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I wanted to know what the bees would do with all frames with no foundation?
Chris,
I'm a second year Beek, so my advice is probably worth what you're paying for it. :D
While I don't run foundationless, I know a number of people that do. The bees will do what bees always do, they'll build comb and be fine. The question is, will they build nice straight comb in the frames, or will they build whacky crooked comb?
Keeping your hive level is important for foundationless, but I think the most important thing is giving the bees a good guide to encourage straight comb. Typically this is done by placing foundationless frames in between two frames with drawn comb. The problem with this approach, is that typically a new beek has no drawn comb resources. Another approach is to manipulate the comb as it's being built and encourage them to build it straight if it gets off course...The problem with this is that new comb is pretty fragile and usually a new beek has his hands full trying to learn, understand, and manage bees in his first few years without having to worry about keeping comb straight.

For that reason, it's my opinion that foundationless is something that is best to attempt after you have some experience under your belt. No doubt some start out that way from day one, but I think it's a pretty small percentage of beeks.

Good luck! :)
 

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Ok let me set the scene,,,, a hive swarms,,,it finds a home in a tree, house, barn, water meter etc. They move in and start setting up house. Do they have foundation to start their comb building? No, they just do what bees do. Granted if you start with foundationless frames in the hive you do need to get it as level as possible, you have to give them a guide as to where you want them to build comb if not they will build it everywhere and anywhere. And I also agree with
Moots you would be better off starting with foundation as a newbee. You can place foundationless frames between frames with foundation to make sure they build straight comb. Then use the already built foundationless to start another box or hive and eventually you will be foundationless.
 

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You may, but it starts your beekeeping efforts with a huge headwind.

The likelihood of messy, cross-bridged comb is high. The comb will be weak and frequently is unconnected to the bottom bar (and sides) which makes inspection problematic.
Comb will be built in many cell sizes with the typical crown of storage-drone cell, which will restrict the worker brood space permanently.
You will be wanting to learn how to manipulate bees, spot the queen, and keep the brood nest productive -- and all of that will be made more difficult by cramped, messy, brittle and uneven comb that tends to collapse in a heap when you lift it to inspect.

Interleaving comb with foundationless has far more predictable results. Building out your first box with foundation is even better, gives you 10 solid frames to build on in the future.
 

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Chris, I'm also a newbee and I'm starting two colonies on all foundationless frames. So I'm a bit nervous too. I have the hives perfectly level and each top bar has a beveled comb guide (Kelley's F Style frames). The packages I've ordered are bees born and raised on 4.9 small cell. I did order some small cell plastic frames from MannLake just to encourage the bees to build straight comb. I'm only introducing 2 of the plastic frames per hive body in positions 3 and 5 of my 8 frames setup. So positions 1,2,4,6,7,8 will be foundationless.
 

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My advice, if you don't have drawn comb already, is to start them in a nuc with 4 frames and 2 followers boards. In about 2 days check on the comb to make sure they are straight. If they are then give them a few more days to finish drawing it out on two frames and started on the other 2. Remove the follower boards and add an additional frame between the two straight drawn frames. Wait a few more days and then the frames should mostly drawn and it is time to move to the full 8 or 10 frame box.

There are a lot of ways to start completely foundationless and all have worked before (otherwise why would people suggest it?). One thing is not having comb slows down the initial package install build up of workers.
 

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Michael, by direct release, do you mean the beekeeper physically gets the queen out or do we put the queen cage on the bottom with the ends open and the bees get her out? I hope that's not a stupid question I just want to do this right. I'm new. :D
 

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Justin,

Direct release means that you open the queen cage & hold it on top of the frames until the queen walks out. You should be just fine since she has already been with the package several days. As a caution, I lay the unopened cage down for a minute or two and note how the bees react to her. If they seem aggressive DON'T release her. If not go for it.
 

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beeman, when you say "lay the unopened cage down for a minute or two". Do you mean I shake the bees out of the package first, then lay the queen cage down? Where do I lay it down? On top of the bees I just shuck out? On top of some of the frames I haven't removed?
 

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>The likelihood of messy, cross-bridged comb is high.

Having started hundreds of them, I would say the likelihood is low...

>The comb will be weak and frequently is unconnected to the bottom bar (and sides) which makes inspection problematic.

Not if you don't tip the frames... I can't remember the last time I broke a foundationless comb that was in a frame... I'm pretty sure it's been six years at least...

>Comb will be built in many cell sizes with the typical crown of storage-drone cell, which will restrict the worker brood space permanently.

You can move the frames to the outsides edges of the boxes. The location of the comb is not permanent. But I don't see them even attempt to build drone cells until they are established...

>You will be wanting to learn how to manipulate bees, spot the queen, and keep the brood nest productive -- and all of that will be made more difficult by cramped, messy, brittle and uneven comb that tends to collapse in a heap when you lift it to inspect.

And yet thousands of people are doing this and not having those issues... yes if, on the rare chance they go wild on that first comb and you let them continue then it will all be wrong. But most of us don't have that problem. If you do, you tie those combs into frames or otherwise straighten them and then you don't have that problem. I've seen many a new beekeeper use wax foundation that crumpled and made a worse mess... Bees mess up plastic. They mess up wax. They sometimes even mess up foundationless...

>One thing is not having comb slows down the initial package install build up of workers.

And the fastest way by far to get comb is foundationless. They will draw it faster than wax foundation and much faster than plastic foundation. Of course if you HAVE drawn comb that meets your requirements (cell size? lack of contaminants?), put all of it you can get in that first box.
 

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in 2011 I started 18 packages foundationless. At the time I used a wedge top bar with the wedge turned 90* to serve as a guide. Since then I've used groove top bars with paint stick as guides, as well as F-style foundationless frames with KelleyBees. I've never had an instance where the bees build cross comb in the brood nest that it wasn't easily corrected by pushing it within the frame. In the honey supers, sometimes, 15% to 20% of the times, they have build comb that's attached to 2 frames across. Most of it is correctable and fixable. I have had only one box where they build comb so out of whack that I didn't even attempt to try and fix it. I left it on the hive and just kept moving it up until it became unoccupied and then I simply removed it. There's still some honey/nectar in few cells but for the most part, it's been emptied by the bees. DSCF3391.jpg DSCF3393.JPG
 

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In the honey supers, sometimes, 15% to 20% of the times, they have build comb that's attached to 2 frames across. Most of it is correctable and fixable. I have had only one box where they build comb so out of whack that I didn't even attempt to try and fix it.
In the super did you leave spaces between the frames, or have them against each other?
 

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I'm personally going to try some hybrid frames this year. I've made several deep frames with medium wired foundation, so that I've got wax foundation in the top half of the frame, and empty space in the bottom half. I'm hoping that will ensure nice straight comb gets made while still giving the bees ample room to put whatever size comb they like in place.
 

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I was thinking that using these, would simplify matters -->
If any comb fragments are straight enough and look good enough to keep, then they can be assembled inside these clamshell comb saver's. Wire's are strung between the End Bars on both sides of the frame, so that when they come together, they will hold the comb fragments in place until they can be repaired by the bees.
 
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