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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After 8 years of using foundationless frames, I find that my frames are about one-third to one-half drone cells. The drone populations are very large.
I have been removing and melting comb to try to reduce the number of drone cells. The bees don't seem to be getting the message.
This is not a situation isolated to a few colonies. It is the exception when a colony does not have huge drone populations and lots of drone comb.
Given new frames with a wedge starter strip, the bees will draw a large number of drone cells on the frame even though the colony has large amounts of drone comb and drones. They also draw drone cells in the honey supers.
Is this a seasonal impulse by the bees? Do they want to draw drone comb in preference to worker comb during the swarm season?
The large amounts of drone comb interfere with efforts to form mating nucs.
It also appears that the huge drone populations are taking a toll on the honey crop.
I have started using frames with a strip of wax worker foundation to see if this will encourage them to draw more worker comb.
Any thoughts on this?
Thanks.
 

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Me too!

This year is the first year I have been inserting foundationless frames into the brood nest. It seemed like a great way to expand the brood nest without splitting the cluster, plus I like the idea of all fresh wax for the comb.

However, almost 100% of each foundationless frame I have inserted has been built out as drone comb. My hives now have huge drone populations! It looks like half the bees in each hive are drones. And right at the beginning of our main flow. This happened with all 4 of the hive I used this method on. The type of starter strip seemed to have no impact, since I used worker starter strip or a strip of plain wood.

Maybe this method works well for others. Maybe it is only a seasonal thing. Maybe I didn't do it right. I understand the bees need to maintain a certain ratio of workers to drones. But, a work force of 50% drones for the main flow is not what I want to see.

Going forward, I will stick with regular ol' frames with foundation.
 

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Have you tried making nucs set up to raise their own queens? I have friend who used to cut drone comb out of frames of drawn comb and then put those frames w/ holes in the comb into nucs made up to raise their own queen. The bees usually made worker brood comb in those holes. Try it.
 

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Last year was my first year going totally foundationless. My reasons for the change was the apparent hesitance of the bees to draw on plastic foundation the two years prior. I was surprised how much drone comb was created in the spring too. But a month later everything went back to what I expected. In fact, all of the hives I had last year just took off and it was much better than I remembered from using plastic foundation. My point of view on this is as follows: The bees know what to do and they have been doing it far longer than humans have existed. In spring, queens need to mate and every hive works towards that goal by making plenty of potential mates for them (if possible). After the drones are hatched, the hive will go back to making workers. I believe my job as a beekeeper is to be a good manager. Give the bees what they need to thrive and they will reward me with good queens and plenty of honey. They need to create a lot of drones in the spring, who am I to deny them their genetic requirements and instincts?
 

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In spring, queens need to mate and every hive works towards that goal by making plenty of potential mates for them (if possible). After the drones are hatched, the hive will go back to making workers. I believe my job as a beekeeper is to be a good manager. Give the bees what they need to thrive and they will reward me with good queens and plenty of honey. They need to create a lot of drones in the spring, who am I to deny them their genetic requirements and instincts?
That strategy may fit with your goals and philosophy, and work in your location, but, here in Denver we get one main flow in the spring, and then not much else most years. Plus, while the bees' instinct to propagate their DNA is certainly an understandable goal for them, I am interested in getting a good honey crop, and the drones have no interest in helping in that regard.

My plan is to use the drone comb to trap varroa mites, and then replace it with foundation. It will take longer for the bees to build out comb on foundation, but, eventually I will have enough drawn comb where it will no longer matter.
 

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I just staggered foundationless in 2 hives that seemed reluctant to draw on duragilt. I will let you know the results, I dont care about the honey I care about growing my hive count, so drones wont bother me at this stage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Michael Bush:
Sqkcrk suggested I trying cutting out the drone cells and let the bees redraw the holes. Do you think that would work?
Thanks
 

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Personally I will not try any more foundationless frames. I put several in hives this year and got nothing but drone filled comb. I know timing, season etc are to blame but, for me, it isn't worth the savings.
I was looking forward to not having to stuff frames with foundation. This is one of my least favorite jobs.
 

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My season here is too short to wait for later in the summer. There sure is no difficulty in getting entire frames of drone drawn but foundationless worker cell frames are a high percentage of drone cells even when placed in the brood center in colonies with 2 entire frames of drone brood. When drone cells project out they get into the space of the neighbor frame and often the bees draw short cells there and fill only with pollen. Makes pulling frames difficult and all the irregular comb surface makes difficulty checking for queen cells or even finding the queen. Maybe warmer climate gives the bees different ways of spring buildup.

Here I find the brood nest with often irregular boundaries and the advice to draw new worker comb between two smoothly capped frames is a hard place to find! I did come across an interesting idea to get comb drawn in or around the edge of the brood nest without creating a barrier that could isolate parts of it. Irregular comb greatly reduces the ease of swapping frames around within a hive or hive to hive. I will try later in the season to see if the bees will draw out reasonably uniform foundationless worker comb.

From Dave Cushmans site http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/applecorer.html I have tried this trck and the holes get patched perfectly to worker pattern and the bees go at it quicker than an unaltered sheet of waxed foundation. That trick is a keeper.
 

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>"My point of view on this is as follows: The bees know what to do and they have been doing it far longer than humans have existed."

If the ranches supplying Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken followed what chickens and cows did before humans existed, neither of them would exist. Modern agriculture has little to do with the way it was before humans existed. Our over population exists because humans invented modern agriculture.

All worker foundation is the core of modern apiculture that makes modern beehives highly productive. An unnaturally high population of workers VS a low population of drones is is the core of modern apiculture that makes modern beehives highly productive.

This year I had two big swarms swarm again five weeks after they first swarmed. Both were Warre hives with huge drone populations and no all worker foundation. Natural comb beekeeping is a different animal from foundation comb beekeeping.
If low and high production is not an issue with you foundationless is fine. If you want to make a lot of honey or worker bees for queen rearing or package bees sales, you should use foundation.
 

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I can't speak to the issue of honey production on foundationless, since I'm a beginner who isn't very interested in honey. But you can sure make a lot of bees on foundationless, and most of mine are workers. In fact, I had a long hive completely full of bees. There were so many bees it was literally scary-- 30 full frames, most with brood. Yesterday I broke that hive up into 6 five-frame nucs.

So far my biggest problem has been too many bees. I can't seem to kill 'em off.
 

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I too have seen alot of drone brood on Foundationless frames this spring, but not too much to make me stop until i give it a full season. Im getting more drones but plenty of workers as far as I can tell. Plus the wax is drawn twice as fast at least. The bees in the trees dont have foundation, and have been making honey for a million years. Im not trying to make a living selling honey, so I will let em do their thing. G:popcorn:
 

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From Dave Cushmans site http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/applecorer.html I have tried this trck and the holes get patched perfectly to worker pattern and the bees go at it quicker than an unaltered sheet of waxed foundation. That trick is a keeper.
Thanks for calling this interesting idea to our attention. I will give it a try using a spade bit on plastic foundation and see what happens.
 

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I've started removing my foundationless frames as well. Hives have way too many drones in them now and not enough nectar coming in to backfill it to stop the queen from laying them up every chance she gets. I found full frames of drone brood in the foundationless frames that got drawn last year in January since it was unusually warm for us already. I've always had the notion that bees don't like solid frames (i.e plastic) because they can't create paths through them, they always gotta go the long way around......
 

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How odd. I switched last year (my second year) to all foundationless, all at once, I didn't try to "transition" - and I have no more drone comb than I had before. I don't know if that is why, like I said, I just put all foundationless frames in and let them draw it how they wanted. Haven't noticed any more now than before.

I wonder why some people have such a problem with this?
 

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There must've been something on a larger scale that the bees are responding to, since people all over are reporting unusually large drone populations this spring (myself included.) By way of analogy, some years are heavy mast years for trees over a large region, and some years are light (mast = acorns, beech nuts, etc.) The bees know what they are doing and maybe we just have to ride with it for the season and not see it as a problem. Forces of nature...
 

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Thanks for calling this interesting idea to our attention. I will give it a try using a spade bit on plastic foundation and see what happens.
Haven't tried it on plastic; a forstner style would make a smoother hole perhaps. Those spade bits can be wild!

Frank
 

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There must've been something on a larger scale that the bees are responding to, since people all over are reporting unusually large drone populations this spring (myself included.) By way of analogy, some years are heavy mast years for trees over a large region, and some years are light (mast = acorns, beech nuts, etc.) The bees know what they are doing and maybe we just have to ride with it for the season and not see it as a problem. Forces of nature...
I think you hit the nail on the head. Nature has a way of responding to unusual weather patterns, plant or animal, they tend to skew towards more reproduction to insure species survival. Fir trees throw twice as many cone the year after a very dry year, acorns as you mentioned, I see far more deer twins in years following a hard winter... Etc.

We had a long tough winter, lots of bee losses everywhere, I'll bet they are naturally swarmier and thus trying to raise lots of drones to insure high probability of mating success.
 
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