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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a firm believer in foundationless frames. I currently have about 30 hives, all foundationless, but my plan is to increase to 300 or so hives over the next couple years. Is there anyone out there who runs hundreds of hive foundationless, or is it not practical when going that big? I find foundationless to be somewhat labor intensive at first, because you have to stay after the bees to get the frames all drawn out straight on the center of the frames. For me this involves going into the hives frequently after adding new boxes, trimming comb, bending it into place here and there, and rotating undrawn frames in between already drawn frames, in short, its alot of work to get it drawn correctly. Once drawn properly, foundationless is just as good as comb built on foundation, actually its better, because you don't have all the chemicals in the wax. With a small number of hives, foundationless is really not too bad, but when I think about all the work in getting hundreds and hundreds of boxes of foundationless frames drawn out correctly, I really wonder if it is worth all the trouble. Any opinions on this? Thanks.
 

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Sure, any number is possible if you want to work at it that hard. Why are you so enamored w/ foundationless frames? Is it so the bees will build the right size cell?
 

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beekeeping is so local and personalized. While it might help to give you some 'pointers' in managing such a large number of hives, it's certainly not a pre-requisite for you trying it yourself.

Les Crowder manages a large number of top bar hives (foundationless)

dare to dream my friend, dare to dream.
 

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Possible - yes. Practical - Probably not for the reasons you named plus others. It would depend on what you plan to do. If you are going to put them in yards and leave them all year then I would say it wouldn't matter. If you are moving them to almonds or other pollination, winter yards, etc. you are going to need something with support because the moving of hives can jar them quite a bit.
 

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300 hives is just doing 30 hives ten times.

I believe Michael Bush runs about 200 hives that has a mix of foundationless and small cell frames.

I have found that my bees draw foundationless comb much straighter and a uniform thickness if I use 1 1/4 inch frames.

Installing wax foundation, wiring, embedding, etc can be labor intensive at first too.

There are two main ways of getting 300 hives. Build your numbers up over time, or buy hives. I doubt you will be able to buy 300 hives running foundationless frames anytime soon. You should be able to build up to that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My hives will stay in their yards, no moving for me. I have been thinking of compromising and using wired foundation for the honey supers so they can stand up to extracting a bit better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Countryboy, how do you get your 1 1/4" frames? One thing I noticed about doing foundationless on standard frames is that the bees start off building the combs on the centers of the frames, but as they move across the box drawing comb, they start to get further off center and cheat them closer to the 1 1/4" spacing they prefer. I wish some company would build frames that are on 1 1/4" centers with all the bee spaces being correct, that would make life easier.
 

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If foundationless is for chemical free wax, you may be disappointed. They are even finding chemicals in hives exclusively on organic farms. Silly bees go wherever they want to forage. There was a presentation or two at ABF in Orlando this year on chemicals in beeswax. Ozone is the only sure way to remove bad stuff from beeswax.
 

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Are you currently extracting from your 30 hives or do you do comb honey, crush and strain, etc? I personally have a less than satisfactory experience spinning out foundationless frames, although I love them otherwise. I think embossed plastic or good old wired foundation may be the best. Everybody wants to do the in-thing and go foundationless, or just do top-bars, but those recycled ideas were largely left behind by our predecessors for good reasons. For the backyard beekeeper, they are great, but to efficiently produce even a moderate amount of honey, they become impractical.
300 hives on foundationless frames would necessitate transport to process honey, no matter the method, and I don't believe foundationless would stand up. Unless, of course, you do all comb honey.
 

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actually, that's not correct entirely. you say they were left behind, and largely, that is true, but not because they were bad methods, more that everyone, as usual, jumped on the the new fad at the time, Lang style.

In some parts of the world, top bar hives never disappeared, stayed in use.

One need not be so judgmental to express their preference for using one style or methodology in comparison to others.

back to the question at hand, one of the biggest determining factors for you is the motive, what are you wanting from these hives? Are you in this for honey production? Or pollination service as someone else mentioned? If you really personally want to stick with foundationless, there are ways to do it, I'm sure, but there will be issues to be accounted for. travel is harder on foundationless frames.

If it's what you really want to do, just keep an open mind and handle the challenges as they come.

persistence pays. (so does patience, in the long run)

Big Bear
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Jeffrey, I have a couple top bar hives that I crush and strain, the rest of the hives are all medium depth boxes which I extract, but I will admit that the combs don't stand up to extracting as well as I would like, I don't wire them either, yet. What you say is correct about foundationless being an old concept, however, these ideas are coming back into use lately because people feel that it is better for the bees, not necessarily better for the beekeeper.
 

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Can you go to 300 foundationless? probably cheaper too, just work your way up to 300 from 30, just like you did from 3 to 30.
I have to disagree on the folks that keep saying foundationless is so fragile. I have been going foundationless for over 5 years now and the only time I have trouble with the comb is A) when it's brand new or B) if it's out of the hive for a while and gets dry or frozen. Full drawn deeps that are in the hive are solid enough to drive cross country and not have any problems. I haven't extracted foundationless yet (crush and strain), but I would expect that mediums that either have had a cycle of brood in them or a couple wires would hold up just fine. I think part of the problem is some folks might want to crank the extractor all the way up, well I've heard of even plastic foundation blowing out if you do that.

Rod
 

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I imagine that deeps are more troublesome for fragile comb then mediums, since the ratio of comb vs area of attachment is higher (on attachment side). I don't run langs myself, what if you use one or two frames with foundation to get them going in the right direction then remove those and replace with empty frames? I have read that 1-1/4 inch frames help as someone mentioned already, I think Mr. bush or was it Bwrangler guy.. planes the bee space standoffs down on each frame to match 1-1/4" You could also setup a table saw for this and rip a lot of em down FAST, you would have to setup the saw for each side of course but if your talking about 300+ frames. Anything is possible!
 

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>Is there anyone out there who runs hundreds of hive foundationless

About 200, yes.

> or is it not practical when going that big? I find foundationless to be somewhat labor intensive at first, because you have to stay after the bees to get the frames all drawn out straight on the center of the frames.

Seems to me it's a lot less work. I don't have to put in foundation, wire, it etc... but then I don't worry too much if they are off a bit, as long as they are in the frame. And if on occasion I end up with a mess up box, I pull it when it's empty and rework it. But that's rare enough to still be less work than putting in foudation...

> For me this involves going into the hives frequently after adding new boxes, trimming comb, bending it into place here and there, and rotating undrawn frames in between already drawn frames, in short, its alot of work to get it drawn correctly.

Ah, but once they are drawn...

> Once drawn properly, foundationless is just as good as comb built on foundation, actually its better, because you don't have all the chemicals in the wax. With a small number of hives, foundationless is really not too bad, but when I think about all the work in getting hundreds and hundreds of boxes of foundationless frames drawn out correctly, I really wonder if it is worth all the trouble.

What trouble?
 

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Countryboy, how do you get your 1 1/4" frames?

Tablesaws are wonderful things. They work great to trim endbars.

I wish some company would build frames that are on 1 1/4" centers with all the bee spaces being correct, that would make life easier.

Check the For Sale forum section. I believe Gene Weitzel is selling 1 1/4 frames.
 

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Bigbear, I think you misinterpreted my post. As I said, I love foundationless. I just said it is not the most efficient way to run 300 hives if you are going to extract. Why do I love foundationless? 1) It, like me, is cheap, 2) It is easy to start, 3) Bees seem to like it the best, 4) It is about as all-natural as can be. What do I dislike about it? One thing only: it lacks strength during handling and extraction.

Other areas of the world use top bars by necessity, not having the cash to purchase factory-made equipment. Langs are not a "fad" but a well-thought out evolution that has proven itself over the years to be the best all-around system. Making judgments about efficiency and functionality is not judgmental in the sense you speak of.
My experience with extracting foundationless has been that I have to spend a lot more time SLOWLY cranking up the radial extractor to a high enough speed to get most of the honey out but still having maybe 10% of the frames blow out, even with older combs. More time spent cleaning up the mess plus the loss of drawn comb just is not worth the headache to me.
I think Joseph C. is on the right track by wiring the frames prior to letting the bees fill them with comb. Alternatively, I have been toying with some type of mesh cage or wrap the could be easily placed around a frame after uncapping it and before placing it in the extractor. Someone smarter than me can probably come up with a built-in feature on a radial extractor for those of us who would prefer to use foundationless.
 

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jeffrey, no prob, everyone has an opinion, you have yours and I have mine, they don't have to agree, that's what makes it great.

Ultimately, only the person working the said hives will determine what is 'worth' the 'work' they put in and that will be their opinion.

Big Bear
 

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If foundationless is a little extra work, it's worth it, just to get the bees to draw it out quicker. When I place foundationless beside foundation they go right to work in the foundationless, but seem to dread the foundation. I would think that this difference would be very important for someone with lots of hives. I use a small starter strip of foundation across the top of every Kelley wedge-top frame. I have never had to correct a frame yet.
 
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