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For those of you who use foundationless frames, how do you extract your honey? The drawn out foundation appears to be uneven with highs & lows... Do you use the crush & extract method or do you decap with a knife & extract? .....or maybe use the scratchers to decap? Will the foundationless frames withstand the spin of the extractors?

I'm considering going foundationless in my honey supers in the near future.
 

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For those of you who use foundationless frames, how do you extract your honey? The drawn out foundation appears to be uneven with highs & lows... Do you use the crush & extract method or do you decap with a knife & extract? .....or maybe use the scratchers to decap? Will the foundationless frames withstand the spin of the extractors?

I'm considering going foundationless in my honey supers in the near future.
I used to crush and strain but haven't done so in a while. Nowadays, some frames I'll use for cut comb and some I'll extract. As long as the comb is attached on 3 sides, it seems to hold up to extraction. I mainly use medium frames for honey, but have extracted deeps in the past. Comb attachment and speed of extraction are key. Start out slowly and evenly speed up the extraction. And even that won't guarantee that comb won't break off. I've been foundationless for 4 seasons now and only had 3 frames blow out during extraction in that time. It was the first year of foundationless extraction and I went to fast with hand crank.
Uncapping is the same as with other frames. Use a knive where you can and scratcher where you have to.
 

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I'm pretty much like Marcin. I decap with a knife where I can and scratch where I can't.

I lined the face of my homemade extractor with chicken wire. Even comb that's only attached at the top can be extracted if I go slow and swap sides partway thru.
Sometimes I'll have a pretty good imprint of the chicken wire in the face of new white comb.
 

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>For those of you who use foundationless frames, how do you extract your honey?

The same way I extract any comb...

>The drawn out foundation appears to be uneven with highs & lows...

All honey comb is uneven with highs and lows, with or without foundation.

> Do you use the crush & extract method or do you decap with a knife & extract?

I sort as I go. Soft new wax gets cut for comb honey. Older yellow wax gets extracted. Messed up comb gets crushed and strained. I use a hot knife to uncap... I've been thinking about getting an uncapping plane...

> .....or maybe use the scratchers to decap? Will the foundationless frames withstand the spin of the extractors?

They withstand it the same as wax foundation, which is new white comb doesn't do so well. You should always be gentle (with or without foundation).

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

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If I were to extract foundationless frames by spinning it would be in a radial extractor that you can control the speed. I would make a "U" shape screen (1/8 mesh would be handy for beekeepers) and slip it over each frame and if it were a little long you could rubber band the open end at the bottom of the frame. Screening is usually shipped in a roll so it will have a natural curl that you would want to press against the comb in the center of the frame so keep that in mind when you bend the "U".
 

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With the crush and strain method doesn't it take longer for the bees the following year to draw out all that wax again and then fill it. I was under the impression if you used plastic or wax foundation and then extracted from it and put it back into the hive the bees can fill it again really quickly rather than having to draw out all new wax again. What are your thoughts on this? I am torn between the two methods.
 

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Crush and Strain *might* work in temperate eastern states with extended nectar flows. In Mediterranean California, the spring superabundance is replaced by a crushing summer dearth. You take the honey off in May or June, and the hives run on vapors all summer. There is no flow (except in exceptional years) for the bees to replace their once-per-year wax.
 

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>With the crush and strain method doesn't it take longer for the bees the following year to draw out all that wax again and then fill it.

Of course.

> I was under the impression if you used plastic or wax foundation and then extracted from it and put it back into the hive the bees can fill it again really quickly rather than having to draw out all new wax again. What are your thoughts on this?

It's about time. When the flow hits and there is no drawn comb they spend the first part of the flow drawing comb. When the flow hits and there is drawn comb, they just fill it. This will naturally make more honey.

>I am torn between the two methods.

The real issue is the costs of the extractor and other equipment plus the costs of storing the drawn comb vs the increase in production.

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

"A comb honey beekeeper really needs, in addition to his bees and the usual apiary equipment and tools, only one other thing, and that is a pocket knife. The day you go into producing extracted honey, on the other hand, you must begin to think not only of an extractor, which is a costly machine used only a relatively minute part of the year, but also of uncapping equipment, strainers, settling tanks, wax melters, bottle filling equipment, pails and utensils galore and endless things. Besides this you must have a place to store supers of combs, subject to damage by moths and rodents and, given the nature of beeswax, very subject to destruction by fire. And still more: You must begin to think in terms of a whole new building, namely, a honey house, suitably constructed, supplied with power, and equipped....

"All this seems obvious enough, and yet time after time I have seen novice beekeepers, as soon as they had built their apiaries up to a half dozen or so hives, begin to look around for an extractor. It is as if one were to establish a small garden by the kitchen door, and then at once begin looking for a tractor to till it with. Unless then, you have, or plan eventually to have, perhaps fifty or more colonies of bees, you should try to resist looking in bee catalogs at the extractors and other enchanting and tempting tools that are offered and instead look with renewed fondness at your little pocket knife, so symbolic of the simplicity that is the mark of every truly good life."--Richard Taylor, The Comb Honey Book

"The opinion of experts once was that the production of beeswax in a colony required great quantities of nectar which, since it was turned into wax, would never be turned into honey. Until quite recently it was thought that bees could store seven pounds of honey for every pound of beeswax that they needed to manufacture for the construction of their combs--a figure which seems never to have been given any scientific basis, and which is in any case quite certainly wrong. The widespread view that if the combs were used over and over, through the use of the honey extractor, then the bees would be saved the trouble of building them and could convert the nectar thus saved into honey, was only minimally correct. A strong colony of bees will make almost as much comb honey as extracted honey on a strong honey flow. The advantage of the extractor, in increasing harvests, is that honey stored from minor flows, or gathered by the bees over many weeks of the summer, can easily be extracted, but comb honey cannot be easily produced under those conditions."--Richard Taylor, The Comb Honey Book
 

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Michael-I don't know how much of the last paragraph I can go with. I also can't argue these claims so I'm only able to offer an opinion on the advantage of extracting and reusing comb. We all should agree that it takes a good and fairly prolonged flow to kick bees into drawing comb. This is assuming no feeding. So we get into a flow and the bees spend time drawing comb or storing nectar. My inclination is that I'd rather they store nectar and not have to build comb. My other inclination is that the whole pound of wax costs 7 pounds of honey premise is perhaps correct HOWEVER people need to know that a frame of new wax that the bees draw out from nothing weighs about as much as a feather. When they build it on foundation it weighs a whole lot more. I use foundation (thin "surplus" or comb type) because I feel that the cell size, once drawn, is not appealing to the queen for laying in and acts as a sort of queen excluder. I would suggest that foundation saves a very small percentage of wax because the bees draw comb with a slight curve where the walls and cell bases meet and one side of the comb is offset from the other so cells do not line up which adds strength to the comb. In other words if one could remove the foundation from the comb once it is drawn out the comb would look the same other than tiny holes where the foundation was. From and extraction standpoint I'd suggest newly drawn foundation is only slightly better than naturally drawn comb from a durability standpoint after the initial season that it's drawn. Subsequent season make the foundation comb more durable and the comb that's drawn every year will always be touchy to extract. Needless to say crushing and straining is more time consuming than an extractor. a lot depends on the type of extractor of course and the proficiency in uncapping. I use a cold serrated knife and have found it easier and faster than a hot knife that I once used. It is a little dangerous though because it is super sharp so fishing a finger tip out of the capping tank would put a large dent in the time saving column. Not that I've ever cut myself uncapping honey of course :)
 
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