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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Often people ask whether it's possible to get combs drawn at any time, rather than when the bees want to - and they're usually told that this isn't possible. Well - I'm currently working on a system for doing just that.

Last Wednesday I checked the appropriate experimental hive and was greeted by slabs of 'wall-to-wall' brood, and now wish I'd taken some photographs right then - but I didn't. So today (Monday) I went back to that hive, armed with a camera - but during the last few days a sizeable chunk of those bees has emerged ... but I took a photo of them anyway. :)



These were bare frames just 3 weeks ago, and as you can see, 100% worker comb has been drawn, which of course is very important to me as a foundationless beekeeper.

I now need to develop a continuous 'conveyor belt' type of system, where bare frames are introduced (say) every four or five days at one end, with 19-day old brood being removed ready for insertion into nucs at the other. So - there's still quite a lot to do before going public, but thought some of you might be interested to see what this old fart gets up to while the rest of you guys go off to work each day. :)

LJ
 

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Often people ask whether it's possible to get combs drawn at any time, rather than when the bees want to - and they're usually told that this isn't possible. Well - I'm currently working on a system for doing just that.
.......

LJ
LJ, I am all ears.

Of course, this is local season dependent and at least natural pollen intake is required.
But I am pretty sure IF I feed my small 3-4 frame startups now, they will draw comb (to the queens have space to lay).
The stronger startups draw on their own I see.
The weaker startups need sustained artificial flow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi guys - there's not really a whole lot I can say about this method at the moment, partly because it's very much a work-in-progress, but also because I'm not entirely sure why things are happening as they are.

Greg's quite right to say that if his nucs are fed, then they'll draw-out comb - but what I'm trying to achieve here is: a) to be able to get 100% worker comb drawn at more-or-less any time of the year (temperature-dependent, of course), b) to provide nucs with pre-drawn comb (and brood whenever needed), to give them the best possible start in life, and c) to create a small stockpile of pre-drawn foundationless 100% worker comb.

At the risk of stating the obvious - it's impossible to 'commmand' the bees to do anything - some form of inducement or coercion is necessary. In this particular case, it appears that I've tricked the bees into thinking that they are very short of worker bees - even though they're not. This can be seen in the above photographs, where every last square inch of comb is being used to raise worker brood. No longer do we see the classic oval brood pattern, with a crescent of pollen over, and stores above that. It appears that there is a definite perception of a pressing need for workers, and so the bees have duly drawn 'wall-to-wall' worker cells and the queen has laid them up accordingly.

Then, when they've generated a comb with a solid slab of worker brood, that comb is mysteriously spirited away, and so they have to start work on drawing-out comb on yet another bare frame ...

What I want is to obtain supplies of 100% drawn worker comb (brood being a bonus). What the bees want (it would appear) is workers - lots of them - and drawing worker comb is the only method they have of achieving this. That's their inducement to draw comb.

It's early days yet, of course - the rig was only set-up in mid-season, so I don't know yet how early it can be started, or for how long it will run. I'm reasonably confident it'll still be running at the end of September - but I intend to keep it going as long as possible.

At the moment I'm leaving one comb in four to keep the numbers up - but that's pure guesswork.

'Watch this Space' :)
LJ
 

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Very interesting... Hopefully the mystery unravels sooner than later.

I have checkered sheets and sheets of foundation into the brood nest late in the flow or as it wraps up and most often they get ignored.
 

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The part about getting comb drawn and layed up right into the corners is something I seldom see. I can accomplish it with foundationless drone but not strictly worker cells.

Old timer mentioned contriving to get large numbers of combs laid up by drone layer queen or laying workers and then when they were added to a queenright colony the bees would strongly shun the drawing of any further drone cells.

You better not jus' be funnin' us LJ!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You better not jus' be funnin' us LJ!

What a tease, yet I am listening. J
Not at all - but my post was only meant to be 'a bit of chat' about what I'm working on right now - more for general interest really, rather than presenting some kind of guaranteed 'blueprint' - as I'm still trying to figure out the exact underlying reasons behind what's occurring.

The other thing I want to stress is that I didn't figure out some sort of 'system' beforehand - what has resulted has come about largely by accident. All I've really done is to develop in a step-wise fashion what I've seen happening in front of me.

Perhaps if I give you guys some 'history' of events during this year ... ?


This Spring many of my colonies came out of Winter on the small size. So rather than set-up a Michael Palmer-style 'Brood Factory' using full-sized boxes, I set-up one using 5-frame nuc-boxes instead, 3 boxes high. Now 15 deep frames may not sound much to some of you guys, but for us over here that's a fairly big colony (and one which should normally produce plenty of drones).

To begin with, and for many of the weeks to come, my only aim was to produce brood - but - as a flow started there began to develop some competition for comb use, which resulted in 'mixed-content' combs - containing some stores, some brood etc. And so I took to sorting through the 3 boxes, and pulling out only those which were useful. So as not to 'export' the queen by mistake, when I found the frame she was walking around on, I placed that frame in a frame-holder which I then placed on top of the next-door hive - a Cloake Board stack.
Much to my horror, the queen promptly flew off that comb - not 'up into the sky' type of flying, but more of a glide downwards into the long grass. I won't describe either my reaction or language, but suffice it to say that I instantly abandoned the frame-sort.

Two days later I inspected that colony to check for emergency q/cells, only to find the queen happily sauntering about, as if nothing untoward had occurred - and so I simply carried on with what I had been doing before ... only for exactly the same thing to happen again. And yes, the very next day she was back.

Not wishing to chance my luck a third time, I decided to confine the queen in the bottom box, underneath a Queen Excluder - that way I could sort though the two top boxes without any concern, and when checking the bottom box I could return her frame quickly, and only transfer other frames up above the QX. It seemed like a good plan, and indeed this did work ok. Again - up until this time, the only objective was obtaining frames of brood on pre-drawn combs. Moving brood up above a QX did carry a risk of generating q/cells, but by luck none were ever started there.

Eventually I began to run out of pre-drawn combs and so started looking around for any 'odds and sods' that could be given to the bottom box. I had several wax-moth damaged combs which were badly holed, and so I gave those - which were quickly repaired and laid-up in. Purely on a whim, I then cut-away the drone cells on some 50/50 combs (half worker, half drone) and tried those. These were then 'repaired', but now with 100% worker cells.

The next step was to try some old frames which had been stripped of their combs, but still had wax 'footprints' all around them - BINGO - 100% worker cells again. And so that is how this 'method' (if indeed it can be called that) started.

There are lots of details which may or may not be relevant: the type of entrance (bottom, warm way) and the comb in Slot 1 may possibly be important, for example - because although there appears to be a pressing need for cells in which to lay, the first comb only contains pollen and some nectar, nothing more - so this comb appears to be treated differently to any other. When I first started working on this idea of drawing comb 'on demand', I set up the bottom box with the bare frame to be drawn in Slot 2, a stores comb in Slot 3, and dummies in Slots 4 and 5 - thinking that maybe a source of carbohydrate close by was important - but not so - the stores were promptly relocated above the QX, and that comb duly laid-up. So that's one thing I misjudged. Another was the presence of dummies - I thought I might need to 'force' the colony to draw-out one particular comb by eliminating choice - but this has not been necessary. There's still a helluva lot to learn about how to optimise this, and also discover it's limits. Not a single drone cell at the time of writing, but that's not to say it couldn't happen.

So hopefully you will begin to appreciate that my post wasn't intended either to tease or fool anybody - it was just intended as a small window into the kind of thing I do at this experimental apiary - I'm not into producing honey (can't anyway) and sales of bees only just about cover the sugar bill.

Hopefully I'll have more information in the weeks to come - I'm about to set up a second 15-frame stack, as I reckon this comb-drawing is something well-worth pursuing.
'best
LJ
 

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John,

Thanks for your today's post. I find what you are doing very interesting and may also play with the concept next year. I commonly use 5/5/5 Nuc's too.
Keep us all posted as you assess your progress.

Cheers,
Steve
 

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Tall narrow stacks with young queens do seem to produce less drone brood. The double side by side 4 frame boxes a la M. Palmer really ramped up quickly. Was just starting to play with that when EFB changed all plans.

Perhaps confining the queen in limited space beneath excluder and providing foundation only or foundationless frames induces the bees to concentrate on drawing worker comb. A bit like bottom box in Snelgrove setup.

It would be worth following up methodically on the concept to see if it could be made predictable. Sure would be nice to have a few such hives cranking out nice drawn comb.

I wonder if the warm way entrance frame arrangement is crucial?

Keep us informed!
 

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I wonder if the main driver here is restricting the queen to just 5 frames. The young queen is laying lots of eggs or needs to... Worker bees from 3 boxes feel compelled to draw the combs for the queen to lay her eggs in...

Just thinking aloud... Know Nothing... :kn:
 

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3/7 timing boxes tend not draw drone were as a single often will
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I wonder if the main driver here is restricting the queen to just 5 frames. The young queen is laying lots of eggs or needs to... Worker bees from 3 boxes feel compelled to draw the combs for the queen to lay her eggs in...
That's my guess too. I've had zero luck in finding out exactly how bees decide to draw drone comb - most sources say "when there is enough worker comb" - but they don't say how this 'enough' is being detected. At the moment I'm guessing that the QX above a 5-frame box somehow creates an illusion within that box of a small nucleus colony for whoever/whatever makes the 'worker OR drone-cell' decision.

Just thinking aloud... Know Nothing... :kn:
Join the club ... :)
One of the many things I'll now be trying is to increase the number of combs in (what I believe to be) the 'decision-making area' by use of a double 8-frame stack - and see what then results.

Overall, I'll be trying to make this method NOT work, so that by doing this I can then hopefully identify what is and what isn't relevant. Looks like plenty of fun and games lie ahead. :)
LJ
 
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