks for all the help. I will be sure to post on the progress.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    jersey, Illinois, USA
    Posts
    44

    Default Re: Foundationless Frames

    I also started foundationless with all mediums. It is the direction I want to go but I am struggling with a the comb being drawn out too thick on the outer edges (honey) of the frames in the brood box. I have just added a second box so I will try to move some of these up into the new box, but almost every frame in the bottom box is like this. I'm not really sure how to handle this situation. It may be worth noting that I am using 1 1/4" frame spacing. I am hoping as I get enough brood boxes drawn out and that the bees will start storing the honey in the upper boxes and this issue will start to resolve....... This is the only problem I'm seeing so far, the bees are doing a great job of drawing the comb straight and I am really careful to keep the hives level. I am willing to make some sacrifices for clean wax and smaller cell size, I just have to work through the uneven comb problem.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    1,483

    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

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