Move to foundationless?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
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    Dutchess County, NY, USA
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    19

    Default Move to foundationless?

    Newbie with 2 first year hives. We started with Mann Lake kits that included frames with plastic Rite Cell foundation. As we've been reading more, we are considering moving toward foundationless. Also, when we are able to extract honey from the hives we think we prefer harvesting comb honey over using an extractor.

    We are getting close to adding our first honey super to each hive.

    Two questions:

    Can we start by putting foundationless frames in our first honey super?

    Any strong opinions about the benefits/drawbacks of foundationless?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Knox, Pa. USA
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    5,400

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Foundationless Benefit. The bees draw foundationless more readily. Drawback They have to do it every year limiting your production.

    Foundation benefits. One can extract the comb many times and reuse it. Drawback. You can't do comb honey.

    With that said. I find that comb honey gets old after a while. especially when the honey crystalizes in it. Crush and strain gets old even faster.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Warren County, OH, USA
    Posts
    54

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Don't want to just put an empty box of foundationless on top of the hive and go on vacation for a month they might do creative things with it. You kind of have to manage/monitor foundationless to make sure they're drawing it out correctly. Might to it perpendicular to the frames and stuff like that. Might be fun for you to do that or not. They do seem to jump on it faster than the plastic stuff.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Monroe County, PA, USA
    Posts
    234

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Quote Originally Posted by JimH845 View Post
    Newbie with 2 first year hives. We started with Mann Lake kits that included frames with plastic Rite Cell foundation. As we've been reading more, we are considering moving toward foundationless. Also, when we are able to extract honey from the hives we think we prefer harvesting comb honey over using an extractor.

    We are getting close to adding our first honey super to each hive.

    Two questions:

    Can we start by putting foundationless frames in our first honey super?

    Any strong opinions about the benefits/drawbacks of foundationless?

    Thanks for any suggestions.
    Let's keep it simple. If you have an extractor you can go either way. If you do not have an extractor foundationless is the way to go for now. If your hive numbers grow your needs may change.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Baker, FL
    Posts
    211

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    I use Kelly F frames and I wire and crimp. I have found that the bees will build on the foundationless frames faster than they will on foundation.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,536

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    My bees have no difficulty drawing out Pierco plastic frames (foundation included) if I add a layer of hand-applied wax.

    For your first year, I would keep it simple and use the foundation you have. Get it drawn and filled and not worry too much about the harvesting issues (comb or fluid?) as you may need to leave it all for the bees this year anyway, or need the empty cells in late September to get filled with syrup in order to get them up to winter weight.

    Next year with drawn comb as guides to aid straight and even drawing, you should definitely try some foundationless, since f/l comb is a beekeeping wonder. I think you can't really appreciate the astounding nature of bees until you have some foundationless comb in hand that your bees have made. I keep a frame of it on my desk just to marvel at.

    Whether you want all f/l, or not, or a combo, is something that you can decide as you go along. These aren't you once and you're done forever decisions about your frames. You need a variety of them, for a variety of purposes, and you will have plenty of time to experiment with other things as you go along. Keep some fun things to do for next year!

    In the establishment year, however, the name of the game is getting sufficient drawn comb created, so that the bees will have the space to store enough honey/nectar/syrup to survive the winter. The rapid pace that they have been drawing it so far will start to slow down as the summer in NY progresses (I am north of you, north of Albany). You can - and may need to - feed them heavily in the Fall. They will take syrup but may not draw more cells easily then. And they can't store it if they don't have room for it.

    If you really want to experiment w/ foundationless this year (and maybe have a slab of comb honey to take), pop the foundation out of one of your frames and insert it between two frames towards the center of the super. See what the bees make of it. Use glued-in popsicle sticks in the upper groove to give them a base to draw wax down from. That frame will be very fragile, so you can't manipulate it like you would do ones with foundation. It can never be turned off its vertical orientation (when it's new), or it will fall out of the frame.

    Enj.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Brown County, IN, USA
    Posts
    646

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Agreed, first year, especially this late I wouldn't start foundationless. Use what you get this year as guides and put the foundationless in next spring at the start of flow. They will build it fast that time of year and more likely straight.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
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    1,202

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    I have done both ways and much prefer foundationless for honey supers. With foundation you need an extractor, knives or capping scratcher, an area to do the uncapping and personally I find the whole process of extracting a lot of work. If you do not do the entire batch of frames, you are cleaning up two or three times. Thus, it is a lot of extra work. With foundationless, you need a couple of plastic buckets and doing small batches is not a lot of hassle. Squish the comb up and let it drain through the filter for a day or so. Buckets are easy to clean in the sink. Extractors do not fit in the sink and are not easy to clean or move. I do have top bar hives as well as Langs and you cannot use an extractor with top bars. Finally, when storing the frames wax moths are not a big issue with foundationless because you have removed most of the wax. However, If you are running a lot of hives or are a commercial beekeeper, using foundation and an extractor is the only way to go for most people. If you are only keeping a handful of hives, an extractor is a lot of expense and storage space. Also, beekeeping is very local. In my area we don't get the huge flows you get in some areas of the country. A really good year will give you 3 supers per hive and average will be 2. Best of all, my family loves squishing up the comb with their hands. It is like being a kid again and playing in a mud puddle.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    53,922

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Make sure you put a drawn comb in the super so they have more of a guide and a "ladder" to get to the top bars.

    The best place to get foundationless drawn is by feeding it into the brood nest.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
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    6,034

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    I say start it this year so you can learn all the lessons and take advantage of the off-season sales when you inevitably buy foundation.

  12. #11
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    Mar 2014
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    Red Bud, IL, USA
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    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Everyone has offered good suggestion but failed to mention you may have to change your frame handling technique - you don't turn a foundationless frame of honey on it's side during hot weather. Keep the frame in its normal hanging position or rotate it on its end.

    If you go foundationless and plan to use an extractor, I 'd suggest you wire the frames. New comb even with wire can benefit from careful use of the centrifugal force in the first year.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Santa Fe, NM
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    1,222

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    I attended a local beekeeping gathering a couple of years ago by sone top bar beekeepers. One group was demonstration the joys of crush and strain honey extraction. After watching a couple of minutes my only thought was that I hope I never have an opportunity to eat any of that honey. It was a disgusting demonstration of some of the worst unsanitary procedures I ever wanted to see reminiscent of third world countries many years ago.
    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay".....Krishnamurti

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
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    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    "Any strong opinions about the benefits/drawbacks of foundationless?"

    Strong opinions abound in this thread:


    https://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ess-experiment
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  15. #14
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  16. #15
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    Mar 2013
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    Seattle WA
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    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    JW, I love that thread! However, in this thread Jim is talking about foundationless supers, not brood. I tried foundationless brood boxes for a while but never again. It worked fairly well in mediums but I had more problems with deeps. For me, foundationless medium supers work great but I much prefer foundation in the brood boxes. I get enough foundationless fun with my top bar hives.

  17. #16
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    Feb 2014
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    Clinton, Iowa
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    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    JW, I love that thread! However, in this thread Jim is talking about foundationless supers, not brood. I tried foundationless brood boxes for a while but never again. It worked fairly well in mediums but I had more problems with deeps. For me, foundationless medium supers work great but I much prefer foundation in the brood boxes. I get enough foundationless fun with my top bar hives.
    I couldn't even imagine doing it in supers without using drawn comb as guides. And the aforementioned waste of comb that is crush/strain. I extracted 350 pounds of honey yesterday. Just the cappings were a pretty good mountain. I cannot imagine all the wax from that kind of a harvest with crushing. But, whatever... fringe beekeeping ain't a bad place to be when you've got a few colonies. I might do some foundationless between drawn frames in supers next year in an attempt to get some 'quick and easy' comb honey. But the frames surrounding them limit the mess they can make. So can be pretty confidant that worst case it won't be that bad.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Central Alabama, Shelby County
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    323

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    You state you are a beginner who is changing philosophies but don't say what you are abandoning and what the new philosophy is.

    Rite Cell is a large cell foundation. Foundationless usually attracts people who want to go small/natural cell or treatment free. If you want to go small cell keep away from the Pierco. Its 5.2 or 5.25mm.

    You specifically mention honey supers. My set up is 11 frame double deeps with 4.9 mm foundation with foundationless honey supers. The honey supers are 10 frame boxes with 9 frame Stroller frame rests. The center frame has foundation that acts like a ladder to the top bar. The rest of the frames have 5/8" wax starter strips. In spring you put the super on there and forget about it. The frames are not wired. There is an occasional frame you will cull because of bad drawing but running 9 in a 10 gives a margin of error for self correction. The uncapping process corrects a lot of drawing mistakes.

    I extract 2.5 month old unwired comb. You begin the extraction V-E-R-YYYYYYYYY S-L-O-W-L-Y til you have extracted half of the honey. Mine is a radial extractor. Spin it just fast enough to where you are getting honey out then later pick up the pace..

    You probably have 5.4mm bees so the first generation foundationless combs will be around 5.1mm.

    MAKE SURE the hive body is level from side to side. Bees draw foundationless comb like a plumb bob.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    I run mostly foundationless. It does require management especially at the beginning/during expansion as comb inventory is built up (as I am doing). The best comb is produced in the brood nest. I move frames with nectar up, then create gaps in the broodnest to fill. With honey, bees get creative. You can put empty frames between capped honey frames. Some plastic frames to limit craziness (partial box of comb in honey super) is useful. But they don't touch it until other avenues are exhausted.

    Comb is really valuable. I do extract foundationless. I'm going to do so tomorrow as some of my hives could really use it. Cut and crush may seem like a good idea until next swarm season or in the midst of a massive flow when they fill everything, including the brood nest. Then you will be thinking of all that beautiful comb you crushed up and is gone now.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Dutchess County, NY, USA
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    19

    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    Wouldn't say I am changing philosophies as much looking at alternatives to what I got in "starter kits" obtained from Mann Lake. We had one hive last year that we lost to a bear. Started over this year with 2 colonies. In researching how to treat for varroa I started reading about foundationless and am thinking about moving that way to possible reduce the need for treatment. We have 2 deep, 10 frame boxes for each hive with the Rite Cell foundation.

    Am not planning on touching the colony frames at the moment but thought that using foundationless in our first super to begin a process and see how that goes. Don't expect to extract much, if anything, this year as we are concerned about stores for overwinter.

    Thanks to all the great feedback on this thread it seems that our best way forward this year is to keep using foundation (maybe one foundationless in the super) so as not to take on too much at this early stage.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: Move to foundationless?

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the usefulness of one size box. Makes it easy to manage comb period, especially for those with only a few hives.

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