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I have read a lot about using drone brood to control mites, but am unsure how to do it with foundationless frames. I understand there is drone foundation available that can be used to create drones which then attract mites. Will bees create discrete drone brood cells on foundationless frames? Will the cells be sufficiently isolated and compact to allow uncapping and freezing without harming nearby worker capped cells? Or do you have to use the drone foundation?
 

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Hi Marant, if your hives are foundationless the bees will build some drone comb themselves, just as much as they want, no drone foundation is needed.

About mite control via drone brood removal. It is thought that in a busy hive with lots of drone comb, around 40% of mites will be in the drone comb and 60% in the worker comb. So in theory, if you remove all the drone comb you remove 40% of the mites. Advocates of this system often suggest removing 3 consecutive cycles of drone brood at intervals slightly less than the drone larval period, if some is allowed to hatch along with the mites it contains, kinda ruins it.

In a foundationless hive removal of the drone comb is simple, you just cut it out of the frame with a knife & put the frame back in the hive. The bees will just build more comb again.
 

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Running foundationless you are likely to get waves of drone brood.

A common pattern I have observed during August -- honey supers that have been emptied during a summer dearth will be filled with with drone. This is because foundationless honeycomb (as opposed to broodcomb) is built with very large cells, if the queen moves into those frames the result is complete and uninterrupted frames of just drone.

Foundationless comb from the brood area will be a mix of cell size --- worker brood in the center oval, surrounded by a crown of drone, honey and pollen cells that are larger. The worker brood oval can be quite small (especially in medium frames). This is a continuing problem with all-mediums hives. Brood comb that is all worker-cell is relatively rare, and must be carefully conserved. Mixing medium frames willy-nilly adds the unsuitable mixed-cell crown frames into the brood oval and constricts the laying or generates excess drone.

The full-deep frames avoid the brood oval compression by having a larger inherent oval. You can use all mediums (and I have medium 5 frame nuc's which expand very productively)- but you must inspect each frame for suitability to add to the target brood chamber. This necessity of selection and editing obviates the so-called advantage of all-medium interchangeability. I find the all-medium system is less interchangeable than a deep-brood, medium-honey super approach. I cull deep frames that are brood unsuitable. I know any deep box from storage will have frames ready for a brood nest. I don't know that about mediums. If you are targeting brood in deep-- the weight issue of the box is irrelevant, as brood comb is feather-weight.
 

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I orginally thought I might try it if small cell/natural cell wasn't working well enough. I never found it necessary. After thinking it through, I don't think I ever would do it. You'll be selecting for mites that prefer workers. Plus it's a costly enterprise for the bees. They spend a frame of honey, a frame of pollen, a frame worth of water, and a frame worth of bees laboring to make all those drones and when you take them they just have to make more.

But if that's what you want to do, there will likely be some frames of all drones in your foundationless hive. Just cut out the drone brood and feed it to the chickens.
 

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You love bees.
Bees love drones.
You want to be very carful.

“...in the presence of male bees, the organism of workers works more effectively, i.e. it utilizes in a better way the components contained in food. It must be stressed that next to the high survival rate in the worker bees consuming carbohydrate food, there occurred also a better development of the pharyngeal glands where protein is particularly necessary. The presence of drones had also a positive effect on the content of total protein and crude
fat in the bodies of worker bees consuming sugar candy.”* This study may change the minds of some beekeepers concerning the value of drones in a colony; their removal may not be as benign as once thought. “
Sanford, M.T. 2002, "Apimondia in South Africa," Bee Culture, Vol. 130 (seven installments: January, February, March, May, July, August, September).
 

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According to Nick Calderone's drone brood removal study he was unable to select for mites that preferred worker brood.

Drone brood removal can reduce varroa growth rate by 50% (National Bee Unit, U.K.), using all drone cell frames can reduce wild drone cell construction on other frames to less than 4% if worker foundation is used.

As many varroa mites emerge from 50-60 infested drone cells as from 1000 worker cells.

Trapping with 1 drone frame delays mite damage population level from being reached for 2-4 months, using 2 frames will delay level from being reached for 1 year.

Removing drone showed no damaging effect on the amount of worker brood produced, or on the amount of honey produced.

Why would any hobby beekeeper not want to use this technique?
 

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If you put a foundationless frame in you're hive right now the bees will probably draw the hole thing as drone brood. The bees want to raise 10-15% drones & we don't give them a place to do it.
 

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Culling drone comb combined with splitting into three hives has dramatically reduced the mite load in my top bar hive. I'm now cutting more top bars as the oranges come into blossom. I'm seeing my first flow, nectar everywhere!
 

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It really sticks you on a schedule, that's why it's tough to do sometimes. What if you're out of town or can't make it to the hive the week that drone brood is capped or going to emerge, then you just gave the mites a nice breeding cycle and you have a few thousand drones hatching out to feed. If you're going foundationless, the easiest thing to do, is during inspections just uncap all drone brood you see and the bees will clean it up and you will hopefully interrupt the mite cycle enough to make a difference. It will most likely be in nice patches anyway so it's about the same thing. Just get a nice metal uncapping fork, it'll pull some of the larva as well and you can check for mites too.
 

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>As many varroa mites emerge from 50-60 infested drone cells as from 1000 worker cells.

I have probably 25% drone comb in my hives. I never cull drone or remove drone brood. I seldom can find any Varroa... it just doesn't add up to that statement...
 

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There is no evidence that this selects for mites that select worker brood. There are people who have been using this method for a long time and have not experienced any problem with increased mites or some sort of mite "resistance." Michael, why do you keep posting this statement when you have no experience or study backing it up?
 
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