Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives
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  1. #1
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    Oct 2019
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    Stark County, Ohio, USA
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    Default Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Good morning all!

    2 questions...

    1. After my second winter has been a disaster, losing 5 of 6 hives to what appears to be a mixture of mite and moisture issues, I am considering something different. I am looking at the possibility of going foundationless in the brood boxes and foundation in the Honey supers. (this is not to combat the above issue, it is just an idea i'm tossing around) I am wondering what the overall experience has been for people going foundationless in the brood box. All comments are appreciated.

    2. I am tossing around the idea of going to a single 10 frame brood chamber on a couple hives after reading and hearing a decent amount of positive comments on it. What are your experiences with this configuration? Also looking at running 8 frame supers with shims over the 10 frame to minimize purchasing new equipment. Has anyone done this and has it been effective?

    I appreciate all of the info!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Powhatan, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Single box brood chambers require different management so be prepared to add brood boxes and remove them as appropriate or move brood frames as necessary.
    If you are talking about using a shim to transition to an eight frame sitting on top of the ten remember that the thickness of the shim will be a violation of bee space which they will fill with comb.
    It may be easier to sit the eight frame box directly on the ten and put a flat board beside it to cover the opening.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
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    Stark County, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    I figured that it would require some more scheduled attention than a double box as you said. Things like adding boxes or switching out frames in one box sounds like it will require a more watchful eye, but I would think you would have a more thorough understanding of your hive and it's activity.

    As far as the shim goes, your suggestion is what my plan was. Center the 8 frame on the ten frame box and attach shims to the sides of the box to cover the remaining space on the lower 10 frame box.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    I picked up a hundred package of bamboo skewers I will be using as a trial on some deep foundationless frames in place of reinforcing wire. Three verticals should make them much easier to handle till they get well attached to frames. For me that is not till the second season. You will have more drone brood on the combs but you will find much less rogue drone cell construction between frames.

    You could get many good ideas if you go to Little Johns web site. He may be 100% foundationless.

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

    I have several boxes and Dadant depth frames ready to populate this coming season. They will go as single broods; I obviously will not be lifting them! Foundation for them is very difficult to find in the US. A Canadian company imports it but it is $6. Canadian a pop so foundationless becomes interesting.
    Last edited by crofter; 03-05-2020 at 11:30 AM.
    Frank

  6. #5
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    Aug 2014
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    You could get many good ideas if you go to Little Johns web site. He may be 100% foundationless.
    Certainly am - never bought a sheet of foundation in my life ... (Except for one sheet of plastic used in an experiment)

    But - I was a little surprised at the interest being shown by the OP in alternative ways of running a hive when - to my mind - the most pressing issue here is that of recent winter losses in which Varroa and excess moisture are thought to be factors.

    Because - neither of the proposals suggested will play any part in solving these issues, and could very easily function as distractions - so personally I'd be far more interested in discussing how the problem of winter losses could be addressed, as losing 5 out of 6 colonies must be very disheartening. I know this redirection would constitute 'thread drift', but to my mind is a priority.

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

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Louisville, Colorado, USA
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    Default

    Little John is right.
    Learn to keep your bees alive through winter before you go off on tangents.
    Basics first.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
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    Stark County, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    You present a valid point which I can address.

    I live in Ohio and we have had a very mild winter this year when it comes to snow, but the temperatures and weather have been all across the board. We have had temperatures swings of 20-30 degrees overnight many times and instead of the moisture freezing in the form of snow I believe it has rained more this winter than snow.

    My novice opinion is that the temperatures have been warm enough to keep the cluster more active and "loose" than in typical freezing temperatures. This, again in my opinion, has increased activity which has also increased the amount of condensation within the hive. With the drastic temperature swings I feel that many of the bees died of freezing from being damp. I realized i did not have enough ventilation to keep the hive dry which caused the issue to amplify. The only reason I bring up the Varroa issue is that I have found what i would consider a heavy amount of mites after doing a wash of the dead bees when cleaning out the hives. By heavy amounts I'm saying about 10 out of a typical sample. Assuming that it was not a good wash due to the bees already being dead, i figure it may have been higher. I treated with MAQS in late fall and the levels seemed acceptable.

    Again this is all my opinion based on my limited knowledge. The foundationless box and single deep hives are just a couple ideas i was toying with since I obviously am starting fresh this year. I appreciate all of the input!

  9. #8
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    May 2011
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Can you come closer on the date of the Maqs treatments? Did you have any counts pre treatment. Even if the after treatment levels were low, much of the damage to the winter bees would have been done.

    It is generally considered to take three rounds of bees, raised varroa free, before the virus titre levels drop. Fat healthy winter bees can live four or five months when necessary and be capable of nursing the first rounds of bees necessary to reboot the colony. That energy must come from their bodies before new pollen comes in. Bees compromised by virus and low on fat bodies can falter in sight of the finish line. This renewal of brood rearing in late winter is not optional! it is do or die.

    This factor is one of the hardest to get many beekeepers to accept
    Frank

  10. #9
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    Sep 2016
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    Murphy, TX
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    I have lot of foundationless frames. I will tell you what worked and what hasn't so far.

    I experimented with double-medium aka super-deep foundationless frames (with horizontal skewers as guides) and that was a disaster. Most combs started out straight but then wander off half way down. DO NOT TRY this at home!!

    Rest of all the foundationless are all mediums. Works great with some caveats.
    * Always use center guides (I have settled on 3 Popsicle sticks on the grooved frame)
    * Always put new frames with some pre-drawned frames as guides. i.e. DO NOT use whole box of empty foundationless frames.
    * Best to insert alternate foundationless frame in the middle of brood nest. You get perfectly drawn frames.
    * Always put new frames below brood nest. They may draw upside down comb if you put the new frames on top of the brood nest.
    * No skewers are necessary for medium.
    * If you ever need to spin honey out of the foundationless frame (e.g. to clear backfilled the brood nest). Use 2 vertical skewers to stiffen the comb.


    I have since settled on a hybrid frame where I only put half the plastic acorn foundation inter center of the frame and let the bees draw the other two quarters foundationless. Hybrid frame has several advantages that I value: It speeds up the frame making process significantly, I save cost on foundation, Bees get to pick the comb they want to build for half of the frame, if they make drone bombs then I can cull them to control mites, AND I can spin these frames so they double up as honey frames as well. I am slowly moving all the new frames to hybrid design (both for honey and brood).

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    pjigar;

    Are you using the plastic foundation vertically in the Dadant or extra deep frames (even though it orients cells flat side down instead of points down)? Do the bees continue to follow the pattern all the way down or do they get muddled up?
    Frank

  12. #11
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    Sep 2016
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    There was no foundation at all in the extra-deep frames which was a failed experiment. For medium, I simplu break the plastic foundation in half and use each half (with normal orientation) in the center of two different frames.

  13. #12
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    Jan 2015
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    Williamsport, PA
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Small upper entrance and doing a mite treatment between Thanksgiving and Christmas should take care of your problems if everything else is good. I used Oxalic Dribble last year and am sold on it now for ease of use, but that's just me.

    You mentioned this is your 2nd year. That is when mites usually finish a hive off, in the 2nd winter.

    As was mentioned earlier, learn to keep bees first using the same boring methods everyone start with and then when you get decent at it you can experiment.

  14. #13
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    Apr 2017
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    As everyone else has already mentioned, learning to keep your bees alive over winter should be your top priority. I run hybrid hives with plastic foundation in my medium supers and foundationless frames in the brood chambers. The concerns presented are the same as I have experienced. Chances are you will get at least one frame of nothing but drone comb. Its ok, they won't build it everywhere else and you can melt it down for wax later if you want. The queen will stop laying in it after swarm season has passed. I prefer this way because it is cheaper for me and it allows the bees to build the comb they want and not be constrained by my choice of foundation.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  15. #14
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    Jan 2014
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    Default

    To get through winter a few things are necessary.

    1. Kill the mites. At no time can you afford to let the mites build up.
    I use OAV.

    2. Vigorous queen. Not necessarily a first year queen, but one with a good brood pattern.

    3. A good population of winter bees. Keep the mites under control and you eliminate problems with viruses and weak fall bees.

    4. Plenty of honey. I like to have a full deep's worth plus.

  16. #15
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    carney, maryland, USA
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Re: Foundationless Frames

    I have been using foundationless for 5 years, but with a mixture of frames with Mann Lake rite-cell plastic foundation.

    The bad about foundationless: Likely the bees will draw each frame with either a mixture of worker and drone cells, or 100% drone cells.

    The good about foundationless: It's all natural, no foundation or anything that "man" has touched. It's all natural, so for honey frames, that's as good as it gets. The other good is the first time you pull out a foundationless and see what the bees have wrought. There is nothing like that feeling when you behold that.

    I recommend that you use a mixture, using some rite-cell or similar worker brood cells in the brood chamber, so that your hives will not get drone-heavy.

  17. #16
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    Sep 2019
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by philip.devos View Post
    Re: Foundationless Frames

    I recommend that you use a mixture, using some rite-cell or similar worker brood cells in the brood chamber, so that your hives will not get drone-heavy.
    Will the reverse work? One frame of Acorn (or other brand?) drone cell and the rest foundation-less. One at a time between the drawn frames that come with a nuc.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    My experience since going foundationless is that the bees will draw two frames of mostly drone brood. This is consistant with the natural balance of approximately 20% drones during swarm season. Once swarm season has passed, if the frames are in the correct location within the hive, the bees backfill the cells with nectar.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  19. #18
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    Jun 2016
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    washington, vermont, USA
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    Default Re: Foundationless Brood boxes - Positives and Negatives

    You need to be worrying about how to keep your bees alive not possibly switching your entire setup just because it sounds neat or someone else says it's "the way". First thing MITES! I'll just take a swing in the dark and assume by the language you used that you didn't do your mite treatment until mid to late fall. By that time it was to late. You need to have your mite treatment done by beginning of Sept. Then you need another clean up treatment mid fall. I throw another one in around Christmas. I use Oav for the mid and late fall treatment but use MAQS, Apivar, thymol, or something that will get the numbers down quick for your late summer (Aug.) treatment.
    Second thing is moisture. I'm not quite sure that the temp swings and rain were the deciding factor in your hives demise. Next year though you could try a small (I use 1/2 by 1in.) top entrance. Run your bottom entrance wide open. Remember mouse guards. One last thing I would recommend is using some insulation board on top of the hive. Sometimes deadouts can look really wet even if they were actually fine when they were alive.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Albany NY
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    A full colony "rains" about 5 gallons in winter. Outside temp and rainfall have little to do with it. Upper entrance helps get rid of moisture but often bees forrage for water whenever they can before nectar flow. So getting rid of all water may be detrimental. Top insulation is good. I had colonies this winter that I looked at when under 20F to see where condensation was. Cover was 1/2" plywood. Many were warming the cover enough over the cluster to keep it above dew point.
    Foundationless: perfect worker comb is drawn in smaller hives that are not considering to swarm. A bee space is left on 3 sides of comb in brood chamber. Put drawn comb in honey super to get them to attach it more. Even deeps can be extracted, no supports. Just spin carefully until you get the hang of it. Blowouts in extractor are annoying.
    In full sized colonies I leave 20% drone comb if I want them to draw worker comb. They are more likely to intersperse some drone on the frame.
    Learn how to inspect foundationless frames. Don't twist top bar in your fingers to get a better angle on front or back of frame. Keep the plane of the comb vertical and drop one arm so top bar is vertical before twisting it around to view back.
    I'm not oposed to the distraction of foundationless as long as you figure out how to overwinter better simultaneously.... Have fun!

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