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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    Default My foundationless experiment

    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.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    3,048

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Interesting, I never bought into foundationless being faster, that being said, I have a hard time getting plastic worked with our minimal flows. You may see that foundationless side take off quick once they get going.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
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    992

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Thanks for setting up this experiment. Much of what is repeated ad nauseum on the i'tubes has no basis in evidence.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    4,285

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    I use a lot of ML plastic frames and when the bees are expanding and need more brood and storage space, the frames are drawn beautifully and quickly. Marginal situations result in marginal comb of all kinds I find.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    560

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    Thanks for setting up this experiment. Much of what is repeated ad nauseum on the i'tubes has no basis in evidence.
    We've not been at this to long, only 4 years. One thing I've learned, and I do get tired of it, ask 5 beekeepers, get 5 answers. That's not helpful, and particularily for a newbie, very unhelpful. I've come to the conclusion, that some of that is due to locality. One example, during our first couple of years, everybody told us, month of August is a dearth. Well, maybe for them, 5 miles down the road from us, but we were in a subdivision full of meticulously landscaped yards. Our bees were finding stuff to work on continuously, when those just 5 miles down the road on a blueberry farm, had nothing. So some of this is not just here-say, it's due to locality, and locality means 'by neighborhood', not 'by province or state'.

    But we have moved, and now have a new location. I've decided the only way to truely figure our our new location, and a bunch of other things along the way, is to do controlled experiments. I have a bunch of them on the go now, but this one has been the most enlightening so far, with immediate feedback. Some of the others will take the entire summer to gather the data and draw a conclusion.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Ash Grove MO. USA.
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    535

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Like you say beekeeping is local. I have some bees at my neighbors 3/4 of a mile away. Sometimes you would think they were in a different state. I will have a flow at home while the neighbors ain't doing nothing. A month later I'm in a dearth and his fill 3 supers.

    I can get plastic drawn in a heavy flow. But in a moderate flow I can still get foundationless drawn when they won't touch plastic.

    In a light maintenance flow I can't get anything drawn without feeding.
    I'm curious to see how your expierment turns out.
    Woody Roberts

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    560

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfer View Post
    I can get plastic drawn in a heavy flow. But in a moderate flow I can still get foundationless drawn when they won't touch plastic.
    This is part of why I did this experiment the way I did. Conditions are equal for the two halves, same colony, same frame location in the colony, and on the same flow. What I'm measuring, is which half gets drawn first. This is as close as I could come to 'all other things being equal, which is full first'. There is only one variable here, and that's the plastic foundation on one side, vs the gaping empty hole with starter strips above and comb guides all around on the other side.

    If we had no or weak flow going, I wouldn't expect this colony to draw anything out. They already have 2 boxes of 10 frame deeps, fully drawn, and 2 medium supers above, also fully drawn and only partially filled, with a third super above that undrawn. So there is lots of room for storage, plenty of comb for the queen to lay in, and plenty of room above for wax makers to work. I've tried to take every variable out except one, the preference between the plastic foundation, vs the gaping hole, as a place to draw new comb.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Springfield, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    459

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Thanks for telling us about this! There's another thread today in which this very topic came up. Some folk said that they saw foundationless was drawn faster, and I believe them. In my hives, foundation is drawn faster (foundation free not at all). Go figure.
    Pete. New 2013, 7 hives, zone 6a
    To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,660

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    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.
    My personal opinion is your study is flawed. Similar to another study years ago where they put several different wax foundation sizes in each frame. A better way to do it is have two hives in the same yard one with foundationless frames and one with foundation. Start them both with packages. Way too many variables to do it like you did.

    Conditions are equal for the two halves, same colony, same frame location in the colony, and on the same flow.
    But they aren't. Your frame is not equal. More foundation than not. No comb guide for foundationless. Foundation surrounding the foundationless area. Even when foundation is being drawn out, it is always recommended that complete supers (10 frames) are given at the start and then one or two of full comb are pulled up into the next super to seed it. Same would apply to foundationless IMO. I have no dog in this fight, just going on my own experience.
    Regards, Barry

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
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    1,319

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    An early Michigan beekeeper by the name of W. Z. Hutchenson wrote many articles in the American Bee Journal. In his early years he favored foundationless frames over foundation, especially when hiving swarms. In later years he reversed is stand and said that foundations did the better job. In speed of being drawn, he stated that foundation should be used in the supers because they would be drawn first and the bees would store surplus honey in them, while in the brood chamber no foundation should be used because the bees would draw comb slower, and the queen would lay brood in the cells as fast as they were drawn. In this way a greater surplus honey crop would collected, and with the beekeepers of that time, that was the goal.

    The statement that foundationless is always drawn fastest is simply not so. I don't care where foundationless frames are placed, when hiving swarms or making nucs, the Pierco or Mann Lake plastic foundations for the deep frames I use are drawn faster than foundationless in eight out of ten times. When 1 of each are placed in the brood nest, not only will the plastic be drawn, but the queen will have the frame laid out before the foundationless frame is complete.

    Grozzie2 is doing as all beekeepers should do, try management recommendations for themselves, and see if they stand the test. Nothing should be completely believed until it works for the beekeeper under his conditions, with his bees. When we recommend something, we should say if we have tried it with success, and how many times, or if we have just read about or heard about it being done.
    37 years - 25 colonies - IPM disciple - naturally skeptic

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
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    Casey, Il, USA
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    1,187

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    awesome experiment! I wonder if the fact that you put it in the brood nest makes a difference? I have seen queens eager to find a place to lay place eggs in foundation that is not fully drawn and the bees draw around them. I wonder if the queen got on there and started laying so they were forced to do that side first? Do you see any eggs in the partially drawn foundation side?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    SW Missouri
    Posts
    59

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    That is a good point Harley.

    I hived a swarm a few weeks ago on all Rite-cell in a deep. I went in a few days later and added a foundation less frame in the center. They built the foundation less out right away, just like I've heard they would. But the fact that it was in the center of the brood nest may have affected that.
    I have also *read* that the bees like to communicate, and that is why they don't like foundation. The publication recommended holes (up to 1-1/8") be drilled in the foundation before installing it, and that the bees would be quicker to draw it. I have not tried this.
    Jason Wolthuis '13, z5b, ~20 hives. KTBH's and Langs. TF
    Circumstances don't determine who we are, they only reveal it.

  13. #13

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    A better way to do it is have two hives in the same yard one with foundationless frames and one with foundation. Start them both with packages. Way too many variables to do it like you did.
    And you don't think your way would introduce all sorts of variables? I can't count the number of times I've had one hive drawing comb like crazy and its next door neighbor hardly drawing any at all. And both using the same foundation.
    I think grozzie's approach is right on. It isn't conclusive but surely reduces the variables.
    I don't have a dog in this fight either.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    560

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Craig View Post
    Do you see any eggs in the partially drawn foundation side?
    No eggs on it, queen was on a frame 2 over, busy laying into cells polished after recently emerging.
    Last edited by grozzie2; 06-09-2014 at 03:59 PM. Reason: typos

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Delta, BC Canada
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    121

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    My personal opinion is your study is flawed. Similar to another study years ago where they put several different wax foundation sizes in each frame. A better way to do it is have two hives in the same yard one with foundationless frames and one with foundation. Start them both with packages. Way too many variables to do it like you did.
    That study is no better as two packages can have completely different characteristics. My 2 packages this are drastically different in their performance on the exact same equipment. The packages were identical "breeds" of both bees and queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    But they aren't. Your frame is not equal. More foundation than not. No comb guide for foundationless. Foundation surrounding the foundationless area. Even when foundation is being drawn out, it is always recommended that complete supers (10 frames) are given at the start and then one or two of full comb are pulled up into the next super to seed it. Same would apply to foundationless IMO. I have no dog in this fight, just going on my own experience..
    I would argue there is indeed a comb guide as the strip of foundation at the top of the hole acts as a guide.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    I think grozzie's approach is right on. It isn't conclusive but surely reduces the variables.
    I don't have a dog in this fight either.
    There ya go, reason his experiment is only good for himself!
    Regards, Barry

  17. #17
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    Dec 1999
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    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by dkofoed View Post
    That study is no better as two packages can have completely different characteristics.
    Exactly. Just depends on what variables have a greater impact on what it is one is trying to prove. For me, this test done the way the OP describes wouldn't prove anything. All those that say they see this way or that way building comb faster certainly aren't mixing the two types together in the same hive, much less the same frame.
    Regards, Barry

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Ash Grove MO. USA.
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    535

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    I doubt there's any study anywhere about bees that would prove anything. However I'm very interested in how it turns out.
    However it turns out doesn't mean it will be the same for my bees. But Grozzie will know how it turns out for his bees.
    While I've never done this exact experiment I do run foundationless, wax foundation and plastic and I know what works for me.
    Woody Roberts

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Crenshaw County, Alabama
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    1,999

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by plcnut View Post
    I have also *read* that the bees like to communicate, and that is why they don't like foundation. The publication recommended holes (up to 1-1/8") be drilled in the foundation before installing it, and that the bees would be quicker to draw it. I have not tried this.
    Here's something I've done since my first beehive...the idea of communication holes makes sense to me. I'm not sure if this helps them or not, but I've got drawn frames where these small windows are still clear.
    IMG_1311a (Custom).JPG

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    560

    Default Re: My foundationless experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    I don't have a dog in this fight either.
    I didn't realize it was a fight. We are in a mode of expanding, so, drawn brood comb is a precious resource right now, cant have to much. In planning how to continue expanding for next year, I need to buy more equipment, and reading here online, there's no end to differing opinions on what will work best. So I decided to ask my bees. The question I posed was this.

    Given the choice between drawing new brood comb on a fresh new piece of PF-100 frame, or a big gaping hole in the brood nest, which option will give me a frame of capped brood the quickest ?

    So far, the bees appear to have given me a fairly clear indication, but, there isn't capped brood in there yet. Time will tell the full story.

    But I do know what the bees have told me already, after only 3 days, is enough to make my purchasing decisions for next year. Had they ignored the plastic completely, in favour of the open space, I may have been convinced to buy all the bits, and spend hours assembling fiddly bits to make frames next winter. They didn't do that, instead, they started right away drawing out the plastic foundation. I've seen enough to know, if there is any advantage to the foundationless part, it's not enough to warrant spending hours assembling fiddly bits of wood into frames. My time is far better spent on 'real work', then just order cases of PF-100 type frames for the bees. It's not an insignificant decision right now, I'll be asking my colonies to draw out 500+ or so brood frames next summer.

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