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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From http://www.beeclass.com/DTS/Frames.htm:

"Honey bees will build comb in a frame without foundation but it will not be straight and perfect like we are accustomed to seeing in a bee hive. Many states require that bee hives be easily inspected and this requires frames with no cross comb."
Is this true? I'm planning to go foundationless, but need inspectable frames...
 

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Use starter strips or guides of some sort. Make sure the hive is level from side to side. The bees will typically follow the direction provided by the starter strips or guides. You can always cut out any cross comb when you do an inspection.

Walter Kelley now sells foundationless frames that have guides. Others might as well, I just haven't seen their catalogs yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
mrspock, it sure can, but not always.

Why are you going foundationless?
The primary motivation is to have less stuff to buy and worry about.

There also seems to be other benefits, such as allowing bees to determine own comb size, reducing exposure to plastics. Lack of foundation should make it easier to remove comb for crush/strain extraction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Use starter strips or guides of some sort. Make sure the hive is level from side to side. The bees will typically follow the direction provided by the starter strips or guides. You can always cut out any cross comb when you do an inspection.

Walter Kelley now sells foundationless frames that have guides. Others might as well, I just haven't seen their catalogs yet.
Those are exactly the ones I had in mind.... they look promising.

I don't mind if I have to cut a bit of cross-comb.. as long as it doesn't encourage a comb-building free-for-all.
 

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I understand. The things you mention are important to you, so foundationless make sense. Have fun.
 

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Those are exactly the ones I had in mind.... they look promising. -mrspock
I thought so, too. I run some hives as foundationless, using frames where I've added comb guides or built to have comb guides. I like some of the advantages, but haven't seen any real difference in production or apparent health or pest control.

Let us know how the frames work out for you if you do try them.
 

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If you are new to beekeeping these hives are going to be more high maintenance. Manipulation is tricky until they build up the comb into the frame; if you turn it in the heat then you have a plop of wax at your feet. The guides will help, but you will be more prone to cross-comb as there is empty space and the bees might want to get creative. Its no big deal. Go for it. Its less science than art. Ok.
 

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>If you are new to beekeeping these hives are going to be more high maintenance. Manipulation is tricky until they build up the comb into the frame; if you turn it in the heat then you have a plop of wax at your feet.

They are a little more work at first to get them going straight on the frames, starter strips help then do that. But if they attach the comb to at least 3 of the 4 sides of the frame, which they usually do, you can turn the comb any way you want when doing inspections and the comb will not fall out, even in hot weather. After a couple generations of brood have been raised in a new comb, it gets even stronger.
 

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If you put in empty frames between two frame of already drawn comb, the bees will draw the foundationless comb just fine, even if there is no comb guide. You run into problems with cross comb if you have 2 or more frames with no foundation side by side.

I have had a couple frames of foundationless, with a comb guide, and the bees started comb on one frame, and jumped over and finished the comb on the next frame beside it. (1% or 2% of foundationless frames I've done.)
 

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If you put in empty frames between two frame of already drawn comb, the bees will draw the foundationless comb just fine, even if there is no comb guide.
this is what i do as well, I insert a empty foundationless frames inbetween the frames with comb allready on them.
 

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>If you put in empty frames between two frame of already drawn comb, the bees will draw the foundationless comb just fine, even if there is no comb guide.

This is a very good point to make for those who are doing foundationless frames for the first time. It can be a little tougher starting out if you don't have any frames of drawn comb to put on either side of a foundationless frame though. That's the trouble I had to contend with. When you just dump a package of bees into a hive with only foundationless frames to work with, that's when they sometimes will get things cross combed if you don't inspect their progress regularly at first. But once they get two straight combs 3/4 drawn or more, you just keep feeding a foundationless frame in between those two drawn ones, and on and on until they build out the hive box.
 

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I've used frames with popcicle stick starters but like countryboy, I always put these between drawn frames. It is really neat to see the pure white combs, in kind of a heart shape, being drawn out from the top attachment.
 

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All of the above. A quick way to get some good foundationless frame comb is to drop one of the frames in the middle of the brood box. They will jump on it quickly. Just be sure the get it out before the start adding comb to the bottom of the frame if the frame is shorter than the box. Example: Put a Med foundationless frame in between brood frams in a brood box. Girls can't stand open space in the brood box.

ON occasions the bees with start the comb incorrectly. Jut remove the comb and they have always drawn it out correctly the second time. Many times (and I don't know why) the bees will jump on the foundationless before the wax foundation, plasticell foundation, PermaComb and HSC.

I have made some of the foundationless using togune depressers, paint stirring sticks, cut a sliver of wood off the "1 side of a 1 x2 or 1 X 4. I have then wired some of the foundationless frames (usually in an X pattern (for Brood and Med) frames. I had some wireless foundationless med frames full of honey extractor without a problem.

Here is a link of a few that I pulled out of a deadout today.

http://s146.photobucket.com/albums/r275/tngamecockfan/Foundationless Frames/?albumview=slideshow
 

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Try to put your foundationless frame between two frames of good quality WORKER comb. They seem more inclined to draw worker size cells this way. You'll get enough drone cells without encouraging it.

Putting them (foundationless frames) in the center of the broodnest will also result in a higher percentage of good worker comb.
 

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The only times I've had bees start on one frame with comb and finish on another while using comb guides or starter strips, the hives have not been level from side to side.

Also, note that mrspock is from Alberta, Canada. Probably he will deal with fewer really hot days than beekeepers farther south.

Go for it, mrspock. At the worst, you end up cutting out fair amounts of comb and making them start over.
 

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I agree that it would be best to get started first. Another thread had the data that you are likely to get up to 30% drone comb. No one has addressed the support problem. Surplus frames would give you fits in the extractor/brood frames could fall apart (when new and tender). I wire my frames and use starter strips. The bees will incorporate the wires. I have seen pix of a 1/4 " dowel installed in the center of a brood frame vertically. Anyone try this?

dickm
 

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I find very little drone comb in my foundationless frames.

Worker combs are about 1 1/4 inches on center. Drone combs are about 1 3/8 inches center to center. Honey storage combs are 1 1/2 inches or more center to center.

The frame makers adopted 1 3/8 inch frames to use for everything as a one size fits all approach. The bees try to make do as best they can, even though frme spacing is not their ideal.

It should be no surprise to find lots of drone comb when you use 1 3/8 foundationless frames. The 1 3/8 spacing encourages drone comb - the bees know drone comb is what fits best in the space you have provided.

Trim your end bars to 1 1/4 width and I bet you will find much less drone comb getting drawn out when you put this narrow frame in the broodnest. ;)
 

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This discussion about foundationless frames has really been very helpful to read, as I am just preparing to make my own material for the brood box from scratch. I was going to have just the top bars, cut with a V-shape towards the bottom. No side or bottom bars, kind of like in a top bar hive, but with spaces between the bars.
Now here is the question: If natural worker comb is 1 1/4 inch on center how wide should I cut the bars? Michael Bush recommends (as I understand) for the frames to be 22 mm wide, with a spacing of 10 mm, which makes a total of 32 mm from center to center, which is pretty much exactly 1 1/4 inches. But my Langstroth frames are spaced almost 1 1/2 inches from center to center. Is the Langstroth measurement thought mostly for commercial bees? If I want smaller feral bees wouldn't it make sense to make the bars narrower and have the combs closer together? I've read this would be better for mite control, heat preservation, etc.
Can anybody tell me if my thinking makes sense, PLEASE?
 

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But my Langstroth frames are spaced almost 1 1/2 inches from center to center.

10 frame Langstroth is spaced 1 3/8. Are you running 9 frame or 10 frame? If you are running 9 frame, it will be 1 1/2.

If I want smaller feral bees wouldn't it make sense to make the bars narrower and have the combs closer together?

If you want smaller bees, you need smaller cells. Narrow top bars and narrow frame spacing can help you get smaller cells, but you can have narrow spacing and still have big bees.

I was going to have just the top bars, cut with a V-shape towards the bottom. No side or bottom bars, kind of like in a top bar hive, but with spaces between the bars.

Why? Do you want the bees to attach combs to the sides and bottom of the brood box? Why make things harder on yourself than you have to?

It is much easier to cut your end bars to 1 1/4, and then push all your frames together and they will be spaced correctly.
 
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