Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?
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  1. #1
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    Default Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    I started a few hives from nucs this spring and am experimenting with foundationless frames. About half the frames in my hives are foundationless, the rest are plastic foundation. The bees are drawing out the foundationless frames fantastically and, as expected, making a fair amount of drone comb. My question is what to do with the drone comb next year, especially in the honey supers. (I was surprised to see them drawing drone comb for honey storage).

    Is it true that they donít rework drone comb into worker comb? If so, if I leave it in the hive, it effectively locks them into raising drones in that comb, right? Many of the frames are half drone, half worker comb. Should I cut out the drone comb so they have the option of making more worker comb? Iím not trying to limit the amount of drone comb per se, but I also donít want to ďforceĒ them into raising drones because thereís drone comb from the previous year.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    I have a lot of frames where I cut 20% of the foundation off to leave some 'bees preference' space. As a general rule, they build drone comb out in this space and build worker comb on the sections with foundation. It is getting late in the season here in Maryland and the bees are using the drone space for storage.
    DSCN3303.jpg

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Why not leave the drone comb in the honey supers? Or do you also use the supers for rearing brood? I use lots of drone comb in my honey supers ... it's easier to extract from.
    The Apiarist - beekeeping in Fife, Scotland

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    As fatshark has already commented - if those combs are in the supers, drone cells are fine, as it doesn't really much matter what size the cells are.

    FWIW - I've seen drone comb reworked into worker comb a few times. It looks really odd - as if someone has taken a solid slab of wax and drilled holes in it - leaving cell walls 1/8" thick. Or so it seems ...
    Apparently the bees just re-work the edge of the cell, to reduce it's apparent diameter. Next time I come across some, I'll take a photo.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    I've seen it as well little_john ... most obviously when a swarm took up residence in a stack of drone comb supers
    The Apiarist - beekeeping in Fife, Scotland

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    If you utilize it in the honey supers, more honey and easier extraction. And they can decide what to make in the brood nest. J

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Interesting, didn't know they did that.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Thanks everyone. Good to know that drone comb in the honey supers isn't a problem. My hives are one deep and then mediums for the rest of the hive, no queen excluder. The brood chamber extends into two mediums boxes above the deep box and there's a lot of drone comb in those.

    Mostly I'm wondering about drone comb in the brood nest. Can I freely move frames with drone comb around in the brood chamber, re-use them in other hives, etc. or will that will mess up their preferred pattern of drone/worker comb?

    In other words, if I took a frame that's mostly drone comb and move it into the center of the brood nest, will that force them to raise drone there (where, presumably, they don't want to)? It sounds like they ca re-work it into worker comb, so maybe this isn't an issue?
    Last edited by BurlingtonBeekeeper; 08-06-2018 at 06:35 AM.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    I just put the drone comb in the outside edge position. They seldom rework it into worker comb.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    The "drone comb" (~ 7.1 mm size hexagons) ARE the size bees should be making in the honey supers. Who wants them making more wax when they should be storing honey instead?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Good point. Is that what they do in the "wild"?

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    In the wild, they are often highly adapted to their specific home. If it's long and skinny, that's the shape of the brood nest, the drones are often near the bottom, and the honey is usually put above the Springtime brood nest. They move up into the honey during the colder months. If the honey is all stored out one hollow branch, they likely don't move out there, but usually know how to make the best of the hole they have chosen.

    Don't bees out in nature just WISH they could find a Modified Square Jumbo Dadant beehive complete with a nice beekeeper who feeds them and gets after the mites! Even a standard Langstroth or British National beehive is a 5-star hotel compared to some of the places I've cut bees out of. They do love the green plastic water valve boxes that show up in so many commercial gardens. I always look and listen expecting to find bees in those things. A skep basket apparently is good enough for many a colony, but we are not encouraging that anymore...

    Still, space allowing, most colonies build large cells out in the honey areas far from the main brood nest.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    I sometimes put a medium frame in the box as the bees will sometimes (if yhey choose) make worker or honey cells in the upper frame and drone cells underneath the bottom bar. I like lots of drones in the air when they are needed. LP

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Next time I come across some, I'll take a photo.
    Not a particularly good example, but I'm sure you get the idea ...



    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  16. #15

    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    The biggest headache with drone cell is the queen coming up and laying eggs in it right before I am ready to harvest it. I have started to cull all of them frames.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Those are drone cells re-worked into worker cells?

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    According to Dadant, who wrote the Dadant System of Beekeeping, the workers who are drawing out cells use worker sized when the queen is begging for a place to lay, and if she has all the space she needs, they draw honey/drone sized.

    Dadant used foundationless frames, and 1 brood box that was something like 12 deep but otherwise close to Lang dimensions, at least in one version he did.

    I had a queenless hive that was drawing comb and they only drew drone comb.

    If you want more worker comb to be drawn out, then you need to take out worker comb and restrict the brood nest while placing empty foundationless frames for the bees to draw her highness more places to lay.

    This won't work out well if the bees are not well fed enough to draw out comb, which is spring before the main flow (as I found out this year - oops!) and during the dearth in summer in the midwest/east.

    I have top bar hives, which are a cheaper and riskier version of foundationless. Drone/honey only comb needs to be in the honey storage area, in a Lang that would be the outer frames and above the brood nest. Half worker/half drone would be next to that.

    I often cut out drone comb, but unless the queen is restricted from space, the bees will just draw drone comb again. I don't want tons of drones because they release more mites and take up resources.

    Keep in mind that a Lang deep frame has about 4500 cells total used for laying, and if the queen is laying 2000 eggs a day.... she can lay only 11 frames (2 days per frame) before the _first_ frame is open due to the brood emerging. So if you give her 20 frames worth of space.... that's going to be at most 12 frames of worker and lots of honey/drone.

    For only 10 frames of space, you might want to carefully manage that so it is all worker comb. That's what Dadant did - and what a queen excluder can help with. It can be used artfully to separate where the queen can lay and where the brood is emerging, so as to force new comb to be drawn out to worker specs. If you put it between the deep and medium, then you can take out 1 or 2 deep frames with drone comb and replace with an empty, or one with foundation, assuming they are fed well enough to draw comb. I don't mix foundation and foundationless EMPTY frames - they ignore the foundation empty frame and go for the foundationless every time.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Leave drone comb in foundationless super frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by BurlingtonBeekeeper View Post
    Those are drone cells re-worked into worker cells?
    Yes - not a good example, but the best I could find at short notice. Luckily that comb was mouldy (and thus on it's way to the melter), which provided enough contrast for a photograph. There appears to be 'thick walls' between the re-worked cells - but that's something of an illusion, as Charles Dadant explains:

    We have been told that bees will even tear down worker-cells to build drone-cells in their place. This we do not believe, for we have made the experiment of furnishing a natural swarm with a hive full of drone comb and found that the bees were incapable of grasping the possibility of tearing it down to secure worker-cells. They slowly and reluctantly narrowed the mouth of the cells to the dimension of worker-cells and the queen laid worker-eggs in them. There is no more probability of their changing worker into drone cells than the reverse. This experiment was also tried by three leading apiarists of Europe with the same result.

    Dadant 'System of Beekeeping'. 1920, p.31
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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