My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dirty.
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 43
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    6,034

    Default My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dirty.

    Well, my first year in beekeeping was last year. I was somewhere between idealistic and realistic. I started out with top bar hives (despite my dad's, who kept bees with my grandpa for about 20 years (20 years ago) insistence that "wouldn't box hives be easier?"). He's had every chance to say "I told you so." He hadn't until this weekend after a marathon queen finding session before we cut over a TBH.
    Anyway, I was hooked on bees so decided to get a couple of Langstroth hives for future expansion with the swarms we caught last year. But I liked the idea of foundationless and truthfully, I couldn't have asked for better bees. The first couple of hives I moved into Langs I actually just dropped the top bars in and let them build them out... and they did GREAT, but mixing new foundationless frames with plain top bars had it's challenges.

    Had to make a shim because the top bars were a bit too thick to fit under the inner cover:



    Here is a top bar built out to full size of a deep frame. There is no more sickening feeling than going to pop one of these out and have the bar suddenly get very light as you separate the comb from it. Which is why I ended up not opening this hive after about August when these first two pictures were taken.



    Here's a picture of a typical foundationless frame in this hive. This spring my dad and I hade a huge effort and cut the remaining six or seven top bar combs out, cut them to fit in deep frames, and strapped them in:


    So I built up a bunch of foundationless frames, I shaved a whole bunch of end bars so I could cram 11 of them into each box. I'd be lying if I told you I had many issues with combs being built strangely. All hive stands were extremely well leveled. I made sure to stay on top of them during comb building time so that I could make sure to correct the ends if they started to curve and keep things on the straight and narrow as much as possible. I went into winter with three top bar hives and two Langstroth hives and came out with five of the five alive.

    So spring comes and swarm prevention begins and I simply cannot keep these top bar hives in their freaking boxes. Short of going in and putting about five empty bars in between frames of brood (which is what I wish I'd have done in early May), I don't know what else I could have tried. I put empty bars outside the brood nest and checked often. The issue, I have come to believe, is that with the size of combs that I have in my top bar hive, the queen has the usable brood nest of approximately a ten frame medium + maybe 2-3 additional frames. And you can try to expand that all you'd like, but with a good laying queen, I really don't think that is anywhere NEAR the size they'd want. So despite opening the brood nest in the only manor I felt comfortable doing (spacing the brood nest aggressively seems unsavory, and probably only swarm preventative in the sense that it sets the colony back vs. helping them expand). So I split two top bar hives, and had one that seemed pretty content, but I think they were getting ready to go very soon.

    I'd made the decision to cut over into Langs entirely this year. And in March/April/May that was great because I had three top bar hives. With the splitting I had five now, which is more work, and more waiting for queens to mate before I do the cut overs, and more time to do all of this...
    A split:


    We cut over one this past weekend:




    I did a quick systems check on the newly formed Lang last night and peaked into the brood nest of the TBH next door as they should have a laying queen now. I'd seen a virgin in the hive on June 9th. From what I can tell it looks like she laid a good pattern of eggs on about 2-3 top bars and then laid eggs in about 6-7 swarm cells and they have a couple fresh ones, a few in between, and a couple ready to be capped within a day or so. There's not even very many bees in the hive, truthfully. They aren't cramped and they have as much comb as they'd ever want. So I put out a swarm trap instead of wasting any more energy splitting them into a hive I don't really want them in. I'm close to just shaking them into a Lang and calling it good. Crush what honey they have and turn the rest of the combs into bricks.

    Meanwhile, I've got a swarm that I shook into an 11 frame foundationless deep. I'd had good success with it in my other ones, why would this one bee any different?


    It has been a struggle. I don't know if it's because they built so fast because it was a pretty big swarm or what... They'd started comb on about 7 frames in just a few days. And they've built the first deep out about 80% or so with plenty of capped brood. I'll admit to being eager to get into hives and look last year, and I still greatly enjoy seeing my bees. But I'll be damned if this hive I put in my back yard isn't wearing me out with pinching combs back over and having to do so frequently. I went about 5-6 days at one point without looking and despite having all their other combs pretty much straight because of my constant intervention... they'd decided the end of this one should just turn 90 degrees instead. Pretty frustrating between the TBH that won't quit swarming/swarm preps and the foundationless deep that won't just follow the line. I was spoiled with good comb builders last year I guess. Fooled into thinking that most bees would build most their combs in this way was perhaps the worst assumption I've made to date. That isn't to say that I've had any great issues going foundationless. I've never had bees cutting across boxes the opposite way or anything like that. But that's probably because I'm dinking with them constantly to keep that from happening. I've finally been broken. I've come to the "dark side". My hives are now getting doses of plastic frames and plastic foundation. I'm done fighting the tide. I've got enough foundationless drone comb to supply half the hives in Eastern Iowa with a nice one for each side of their brood boxes courtesy of expanding the brood nest this spring without foundation.

    I was assembling 100 deep frames with my dad the other day and looking at the stack leaned up against a pile of deep bodies (which all had 10 foundationless frames in them)... I started having visions (nightmares?) of how screwed up all of that volume could be on my next swarm capture, or my next split. And maybe more so than that... how many unnecessary manipulations and inspections I was going to have to make between now and winter just to make sure I could still open the dang hives up.


    Four days later I got some of this in the mail and snap my first piece of foundation into a frame:


    I guess you can say that I've regressed maybe... back to the things that beekeepers much smarter than I decided made their lives and operations easier many many years ago.

    I say all of that simply to say this... if you think you want to go foundationless, and you want to spend freaking hours shaving down end bars by 1/16th of an inch on each side... you don't. Or at least you don't want to do that during year one. Do yourself a favor and take the advice that's on here often enough that I should have. Start with the standard stuff first and then mix in some of the moon bat stuff after you know better what you're doing.

  2. Remove Advertisements
    BeeSource.com
    Advertisements
     

  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    South Western Ohio
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Very good post and great pics. I have been contemplating adding a HTB next year along with the two Lang colonies I have this year. On a hurry up basis I did add a medium super to one colony yesterday, but used foundation-less frames. We'll see how that goes. This is my first year and its been one big learning curve.
    Tim
    "Amateurs built the Ark; Professionals built the "Titanic".

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Oyster Bay, NY, USA
    Posts
    476

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Great post and photos, thank you for sharing your experience and advice! I also tried foundationless (in a lang) and got a box full of crazy comb that can't be inspected. Never doing that again! Since then I have used strips of wax foundation on wired frames and the bees have built those all out nice and straight.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    6,034

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Quote Originally Posted by tim8557 View Post
    Very good post and great pics. I have been contemplating adding a HTB next year along with the two Lang colonies I have this year. On a hurry up basis I did add a medium super to one colony yesterday, but used foundation-less frames. We'll see how that goes. This is my first year and its been one big learning curve.
    Foundationless frames will certainly still be part of my beekeeping for quite some time. On my next inspections I'll have a box of plastic frames or a box of my newly assembled frames with foundation (some probably half sheets like Lauri does). The foundationless will come out and be replaced with these. They'll go into storage for colonies to build drone comb on next spring.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Lee\'s Summit, MO
    Posts
    2,514

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Great post. There's not a beekeeper who's got any time under their belt that hasn't had some form of evolution. What's interesting too is that the evolution doesn't seem to stop. I'm heading into my 10th year and I continue to evolve in my beekeeping. I can review 30 hives now in the same time I used to be able to inspect 2 in. I've evolved into and out of all types of equipment I couldn't imagine doing without, or thought I'd never need. Beekeeping is fluid, that's one of the many great things about it.
    Ninja, is not in the dictionary. Well played Ninja's, well played...

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Lititz, PA, USA
    Posts
    912

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    I feel your growing pains.....started 5 years ago foundationless in langs. Worked fine, did well for those years and loved the fact that I had 0 burr comb between my frames because my bees just built drone comb in the frames. I'm to the point now where I'm comfortable with most situations so I have some specific challenges and points I need to improve on in my beekeeping, one of those being swarm prevention. I hypothesize that a large number of drones in the spring is a huge swarm trigger. Well, having drone comb all over your hive doesn't help with that. So this year I expanded a bit and used foundation. Felt dirty too putting those first frames in. But I'm over it. One thing that makes me glad I did in fact start foundationless is it taught me how to handle frames quickly but gently, and also that for mediums (I'm all med) I don't need wire, and I want to be able to cut things out of my comb on occasion like a queen cell so I bought wireless wax and used pins vs pre-wired or plastic. Slumped a little toward the bottom...no big deal, after correcting foundationless for years that wasn't a problem at all, and pinning a little differently + maybe slot bottoms in the future will prevent that. I kind of like the way I did it, cut teeth on the hard stuff, makes transitioning easy to deal with. Probably just a glutton for punishment.
    License not replace eyes, ears, and brain.
    - Mr. Miyagi

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Lakeside, Ca
    Posts
    99

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Quote Originally Posted by jwcarlson View Post


    Start with the standard stuff first and then mix in some of the moon bat stuff after you know better what you're doing.
    That seems to be some very sound advice
    M-Bob

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    6,034

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Quote Originally Posted by mountainmanbob View Post
    That seems to be some very sound advice
    M-Bob
    I wish I'd have taken it when I'd read it on here. Honestly, you probably don't even know how screwed up some of the stuff you're dealing with is until you can compare it to normal. I have a friend who also has a couple top bar hives, and he has 75% of the hive labeled "bee land" because he cannot get into it because the combs are so messed up. His fault for not staying on top of it, absolutely. But it can get so much worse when it's pretty much an empty box. This isn't an uncommon occurrence in the top bar hive world. We had a couple bars like that last year until I cut them out and harvested the honey. But again, I kept on top of my TBHs, pinched comb straight constantly and they've got great combs. It would be a full time job pinching comb straight if you had a large number of top bar hives that you actually managed. If you don't mind sending bees into the trees (or your neighbors walls) every spring or several times every spring having a couple of them in your back yard probably isn't a big deal.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Brown County, IN, USA
    Posts
    646

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    I started with wired foundation, but with no extractor, and doing crush/strain, I quickly came to hate that... horrible trying to cut the comb out. I pulled all those wires out, left a rim of comb about 1/2" all around, and returned them. The bees built them back very nicely. Cutting them got a lot easier... Now I'm moving toward an extractor as I grow, but realize I have NO support in any frames. Since I run mediums, I'm hoping this will generally work short term. As they blow out, I'll add the horizontal wires before returning them. It's funny how much time I spent removing support, and when I finally got there on all of them, now I want them back.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Panama City, Florida, USA
    Posts
    1,046

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    I ran one top bar in addition to my Langs for a couple of years. The bees seemed to love it and I hated it. For many of the reasons jwcarlson wrote above. Cross comb, collapsed comb, constant swarms. Mine swarmed once shortly after I split it to discourage that. The the remainder was so weak the SHB killed it off. It's not a total loss though, it serves as a hive stand for nucs and starters now. I have had three swarms move into single medium lang bait hives this year while the empty of bees top bar has been ignored. I do occasionally put blank frames in my Langs between fully drawn frames. But the bees tend to draw the previously drawn frames out deeper and that causes issues. THis year I used about 400 sheets of thin surplus with no wire in my all medium setup. I will let everyone know how extracting works out in a few weeks.

    also I do not like the variable cell size that jw mentions. It just looks bad to me and certainly does not make attractive cut comb or chunk honey jars.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    moravia,ny
    Posts
    2,095

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    there are many reasons beekeeping has evolved to its present form. for someone to start out otherwise gives them a disadvantage for success.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Anne Arundel County, MD
    Posts
    114

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    I think it might have helped me a little that I started with nucs, and I have been swapping the nuc frames (most of them drawn on *gasp* plastic foundation ) into the center of the new boxes as I add them. That has given the bees some guidance in drawing the foundationless. Not to say I haven't had a few wonky combs, especially during the nectar flow when they drew the cells out deep before building any comb in the adjacent frame. I have a little comb-tetris going on in the top box because of this, but nothing so cross-combed that I can't separate the frames.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    10,207

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Nice photos and lovely healthy looking bees and brood comb!

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    6,034

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Thanks everybody, my bees are drawing out some of the plastic frames I added just fine.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    13,203

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Quote Originally Posted by jwcarlson View Post
    Four days later I got some of this in the mail and snap my first piece of foundation into a frame:

    Wow from one extreme to the other.

    This may help you are not. It makes a nice photo to show your friends on BS of a hive busting out at the seems with bees but if that is actually the way you run your hives it could explain the swarms.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,512

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    I started out knowing it all and bucking the local trend - all mediums, foundationless frames, treatment free. As time has passed I learned(often the hard way) why deep brood boxes, foundation and treatments are the norm. Foundationless frames were fine when I had 5 hives in the backyard, but as the number has grows they become more and more impractical. All mediums would be fine in this area if I didn't want to ever sell bees - if your customers have deeps, you need to have deep nucs to sell. It was easy to go treatment free to start with(just do nothing), but quickly became apparent that mites weren't to be ignored. I am still hoping to get to a point where I feel confident enough in my ability and my bees to go treatment free and still be productive - we aren't their yet.

    One of the great things about beekeeping is that it is a constant learning process. Every year brings new challenges and new ideas. When I had just a few hives, I read Beekeeping Buckfast Abbey by Brother Adam for the first time. I went back and read it again now that I have 100 hives and gained a whole new perspective.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    6,034

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Wow from one extreme to the other.

    This may help you are not. It makes a nice photo to show your friends on BS of a hive busting out at the seems with bees but if that is actually the way you run your hives it could explain the swarms.
    That was in mid-August, Ace. And the queen is still sitting pretty in her hive with three daughters building up nucs, thank you for your concern. They got a medium with mostly drawn comb and then fed to weight shortly after that picture.
    I'll run my hives as I see fit. Better this than slimed by SHBs where SHBs aren't even an issue IMO.

    And if you're talking about the second picture was five pounds of bees (swarm someone called me to come get) that I'd just dumped from a nuc into a 10-frame box.

    Anyway, here she is two days ago when I marked her...


    And the split she's heading, do you think that's too many bees? Maybe I should go start bailing them out?


    Quote Originally Posted by zhiv9 View Post
    I started out knowing it all and bucking the local trend - all mediums, foundationless frames, treatment free. As time has passed I learned(often the hard way) why deep brood boxes, foundation and treatments are the norm. Foundationless frames were fine when I had 5 hives in the backyard, but as the number has grows they become more and more impractical. All mediums would be fine in this area if I didn't want to ever sell bees - if your customers have deeps, you need to have deep nucs to sell. It was easy to go treatment free to start with(just do nothing), but quickly became apparent that mites weren't to be ignored. I am still hoping to get to a point where I feel confident enough in my ability and my bees to go treatment free and still be productive - we aren't their yet.

    One of the great things about beekeeping is that it is a constant learning process. Every year brings new challenges and new ideas. When I had just a few hives, I read Beekeeping Buckfast Abbey by Brother Adam for the first time. I went back and read it again now that I have 100 hives and gained a whole new perspective.
    zhiv9, thank you, but do my hives look like they have too many bees? :P

    I appreciate the response, all mediums is something I'm glad that I didn't latch on to. I read Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey this past winter and I'm sure that even know I would have a different perspective. I'll eventually re-read that book for sure. I got the impression while reading it that if I knew more about bees and beekeeping in particular, that I could maybe read between the lines a little bit on what he was really saying. Hearing Michael Palmer talk about that book in one of his National Honey Show lectures really opened my eyes a little bit because I didn't glean any of that while reading it. But when Mr. Palmer explained it, it was like a lightbulb went off.

    I've got the flow really getting to it's peak here shortly, saw some white sweet just starting to bloom yesterday. Should be a fun few weeks.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    6,034

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Cut two more top bars over today!

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Hopkins, MI USA
    Posts
    915

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    I also started with top bar and a swarm last year.....I LOVE FOUNDATION! I'm using plastic right now and it is great for me. I just checker boarded a few days ago in my brood chambers and most of them are drawn out with eggs in them. But I know it is not for everyone.
    zone 5b
    Back in 2019!

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Greenville SC USA
    Posts
    252

    Default Re: My first frame with foundation. My evolution as a beekeeper. I feel kind of dir

    Quote Originally Posted by zhiv9 View Post
    I started out knowing it all and bucking the local trend - all mediums, foundationless frames, treatment free. As time has passed I learned(often the hard way) why deep brood boxes, foundation and treatments are the norm. Foundationless frames were fine when I had 5 hives in the backyard, but as the number has grows they become more and more impractical.
    Please explain how foundationless is impractical in a larger apiary? MB does just fine with 50+ hives and doesnt run any foundation, at all. Once you get something straight started, it gets far easier. Yeah, you may need to check on your hives, but unless I have 500 hives and only have myself, I can't imagine a good reason for not getting into the hives on a regular basis.

    I had one hive go a bit off, but I can correct it with a little work, I'm just waiting for them to draw the comb out some more before I do that.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •