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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just did a quick inspection of the Russian hive since there's a break of sun between storms and they were really really active, as they have been.

6 medium super hive, I had swapped the brood box to second from bottom because they had settled higher up. That was last time, when they had 4 mediums coming out of winter.

This time I went in, bottom super still empty, as often I find the case. Next super had a lot of brood frames, I didn't look at all the frames, I just looked at a couple. The next super I had put some foundationless frames in there, with just the wood strip at top. Well, both of those they built up with (unfilled) drone comb. How do you prevent all the foundationless becoming drone comb? I know they need some, and I guess it's a good way to trap the drone comb and freeze it as mite control, but still. I wanted to see small cell.

Okay, so I figured I'd swap the brood super right at the bottom to get them better organized. Then I put 2 more supers. Then I was adding the super with the new drone comb when I saw the queen. Well, that would put her in position #4 from bottom and I didn't figure that was a good idea, because they say queens don't like to go downwards. So I took off the 2 supers I just put on and put drone comb super on #2, but I couldn't find the queen again by this time. so I have no idea where she ended up.

UGH.

Meanwhile I had about 100 bees on me because this hive just doesn't like company. (Totally suited up, with smoker.)

And, this hive won't use the bottom entrance, even tho there is nothing blocking it. They insist on using the 2 tiny entrances in the inner cover, which means there is a perpetual traffic jam up there, and it makes it harder when I go into the hive because they lose their target entrance and blame me for it. I just put a piece of wax as a shim under the lid so hopefully they have a little more room.

I'm going all Russians because I feel they have better mite resistance and better overwintering capabilities, but they sure ain't easy Italians.

So now I probably shuffled them all out of order, who knows where the queen is, and I think they're better off most of the time if I just leave them alone. BUT - I wanted to check for swarm cells and make sure they weren't planning a swarm, as active as they've been. If I had seen swarm cells, I would have looked for honey frames in the brood box and moved them out, to clear room out for the queen to lay.

Well, she has a lot of room to lay, roaming who knows where in 6 boxes now.... Beekeeping is hard!!1!
 

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This has been a strange year for nearly everyone. I had little or no honey left in my hive in March and had to feed, and the bees made a column of brood three frames wide from top to bottom in the hive, including the honey supers I added in April. Huge population of bees, and they have been packing away honey like crazy ever since.

I would NOT attempt to control where the bees take the queen to raise brood. They will do pretty much what they want anyway, and it's stressful to re-arrange the boxes constantly.

Do you have a screened bottom board, and is the sticky board in? Bees want the hive dark, and will not prep cells for the queen to lay if it is too light at the bottom, and will usually leave an illuminated box at the bottom of the hive empty. Close it off and make it as light tight as possible and they are more likely to use it.

If they want a top entrance, make one for them. You can widen the opening in the inner cover, or make a shim for each side that tapers from 3/8" down to a point 19 7/8" long, and set the inner cover on them to leave a 3/8" slot at the top front of the hive. If this works, you can close off the bottom entrance completely.

They will sort out the brood nest over the summer and fill the top with honey. Somehow they knew they needed a huge work force this spring, and hence raised brood in any available space there were enough bees to cover, and at least here are in the process of making a more normal brood nest in the bottom of the hive.

A couple years ago everyone was talking about bad brood pattens because the bees had collected so much pollen the brood nest was clogged due to it being warm very early. however, the nectar flow was longer and slower that year, and there were far fewer comments on "brood in the supers" -- it's different every year.

Peter
 

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The "dirty little secret" of foundationless systems is an over-abundance of drone. The advocates attack this observation, with claims that "bees know exactly how many drones are natural". The drone cells can be repurposed into dedicated honey supers -- they are great for extraction, but this requires sorting and grading individual frames, and labeling them to purpose.

A classic pattern of medium foundationless comb is a narrow crown of honey comb, drone on the outer 2-3 inches, and a small brood area in the center.

These multi-purpose combs are difficult to work with, in honey supers the difference in cell depth produces wavy comb and in brood boxes, a high potential for rolling the queen. The restricted square inches of actual worker brood area influences bee behavior negatively. I believe the outcome is tendency to swarm cells and a "chimney" brood pattern.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
"Do you have a screened bottom board, and is the sticky board in? Bees want the hive dark, and will not prep cells for the queen to lay if it is too light at the bottom, and will usually leave an illuminated box at the bottom of the hive empty. Close it off and make it as light tight as possible and they are more likely to use it. "

Oh! Is that why they never seem to use the bottom super? I have a screened bottom board, no white board in there for the summer, to provide the best ventilation. I guess from now on I'll just let them leave the bottom empty. Maybe it also carries more humidity at the bottom, being closer to the ground. Never thought of that.

I guess I'll just let them create their own organization, then. They're "supposed" to build brood in the bottom 2 mediums and honey in the top 4, but I guess they don't know that.
 

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An open screen doesn't help ventilation, it hinders it. Bees ventilate by fanning at the entrance. A wide open screen short circuits the air circulation, and the bees are simply drawing air from the screen and not pulling it through the hive.

What cools a hive is evaporation, not air movement per se. The specific heat of evaporation is 100x the capacity of heat in a replacement volume of air.

Bee's will move the brood towards the forager's entrance. I fill a bottom brood box by strategically moving a block of wood from side to side -- the brood follows the opening.

The "center of gravity" of the brood nest has moved towards the entrance. Block off the upper entrance-- and the brood will move down towards the remaining entrance. The bees will adjust after a day or two of confusion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
"The "dirty little secret" of foundationless systems is an over-abundance of drone. "

Huh. Well, these are my first 2 foundationless frames. I'll see what happens through the summer as I add more. I finally read in MB's book, timely, to leave a strip of foundation at the top when you're cutting out the old comb, and I'll see how that works - maybe with a strip guide, they'll build regular to smaller size comb instead of drone. I'm an unbiased observer, so I'll report what I see as time goes on. If it turns out to be too much drone comb, then that might be an issue, especially if the queen doesn't have enough worker comb. If they use the large cell comb for honey that would be fine with me, because I crush anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
An open screen doesn't help ventilation, it hinders it.
:eek: But, but, but..., the folks at the bee club say Keep Your Bottom Screen Board Open For Ventilation - many even thru winter, altho I put the bottom boards in this winter. The chimney sweep club member said any outward air flow needs an inward source...
 

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There is so much misinformation on the i'net. Lots of theories promoted by folks who use "inductive" logic to decide what bees need. Unfortunately, some of the mystical, inductive believers have huge and broad followings of acolytes eager for answers.

If you test a hive using a "i-button" temp x humidity monitor, you will have hard data that tells you a sealed bottom with a bottom fanning cohort of bees produces optimum temps in the brood area, and an open screen produces a "flashy" brood zone with spikes of temp and humidity.

Data rules, and mystical beliefs fail.
 

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I run one foundationless frame in every hive. Bees build drone comb and I cut it out periodically to help with varroa control. Works pretty well. Later in the summer they will fill the comb with honey if I let a frame of drone brood hatch.
 

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PsFred and JW, your comments are very helpful. I learned a few things here. The main reason for screened bottom board that I was aware of was to allow mites to drop out and not be able to crawl back up into the hive. Maybe a pan with oil (for mites as well as small hive beetle) just below the screen will help with the light issue, but as for ventilation spoiling, maybe that just has to be one tradeoff for allowing pests to fall out of the hive.
 

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The mites cannot crawl from the sticky board back into the hive, leave the board in. I pull mine back an inch or two when lots of bees start hanging on the front of the hive, but it's probably not really necessary.

They cannot control the airflow with the screen out, and the bottom box will always have widely ranging temperature and they will NOT use it with the board out.

I don't know about you, I'm not all that hot on empty comb in my hives.

Peter
 

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Then I'll ask one more set of questions: what size entrance do you keep? A closed down entrance, like with reducer, or allow the whole front entrance to be open ? Which is most effective for the bees to regulate airflow in the hive?
 

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Thanks to my initial mentor here in Cincinnati, I use slatted racks on the bottom of the hive, and a screen below. They congregate like crazy on the slatted rack, so they may be fanning and controlling airflow from that position.
 

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The "dirty little secret" of foundationless systems is an over-abundance of drone.
I don't read all your posts, but you sure come across as having an axe to grind with anyone who does things differently than you do. You have about as much tact as an anvil. You may be very knowledgeable about bees, but your approach is off putting. FWIW......
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Very interesting about the pros and cons of using a screened bottom board. I thought when they were "invented" it was a vast improvement to the hive - but some are saying the old solid bottom boards are better?

I suppose if you wanted the "sticky board" (don't know how sticky mine is anymore) for mite drop control, you could spray it with Pam or some such oil so they stick to it and can't get off.

I have a bee club friend who is a fiend with ventilation studies on her hives, I'm going to ask her opinion about bottom board ventilation. This is the first time I've heard anything negative about screened bottoms.

I do use the slatted racks - does everyone? Does that make a difference in the pros & cons?
 

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Must be one heck of a secret because the bees on my foundationless frames apparently haven't heard they are supposed to draw out an overabundance of drone cells.

Wayne
 

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Oh! Is that why they never seem to use the bottom super? I have a screened bottom board, no white board in there for the summer, to provide the best ventilation. I guess from now on I'll just let them leave the bottom empty. Maybe it also carries more humidity at the bottom, being closer to the ground. Never thought of that. .


This is why I like to use slated racks between screened bottom board and first brood box. With the slatted racks the queen will lay right to the very bottom of the frames in the bottom box, both because it is darker with the slated racks in and less of a draft between the bottom opening and the bottom of the first brood frames.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I have a theory about foundationless frames becoming drone brood!

It hit me today while I was driving.

The hive needs to produce a certain amount of drone brood - maybe more than we give them credit for. The foundation we give them is not the right size and it's probably a pain for them to enlarge the pattern for drone brood. But with foundationless, they can size the comb right from the start, and that's what they do - use foundationless first as any drone comb that they need, and after that, they size it small cell.
 
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