Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Well, I finally did a first check on my foundationless hives. Sort of. The good news is that there was no comb attached to the makeshift covers I started with, and now both hives have properly-placed inner and outer covers.

So far, so good: all the comb is down in the hive boxes. And there's a lot of it.

But... it's not even CLOSE to being in frames... The bees are busily constructing turrets and tunnels and arches and labyrinths. The new comb is fragile, and no matter how delicately I try to handle everything, I can feel the chunks of comb break away as soon as I dislodge a frame. I stopped after the first couple of efforts.

Do I try to dismantle the whole entire hive and somehow make these big fragile chunks of comb conform to a frame pattern? I can't really envision how that will be possible, or where the bees will be while I do that. There are an awful lot of bees, and they're still hanging out in big clusters in there.

The bees were quite peaceful while I poked about in there, but when I took a serrated knife and cut apart a few of the comb bridges, they definitely got agitated. I felt like that kind of invasion couldn't be too good for the morale of the hive.

What now? I have to admit I'm flummoxed as to how I can inspect this elaborate and private little empire.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,668 Posts
What did you use as a comb guide in your frames? It sounds as though the bees are not following the guides.

Do I try to dismantle the whole entire hive and somehow make these big fragile chunks of comb conform to a frame pattern? I can't really envision how that will be possible, or where the bees will be while I do that.

Yes, you need to take care of it. The longer you wait, the worse it will get.

Cut the combs off the frames, and then use rubber bands to hold the combs in the frames the way they should be positioned. The bees will be covering the combs while you do this. Be gentle with the fresh wax combs. I find the nitrile gloves work great for this. Even though I am handling combs covered in bees, I can feel around enough that I seldom get stung.

I find having a second set of hands helps immensely.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,054 Posts
What moron said "Is Foundationless the Big Hoax of 2010"? Shoot that guy.
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
54,108 Posts
First, they require a comb guide. From the results, I'm assuming you don't have them. That would be either a wood strip, or a wax strip or a bevel on the bottom of the frame.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm#combguide

Second, with foundationless you need to check often that first few combs and make sure they start off right. If they get one comb wrong they will repeat the mistake the rest of the way. You need to get it straight right off the bat.

Yes, new wax is very fragile, but still I would try to get it in the frames. If they have already messed up the entire box, then it might be easier to add the next with some comb guides and wait until the wax in the first one toughens up. Then I'd do a cut out. cut all the combs out and tie them into the frames. if you only have one or two combs off, then I would cut them out and tie them into the frames.

There is nothing quite as effective at getting the off to a good start (besides the comb guides) as one straight comb.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm

"HOW TO SECURE STRAIGHT COMBS. "The full advantages of the movable comb principle is only secured by getting all the combs built true within the frames. Upon the first introduction of movable frames, bee-keepers frequently failed in this although much care and attention were given. Mr. Langstroth, for a time, used for guides strips of comb attached to the under side of the top bar of the frame. This is a very good practice when the comb can be had, as it usually secures the object besides giving the bees a start with worker comb. Next followed the triangular comb guide consisting of a triangular piece of wood tacked to the under side of the top bar, leaving a sharp corner projecting downwards. This is a valuable aid and is now universally adopted." --FACTS IN BEE KEEPING by N.H. and H.A. King 1864, pg. 97

"If some of the full frames are moved, and empty ones placed between them, as soon as the bees begin to build powerfully, there need be no guide combs on the empty frames, and still the work will be executed with the most beautiful regularity." --The Hive and the Honeybee by Rev. L.L. Langstroth 1853, pg. 227

"Improved Comb Bar.--Mr. Woodbury says that this little contrivance has proved very effectual in securing straight combs when guide combs are not obtainable. The lower angles are rounded off whilst a central rib is added of about 1/8 of an inch in breadth and depth. This central rib extends to within 1/2 an inch of each end, where it is removed in order to admit of the bar fitting into the usual notch. All that is necessary to insure the regular formation of combs is, to coat the underneath surface of the central rib with melted wax. Mr. Woodbury further says, "my practice is to use plain bars, whenever guide-combs are attainable, as these can be attached with much greater facility to a plain than to a ribbed bar; but whenever I put in a bar without comb, I always use one of the improved ones. By this method , crooked and irregular combs are altogether unknown in my apiary." Most of our bars are made with the ridge; but should any of our customers prefer the flat ones, we keep a few to supply their requirements"--Alfred Neighbour, The apiary, or, Bees, bee hives, and bee culture pg 39

"Top bars have been made by some hive manufacturers from one-fourth-inch to three-eights-inch strips, strengthened somewhat by a very thin strip placed edgewise on the underside as a comb guide; but such bars are much too light and will sag when filled with honey or with brood and honey..."--Frank Benton, The honey bee: a manual of instruction in apiculture pg 42

"Comb Guide.--Generally a wooden edge, or a strip of comb or fdn., in the top of a frame or box, on which comb is to be built...As the comb guide is 9-16, and the cut in the end bar 3/4, we have 3-16 left for whole wood in the top bar, as at A, and the table should be set, as to leave just this amount of wood uncut. Even if the fdn. is fastened in the frames with melted wax as many do, I would have such a comb guide, because it adds so much to the strength of the frame, and obviates the necessity of having a very heavy top bar. The bees will, in time, build their combs right over such a comb guide, and use the cells above the brood for honey."-- A.I. Root, ABC of Bee Culture 1879 edition pg 251
"A comb guide proper is a sharp edge or corner in the frame, from which the comb is to depend, the bees usually choosing to follow this edge, rather than diverge to an even surface; portions of comb are sometimes used for the same purpose."--J.S. Harbison, The bee-keeper's directory, footnote at the bottom of page 280 and 281
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Michael,

Thank you so much for your very complete and helpful answer.

I use the foundationless comb guides sold by Kelley's. The bees simply built everything perpendicular to the plane of the frames. They didn't seem to have any trouble hanging their comb onto the guides, 90 degrees rotated from the intended orientation.

The rain finally stopped yesterday and I took apart one of the hives to have a try at straightening out the comb. It was traumatic for me and more so for the bees. The packages were only installed about 12 days ago, but there was tons of comb, all fragile as snowflakes.

There were larvae in various stages, and some gorgeous perfect capped brood, and I was trying so hard to be careful but I was dropping bits of comb and larva all over the place. The bees were frantic and it was hard to see what I was doing through the mesh, with sticky fingers and thread and huge clouds of bees. I never did spot the queen, and I just hoped that I didn't lose her in the mayhem.

I did my best to tie the biggest comb pieces in to the comb guides, but I'm not sure how successful I was. I felt terrible causing so much destruction. I'm just going to leave the other hive as is, and then make sure the next boxes start off the right way.

So, I have a question:

I'm running all medium 8-frame boxes. I started off with two boxes for each hive when I installed the bees, because they were vigorous 4-lb packages and it seemed that one medium box would not provide enough space. The bees have built everything in the upper box. There is no comb in the lower box.

Bees like to expand upwards, right? Should I switch the top and bottom boxes, so that when they want to expand they'll have a box to move upward into? Or will that disorient them in some bad way?

At the rate they're building comb, they'll need more room fairly soon. And when they expand into the next box, I can check often and make sure the comb starts out right.

Thanks again so much for your help.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,711 Posts
"..all the comb is down in the hive boxes. And there's a lot of it.

But... it's not even CLOSE to being in frames... The bees are busily constructing turrets and tunnels and arches and labyrinths. The new comb is fragile, and no matter how delicately I try to handle everything, I can feel the chunks of comb break away as soon as I dislodge a frame. I stopped after the first couple of efforts."

"..and I was trying so hard to be careful but I was dropping bits of comb and larva all over the place. The bees were frantic and it was hard to see what I was doing through the mesh, with sticky fingers and thread and huge clouds of bees. I never did spot the queen, and I just hoped that I didn't lose her in the mayhem.

"I felt terrible causing so much destruction."-Betsy Sharp.


For some reason, even though I don't have my PC volume turned up, I can hear a lot of sordid snickering going on in the background on Beesource among,... experienced beekeepers! --Ob. :(.

"Turrets, tunnels, arches and labyrinths of the honeycomb may be fascinating, interesting and sometimes humorous to readers of your blog,.. but for the bees,...what do you think??
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,711 Posts
"..metal thing in the photo on top of the wood came in a fourth box. It’s a smoker, which is used to emit puffs of cool smoke so that you can open the hives safely once they’re full of bees. The smoke is said to “calm” the bees, but I’m not convinced."...."But I really hope to minimize my use of it."--http://www.bendingtreearts.com/blog/category/beekeeping/
"The bees were frantic and it was hard to see what I was doing through the mesh, with sticky fingers and thread and huge clouds of bees. I never did spot the queen, and I just hoped that I didn't lose her in the mayhem."-Betsy Sharp.

Somehow I see a disconnect, or a conflict of two ideas about beekeeping here. On the one hand, you see the use of smoking/smoker as an old fashioned method of beekeeping, used for over 100 years, that is really disruptive [that you perceive] and harmful to a colony of bees. A method used to enable the beekeeper [oldtime] to keep bees and harvest honey [make money] with no regard to the well being of the bees themselves.--Ob.

And now, as a completely new beekeeper without any experience with keeping bees, you have decided to use foundationless,...because you think it is better for them,...makes them 'happier bees',..more natural and organic?--Ob.

"Just some Advice for what it worth, please correct me if I am wrong? You said this is your first year?
Ok for starters can I ask why foundationless? I understand the all natrual Idea but I would just my humble opion. I would not do that my first year, granted people are going to come out of the burr comb for me saying this.--honeydreams.

Now that we have new beekeepers coming in to the fold, with all the concern about the plight of honey bees, there will be ocassions when experienced beekeepers will be asked for advice,. or be a mentor. I for one, will never ever recommend foundationless for a totally inexperienced newbies. I don't care how much they want to go organic, it would be a disservice to them and especially,..to the bees.

Would I give advice to someone with at least a year of experience keeping bees about using foundationless? YES of course [with starter strips]. Like many things in life itself, you must do/pass step #1 before you can proceed to step #2. It's a good thing you are asking for "free advice",..and not for financial support for your,.. 'mistakes', as we sometimes see in our personal lives.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,668 Posts
Oldbee, I consider myself an experienced beekeeper, and your posts seemed like incoherent babbling to me. I hope no one else allows themselves to get confused by whatever you were trying to say. There is enough misinformation out there that beginners don't need confused any worse.

Bees like to expand upwards, right? Should I switch the top and bottom boxes, so that when they want to expand they'll have a box to move upward into? Or will that disorient them in some bad way?

In a natural beehive, like a hollow tree, bees expand downwards. In a hive, bees expand upwards because beekeepers start the bees at the bottom and the bees have no direction to go but up. The bees will do fine with a box below them, or you can move the box above if you prefer. The bees can manage either way. Whichever you decide, I would recommend you place at least one frame with good comb in the empty box to get the bees started drawing the other combs in the right direction.

Comb guides are just our suggestion to the bees which way we want them to draw combs. You can do everything by the books, and you will find bees that don't read your books, and those bees do whatever they want. Don't let it get you discouraged that you had to fix combs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Countryboy: Thank you. Your advice and encouragement are welcome. I will make sure to put a good straight frame of comb in the new boxes.

I've taught myself how to do a lot of things over the years, and I've found that no matter how much research I do and how much I try to do everything right, nothing teaches me faster than making mistakes.
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
54,108 Posts
The main thing to keep in mind with foundationless is that one bad comb leads to another. So you need to check early for them to get off to a good start. If that first comb is sideways or in other ways wild (which it sometimes is but usually is not) then you need to get that comb in a frame (rubber bands) so that the rest will be straight. If you have an entire box of wild comb, then I would just add the next box below and keep an eye on it from the start. Once the comb in the wild comb box has gotten more firm, you (a few weeks) you can flip it upside down, cut around the edges and pull the box off. Then you can get to everything to start doing a cut out. The sooner you have them all in frames the better.

The main difference between foundation and foundationless isn't that they won't mess up foundation. They will. Often. But that you have a clean slate for each foundation to get them back in the right direction. Once you have only one comb and it is in the right direction they almost always build the rest paralell to that. With comb guides that is usually in line with the comb guide. But if not, you need to intervene early.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
206 Posts
I loved your description of the bees elaborate little empire =D you said your using thread to tie comb onto the frames? When I do a cut-out I just use elastic bands around the frame to hold the comb in place, much faster then thread, keep a pail of water at hand for de-guming your hands/gloves. Keep at it nothing teaches like practical experience.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
thank you, Michael Bush and Sam Smith for the good suggestions. Rubber bands...well... living on an island without stores or ferries means that sometimes you find yourself without the common bits of daily life. That's why I used thread. But after reading your posts, I wangled a few rubber bands from the school custodian.

Opening the hives today was a much more peaceful endeavour. Yes, the second hive is also building perpendicular comb in their first box, and there was too much of it for me to dislodge while it's new and fragile. So, I'll just leave that box wild for now, and then watch the next boxes really carefully, and I'll intervene immediately if I see any comb that's not where it should be. I'm armed with my rubber bands, now!

I suspect the perpendicular comb building is due to an utterly newbie mistake I made when I installed the bees: Since my woodenware supplier delayed my delivery of 8-frame size bottoms, and the bees were about to arrive, we made our own hive bottoms. And, never having examined a real bee hive close up, somehow I assumed that the entry should be in the 19 7/8 long side instead of the 13 3/4 short side. So essentially we made the entry 90 degrees removed from where it customarily belongs. I think the bees just accommodated my mistake.

I've since received and installed the proper hive components, rotating the hives so that the location of the entry has not changed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
206 Posts
Lol lots of things would be easier to do with three hands :) Betsy the orientation of hive entrance won't guarantee comb alignment. Bees from my experience will build comb in the most pragmatic configuration they can, they have at least two needs that I can identify, shelter and structure, if the hive space is to big they build to block drafts imho, structure comes mainly when they build honey comb they curve it a lot and curved comb is stronger. One thing you could try is cutting some cardboard division boards and (depending on the size of the colony) limit them to 3 frames in the center of the hive until they build some comb, board on ether side. Once they have some nice straight comb the rest should follow. Good luck, glad your going foundation-less :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Yes, I wondered about some kind of temporary comb-guides. The cardboard partitions sound like a good idea. I'll give the hives some days to be undisturbed, and then next time I open things up I'll consider the cardboard plan for the new boxes.

It's interesting: beginning beekeeping with foundationless hives is definitely more confusing initially, but it also seems to me the best possible way to learn about the nature of bees. In spite of the bumpy start, I'm more committed to foundationless beekeeping than ever!
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top