Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!
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  1. #1
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    Default Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Hi, guys!

    So I'm trying to go foundationless. My set up so far is a hive body that consists of a deep (with foundation and no problems.) It was time to expand the brood box, so I put on a new box with foundationless frames and then on my next inspection, I opened the hive to find.... this.

    Now I'm honestly really really glad/impressed that they could get so much comb made and filled in two weeks, but gah!! None of it's salvageable (right?)

    Anyway, so my spur of the moment reaction was to get a big bowl for bur comb and start hacking off the excess. There were a LOT of casualties and what's worse, there was brood on the frames so I know the queen was at least at one time in that box. I got through about five frames but then my bees were starting to get really angry (understandably) and I was kinda freaking out too. So I decided to just put everything back and wait a few days and then try again. While I was shuffling stuff around, I also took out some of the foundationless frames completely and replaced them with frames with foundation in hopes it will give the bees a bit of a guideline (or if nothing else, so that there would be at least a few viable frames next time I inspect.) So now some of the foundationless frames are sandwiched between frames with foundation. I'd read that advice before, but wanted to be sorta 'purist' about it and see if I could have it 100% foundationless, but that plan is causing both me and my bees some grief.

    ANYWAY. I'm feeling pretty incompetent right now and could use y'alls advice. Just give me anything you've got. Like I said, by now I have about half that box with "clean"/burr-free frames, but the other half is still a mess. My procedure of getting rid of the combs (pretty much just hacking it off) seemed really invasive and dangerous for the bees. Should I have just taken that box off completely and replaced it with an empty one and brushed the bees into the empty one?

    How do I work through all that without squishing bees? I did the usual -- take the end frame out so you could shuffle the other frames around, but everything was so congested with honeycomb that every time I moved anything, bees were getting squished. It was pretty horrible.

    Also, I did all of that with the second box still on top of the other box. This meant burr comb and honey was dropping onto the frames of the lower box and it just, I don't know, it seemed sort of messy and invasive. In the future for things like this, should I remove the box I'm working with completely, set it on the ground (or an overturned top cover) and work on it from there? It seems like doing it that way would be less invasive to the overall hive and especially if it was a procedure that took up a lot of time, I could even put the cover back on the hive while I worked on the problem box. I've heard that if you have the cover open too long and if you mess about too much, the bees will abscond, but I don't really know what the chances are of that happening.

    What can I do in the future to be a better beekeeper, especially in regards to working with foundationless frames? Will it always be a lot of worry that the bees will get it right, or once they figure it out do they pretty much get the hang of it?

    Thanks guys!! IMG_2484.jpg
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Oh, just a bit more info: Right now as far as a comb guide for the foundationless frames, all I have is a strip of wood hanging down from the top. I'm thinking I might melt down the burr comb I collected and paint some beeswax on that strip to give them the general idea. I'm welcome to hearing any other methods you guys have about encouraging them to fill out the frame correctly.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    I am not sure where to start I played around with some foundationless frames but I started slow with frames between drawn comb and made sure my hive was level. So far all my comb has been drawn nice and straight. I think you just have to bite the bullet and start cutting and trimming you could possibly rubber band some of the larger pcs of comb into the frames the way you prefer them to draw it maybe they will listen maybe they wont I am sure someone with more experience will know what to do. It is really amazing how fast they do draw when everything is just right. Good luck

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    What you should have done was checkerboard the two boxes. For instance drawn frame, mt frame, my frame, drawn frame, mt frame, and so one. That way the mt frame has a guide on both sides of it, and they can only go straight down. Yes you have to fix those frames ASAP or it will just get worse. Depending on the size of the comb you cut out is, its junk. If it's big enough maybe you could rubber band it in a frame. The bees will connect it. Good luck it's a lot of messy work. You are going to kill brood and ruin Thier comb just do it, it has to be done.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Use foundation

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    Use foundation
    That's pretty good, Vance. I was thinking at least every other frame, as a guide.
    If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
    Abraham Maslow

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    If you take a box like that off, and put it upside down on a table, you will then be able to take a long knife and free the connections between the box and the combs. Then with a little more struggle you can lift the box off the frames. Now begin freeing one frame, just the frame itself, from the block of comb. Repeat until the frames are all removed from the block of comb. Now start dissecting flat pieces of comb from the block and securing them into frames with rubber bands or string. Make sure you keep the upside up. Keep an eye out for the queen. In the future put empty foundationless frames between drawn frames.
    Bill

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    I like whiskers'advice.
    you might try putting the cross comb over an escape board for a few hours first to thin out the number of bees.
    Of course ever one has advice for "next time". Good Luck ... CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Quote Originally Posted by dynemd View Post
    That's pretty good, Vance. I was thinking at least every other frame, as a guide.
    That's a bad move. You need to checkerboard it with drawn, preferably brood, comb. If you checkerboard undrawn foundation with foundationless bars you will most like end up with poorly drawn (cross-comb/bur comb) on your foundation as well.

    Another word of advice is break out a bubble leveler and determine how level your hive is. I know we like to slant hives forward for drainage, but if you want good straight comb your hive needs to be leveled true.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Agree, Honey frames they will continue building out until they hit the foundation so it wont work.

    She is in FL so i'd say scrap all of the comb that isn't straight, crush/strain the honey and feed it back to them while checker boarding in blank frames in between the straight ones.

    +1 on the leveling at least side to side it has to be straight. front to back it can be a bit off but not much. I use popsicle sticks for comb guide along the top set into the groove.

    Having them build straight gets better once you have a lot of drawn comb to place empty in between nice brood frames.
    Last edited by JakeDatc; 08-29-2016 at 12:25 PM.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Not every bee hive is as creative as yours is. I give your bees a 10 for originality!. Yes, the bees did what they wanted and unfortunately that's not the way it can be kept in your case. What a mess. I have been in your situation cause I kept Africanized bees and I didn't feel as though I really ought to go down into that bottom box. When I did though, I only had 5 frames that were salvageable. 3 that were descent.
    Get some rubber bands, cut out some comb that is large pieces and keep watch what the bees do. The rubber bands will keep them in place and somewhat straight. With foundation-less frames you really need to pay attention when they're building comb.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Did you use comb guides? It doesn't appear that way. If it's full of honey, I would drum and smoke the bees out and harvest it. Flip the box upside down and cut lift the box off of the frames and cut it out and crush and strain. Put in comb guides. If it's full of brood, I would do the same, flip upside down and cut the brood out and rubber band into frames, but I would probably wait until spring to do it.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Did you use comb guides? It doesn't appear that way. If it's full of honey, I would drum and smoke the bees out and harvest it. Flip the box upside down and cut lift the box off of the frames and cut it out and crush and strain. Put in comb guides. If it's full of brood, I would do the same, flip upside down and cut the brood out and rubber band into frames, but I would probably wait until spring to do it.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundat....htm#combguide
    Thanks so much for your reply and the link! I used comb guides. When I was assembling the frames, I used the little wedge thing you snap off and glued it back as a guide. Of course they're only about 1/4 of an inch wide, so maybe I should have used something wider.

    It seems to be about half and half (uncapped) honey and brood. When I saw it, my reaction was to get it cleaned up ASAP, I didn't realize waiting until spring was even an option.
    Last edited by sarahsbees; 08-29-2016 at 05:52 PM.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    As far as those giving advice to checkerboard frames -- sadly all the messed up comb is in a medium and all the good comb is in a deep, so I don't really have compatable frame sizes to switch around.

    I'm working on getting the hive level.... it started out the season level, I promise!! But yes, that will be happening in the next few days and that will hopefully head off future disasters.

    Thanks Whiskers for the step-by-step advice, very helpful!

    Yesterday I ordered a bee escape as Tech suggested, which should help prevent some casualties. It's been raining nonstop but as soon as it stops and as soon as the bee escape comes in the mail, I'll go out again and let y'all know how it goes.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    My question is Why? Guess it depends on what your beekeeping goals are? If you are going for some honeycomb, then it is good to not use foundation. However for brood frames or extracting frames, it is well to use full sheets of plastic foundation sprayed with bees wax. This type will last for many years.The bees draw it out and it is mostly all worker sized cells, A few drone cells around the edges only.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahsbees View Post
    Oh, just a bit more info: Right now as far as a comb guide for the foundationless frames, all I have is a strip of wood hanging down from the top. I'm thinking I might melt down the burr comb I collected and paint some beeswax on that strip to give them the general idea. I'm welcome to hearing any other methods you guys have about encouraging them to fill out the frame correctly.
    With all the weather moving in, it may be best to leave it alone for a few days and let the bees repair the broken comb. Once this rain moves past, it would be time to fix it all at once. With the pepper coming in to bloom soon, you will need all the supers you have. Do you have more frames and supers ready? If not, I may have a friend in your area that might have used equipment for sale.

    You must (weather permitting) go through your lower box and hopefully find the queen in that lower box. If you find her, put on your queen excluder so she can't move up into the mess. That should make fixing this much easier on you and the bees.

    I'm local, so if you need more hands, as I'm sure you will, let me know.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Thanks for the advice, Newbeezer! Like I said before, I didn't even realize waiting was an option, my first reaction was to panic and try to fix it as soon as possible. I'm glad to hear some of y'all saying it's Ok to wait for a more opportune time.

    Thanks for giving me a heads up about the pepper bloom! I'm new to the area and have been having trouble finding FL-specific resources about bloom times, when to do what, etc. What with the complete lack of seasons here!

    I do have plenty of frames and supers, thanks! Eventually I'll need to look into buying some honey extracting equipment so if he has anything like that available to sell/rent, I might need his number in the future.

    I haven't been able to catch sight of my queen yet (though haven't really looked), so fingers crossed I'll finally be able to find her when I need to. I got really really nervous when I saw larvae in the cross comb and knew that on top of everything else, I had to worry about her majesty up there.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    Use foundation
    Best answer on the thread. Best answer period, actually.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Quote Originally Posted by jwcarlson View Post
    Best answer on the thread. Best answer period, actually.
    Kind of goes against the point of going foundationless. Agree or disagree with the goals/reasons of going foundationless, giving advice that's contrary to the OP's goal doesn't do her much good.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Cross comb on foundationless frames -- what do I do??!

    Yes, finding your queen is the most important issue.

    Florida is a tough place to keep bees because you have to stay on top of your bees every month of the year. Be sure you use comb supports and not just rubber bands because in our heat, the comb will slip down the frames and you will be back to having a bigger mess on your hands. All my hives are mostly foundationless even in the honey supers without any problems of cross comb ever.

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