Frames without bottom bars
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
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    Adelaide, Australia
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    189

    Default Frames without bottom bars

    I've been managing someone else's beehives. From what I've gathered, the old man that taught him liked to experiment, he had many ideas, distrusted contemporary beekeeping standards and apparently was going senile. One thing that he swore by, for whatever reason, was to use frames that don't have bottom bars.

    The hives in this apiary have been difficult to work with. One problem I've been having, is the frames often seem to split apart somewhere it shouldn't when I lift them. It seems that, without the bottom bars, the bees attach the comb from the frame all the way down to the top bar of the frame underneath. This means that it breaks apart somewhere on the bottom when I lift them. Since I'm using smoke, the bees then all jump on the broken comb with running comb and eat it up, resulting in a lose of bee lives when I go to remove this sticky comb on the top bar and creates a general awkward, sticky mess that's time consuming to remove (the faster I am the more bees that die). Many of the frames in the honey supers up top don't have much foundation in them, just a plastic strip maybe a little less than an inch wide across the top, so when I go to pull these, since they're stuck to the frame underneath, often enough the honeycomb splits in half, creating quite a mess. It's been quite challenging accessing certain parts of some of the hives.

    It seems that, with the bottom bar, the bees don't attach the comb underneath, that the bottom bar acts as a barrier for the bees to stop building comb. Does this seem correct to you guys? Is this any reason that you can think of that might be a good reason to not use bottom bars? Can frames without bottom bars, be processed in an electric honey spinner, or are they prone to breaking?

    I need to decide what to do about this site. I'm considering just replacing his bottomless frames with my fully built frames, but from what I've gathered, if I do so, he might come and take his hives away and with it, my frame investment. If I don't though, I'll have to continue working with them for probably a few more years.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    the bees don't attach the comb underneath, that the bottom bar acts as a barrier for the bees to stop building comb.
    If the frames are same length yes. I got my bees on longer brood frames than mine are and had to wire a bar to the bottoms of the shorter frames. Put a medium under and they did not make comb under the bottoms.
    One I forgot the bars. Now the medium is full of comb which is attached right under the bottoms of the top deepīs frames.

    To have a starter Strip of plastic and natural comb attached is a bad idea, because natural comb alone would be fixed much better to the frame than to plastic.
    While spinning the honey I would put wire around the comb or create a mesh bag to put in the honey combs. Some who use natural comb attached to top bars do this.

    With the frames with empty bottoms this works fine in one high brood deep, but not if boxes are stacked.
    I would use only top bars and wire the side bars horizontal because of the tension between the sides.

    Why not just attaching a thin bottom bar?
    Last edited by 1102009; 04-01-2018 at 08:54 AM.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Morro Bay, California, USA
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    2,270

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    The Langstroth and Hoffman design has proven efficient and economical. However, beekeepers are subject to "better mousetrap" fads and ideological flights of fancy.

    Bees will live in any cavity, with no great difference in health or survival. Beekeepers, to sustain their livelihood, have gravitated towards the solutions that work and do not consume unnecessary time.

    In my region, there are a disturbing plethora of "natural gurus" whose business is not beekeeping, but whose stock in trade is selling "magic solutions" to gullible newbees. These "gurus" in order to distinguish their "brand" of this madness, develop unique schemes which they market as silver bullets. They gussy up these magic solutions with ideology and rhetoric, but at heart they are just lipstick on a pig.

    If the frames are difficult to work and fragile; get rid of them. It is really that simple.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    The Langstroth and Hoffman design has proven efficient and economical. However, beekeepers are subject to "better mousetrap" fads and ideological flights of fancy.

    Bees will live in any cavity, with no great difference in health or survival. Beekeepers, to sustain their livelihood, have gravitated towards the solutions that work and do not consume unnecessary time.

    In my region, there are a disturbing plethora of "natural gurus" whose business is not beekeeping, but whose stock in trade is selling "magic solutions" to gullible newbees. These "gurus" in order to distinguish their "brand" of this madness, develop unique schemes which they market as silver bullets. They gussy up these magic solutions with ideology and rhetoric, but at heart they are just lipstick on a pig.

    If the frames are difficult to work and fragile; get rid of them. It is really that simple.
    Oh my, JWC.

    I would not get rid of them as long as there is brood on them.
    But the OP might sort them out in time behind a divider if he is permitted to do so.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Massillon, Ohio
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    5,604

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Quote Originally Posted by omnimirage View Post

    It seems that, with the bottom bar, the bees don't attach the comb underneath, that the bottom bar acts as a barrier for the bees to stop building comb. Does this seem correct to you guys? Is this any reason that you can think of that might be a good reason to not use bottom bars? Can frames without bottom bars, be processed in an electric honey spinner, or are they prone to breaking?
    I think in stacked boxes a bottom bar on the frames is a must. The bees might still build burr comb between a bottom bar and the top bar under it, but you can still remove the box without tearing comb off of the frame.

    Comb that is not attached to the bottom bar is more prone to breaking in an extractor, especially if there is no horizontal supporting wire across the frames. You would need to extract very gently and take your time, especially with relatively softer new comb.

    If you have access to a table saw the quickest and cheapest fix might be to cut up some bottom bars, trim the bottom of the comb to the correct length, and gently nail bottom bars onto the frames, driving the nails through the side bar into the bottom bars.

    To initially get the boxes apart without tearing up too much comb try using a length of strong wire to slice through the attached comb. Start at one end and with both hands run the wire between the boxes in a sawing motion across the whole box. The top box should come off much easier after the comb has been sliced with the wire.
    To everything there is a season....

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Kirksville, Missouri USA
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    1,765

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    You can cut some 3/4" x 3/8" strips of wood and lay them flat on the top bars below the bottomless frames, and have a narrow shim so they sit a bee space above the top bar, maybe a short stick of 3/8 dowel crosswise on the top bar. Then when the bottomless frame box is placed back, they will tie the comb to that strip of wood. When you lift them next time they should come up with the comb and only have some propolis attaching it to those narrow shims making the bee space. Remove the shims after that and you'd have a bottom bar in place and the bee space below it. You'd have to shorten the comb enough to fit right.

    Or, you could trim the bottom of the comb just right and fuse the strips of wood to them somehow.

  8. #7
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    Feb 2009
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    Colorado Springs, CO
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    862

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    i have used a technique like Mike mentions in Post #5 (but I call it wire rope or cable) with a wooden handle on each end to sort of "saw" through all the burr comb between the two boxes. This is not too uncommon if you mix wooden ware from different manufactures and the "bee space" is exceeded. An alternative which also works pretty well is to keep an old long bladed serrated bread knife in the apiary and run it in between the two boxes from all four sides. That normally frees up the burr comb "bond" that is causing you problems.

    Steve

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    Salt Lake City, UT
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    In my modified experimental Warre the frames did not have bottom bars. The bees finished off the bottom of the comb and do not attach it to the frames below.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Zone 6B

  10. #9

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    In my modified experimental Warre the frames did not have bottom bars. The bees finished off the bottom of the comb and do not attach it to the frames below.
    Please elaborate on this.
    How is this Warre modified?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    It has removable frames (required in most US states). Other than that is is just as Abbe Warre specified in his book. All of my hives were Langstroths until last year when I added an experimental Warre after I agreed to take a couple of unplanned packages from someone else and didn't have enough Langstroth gear. I quickly put together a Warre because I always wanted to try one.
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    Zone 6B

  12. #11

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Quote Originally Posted by JConnolly View Post
    It has removable frames (required in most US states)
    Yes I saw it on the pics.
    What are your thoughts about the non-attachment? The frames length being the same? How long are they? Do you have tension between the side bars?
    I like this modification and would like to use such in my dadant in the bottom brood box if possible.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Louisville, KY
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    Default

    It will likely be a recurring issue until you can put a bottom bar on. Even with a bottom bar they like to fill the empty space between boxes with drones in spring.

    The foundation starter strips should be okay. They'll pull comb of the foundation starter to fill the void. Just keep an eye on em to make sure they don't start building crooked wonky combs. I usually like to put the starter strips next to drawn combs to create a guide.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Jacksonville, Morgan County, IL
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    205

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    [ One thing that he swore by, for whatever reason, was to use frames that don't have bottom bars.]

    Just when I thought I'd heard / seen all the half-baked ideas in the world.........

    [ The hives in this apiary have been difficult to work with. ]

    You have the gift of The Classic Understatement.

    [ I'm considering just replacing his bottomless frames with my fully built frames, but from what I've gathered, if I do so, he might come and take his hives away and with it, my frame investment. ]

    You need to tell him that you are going to make them correct. And that HE bears the cost of the new frames with full sheets of foundation.

    If he is crazy enough to terminate your agreement ( of which you didn't share the details, no problem as it is none of our business, really ) it is his loss.

    [ If I don't though, I'll have to continue working with them for probably a few more years.]

    NO !! You are the one doing the grunt work. There is nothing..ABSOLUTELY NOTHING...to be gained by killing yourself over his wild-arsed ideas. I know you want to keep working them, but sometimes you have to draw a line and if necessary, RUN, do not walk, away.

    Either that or purchase them from him and make them right.......but reading between the lines of what you wrote, he is like a lot of older beekeepers...." I've got them and no one else will ever get them ".

    Sorry if I sound blunt, but that''s how I see it.................

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Quote Originally Posted by SiWolKe View Post
    Yes I saw it on the pics.
    What are your thoughts about the non-attachment? The frames length being the same? How long are they? Do you have tension between the side bars?
    I like this modification and would like to use such in my dadant in the bottom brood box if possible.
    The side bars left 9mm of bee space to each side and I didn't have an attachment problem. The side bars are Hoffman design so the side bars set the frame spacing at 35mm on center. The side bars extended to 9mm from the bottom of the box, which is 210 mm high. I made the sidebars a little too thin (8mm) and I did have a couple of them split. If I were to make others I'd make them a full 10mm thick.
    Zone 6B

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
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    Adelaide, Australia
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    @SiWolke

    I am considering adding a thin bottom bar. I think the strip of plastic more encourages them to build comb straight, they do still attach it to the frame.

    So you spin comb without foundation and wrap wire or a mesh bag around the frames when in the spinner to maintain the structure of the honey frame?

    @ Mike Gillmore

    if the comb breaks whilst extracting, could this damage the extractor? There is no horizontal supporting wire across the frames.

    @ DanielD

    That's a fascinating idea. I just wonder if it'd be difficult to somehow align it all up.

    @ Gary

    Thanks. They are a hassle. They're lucrative strong hives though they create a lot of honey, but they're also far away so by the time I pay for fuel I don't really get much out of it. The agreement is simply that I can go up there whenever and that I'm to aid the bees however I can and can take the honey. He wouldn't bear the costs nor can I buy them.



    I hear piano wire is good to cut through hives that are stuck. I'll have to buy some.

  17. #16

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    omnimirage,
    donīt let people tell you how to act on people. We will all be "senile" some day and for you to put up with that and take care of the bees is very kind.

    So you spin comb without foundation and wrap wire or a mesh bag around the frames when in the spinner to maintain the structure of the honey frame?
    Yes, you can build a mesh bag yourself out of wire mesh, be careful the wire is firm enough and as tight fitting as can be.
    Extract carefully and if something brakes just put a thin wire around and give it back, the bees will propolise it and fix it again.
    The extractor will not be damaged if you have the comb in a bag.

  18. #17

    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Thanks JConnolly.
    Very good information.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Is the "old guy" who devised this experiment still available? Perhaps he has insight into how to deal with these problems.
    Bill

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Houston, TX, USA
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Quote Originally Posted by whiskers View Post
    Is the "old guy" who devised this experiment still available? Perhaps he has insight into how to deal with these problems.
    Bill
    I'd bet that "his bees never did that".

    Were it me I would have put bottoms on the frames on the 2nd trip. You don't need much more than a stop. Probably a 1/8" x 1/2" would be sufficient, but you could do standard size. Setup a jig you can lay a frame in and have a saw guide and use a good old handsaw to cut everything off even at the right length. Shake, clean the top, cut, staple on a bottom, repeat.

    It would be a lot quicker to do that once instead of fighting broken comb every inspection.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Frames without bottom bars

    Bottom bars are not required at all.
    This is just a modified version of top bar beekeeping and works fine with horizontal hives.
    DSCN2464.jpg
    DSCN2476.jpg
    FrozenSmallClusterOnBrood.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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