So I've read a bunch about how much quicker bees will build comb on foundationless vs foundation vs plastic. General consensus reading, it'll be in that order. Foundationless they will build fast, foundation they will build, but a bit slower, then plastic, they will build, but only if absolutely necessary. I've read so much, and it's so conflicting, last week I decided to do what amounts to a controlled experiment, and see for myself. This was partly inspired by seeing how much comb is built in a top bar hive for the first time last week, and how quickly it can get built. So, I took a brand new PF-100 frame and did this to it. The original plan was to cut out both halves and put another control frame into the hive, but then I decided I could do experiment and control on the same frame, which means placement doesn't become a factor, it's literally side by side.
That frame went into a colony on Thursday afternoon. Double deep colony, with a dozen frames of brood that's working on the two honey supers above. It went into the brood nest, between two frames of capped brood in a spot where there was enough bees they filled the hole right away after putting it in. Yesterday curiosity got the best of me, so I popped it open to see how things are progressing. I had expectations, but, I must admit I did NOT expect what I found.
It's a little hard to see because of the light angle, but, the plastic foundation half they have started drawing about 75% of the surface, and it's up to about 1/2 of a brood comb depth in the middle after 3 days in the colony. The foundationless half is obvious to see how much comb is drawn there. The timing on this was a bit fortuitous, that frame went in on Thursday, and we saw the first blackberry blossom on Saturday. The scale hive says, nectar is flowing abundantly all of a sudden. We've been averaging about 1/4 of a pound increase daily for a couple weeks, then on Friday the gain was 5 pounds, and Saturday it was 8 pounds.
I'm going to keep track of this frame for a few weeks, but it's looking pretty definitive to me already. The finish line on this experiment is to see which half gets full of capped brood first. When we put it in, my money would have been on the foundationless half based on all my reading Beesource. After looking in on Sunday, I think the plastic foundation half will easily win this race. I'm going to be out of town for a week, so it'll be a while before I can check in again, altho I may pop the lid and check the day before I leave.