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After 40 years of successful beekeeping using vertical wired foundation, I decided to once again dabble in a technique suggested by this board's greatest Gurus - foundation-less. Dozens of newbees here have followed their suggestions and and will go foundation-less. Kelley is selling foundation-less frames. I better follow suit.
I caught a bait swarm that filled a deep box of drawn worker comb wall to wall, a wax drawing machine. I thought, they will only want to draw more worker comb so that they can guarantee a large future population, drone combs will come later. In the second brood chamber I spaced four of my first ever foundationless frames between worker cell foundation. Not only did the bees draw the foundationless out in flawless 100% drone comb, the queen laid in almost every single cell. Lets see, 16 drone cells per square inch, is that going to be about 18000 drones? I am in the business for honey production. Is 18000 drones really going to help me reach my goal?

 

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If one more "drone comb" is not wanted in the brood nest, simply take it out, now; let the brood die (easiest since they are still eggs), use it in the honey supers, let the bees try again. Drone comb works well in honey supers. You must have a good honey flow going on. My own honey flow is just now beginning to start. Foundationless has provided me with lots of nice drone comb, many of my best worker comb foundationless were built in 5-frame nucs.

And foundationless does not have to be wireless, it is even easier to wire foundationless, they don't have to be embedded into the foundation, the bees just incorporate them into the comb they build.
 

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According to Levin, C.G. and C.H. Collison. 1991. The production and distribution of drone comb and brood in honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies as affected by freedom in comb construction. BeeScience 1: 203-211 you will end up with the same number of drones no matter what you do. It's bee biology. They have a threshold of drones they want and they will find a way to get them.
 

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I think it's a little premature to call this movement a "hoax." One hive's results don't necessarily create a trend. Try it on ten hives (an arbitrary guesstimate) and see. I haven't had the problems you found and I was basically doing the same technique.

It reminds me of that old joke where the repeating set-up line was, "Nope. Tried it once. Didn't like it."

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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odfrank,

Regardless of how your foundationless experiment went (there are a multitude of reasons why it happened the way it did), I and many others believe that letting the bees build what they want with foundationless is in their best interests. The bees are not one bit concerned that we want maximum honey production out of them. What is more important to you?
 

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Going "foundationless" is an excellent idea, even though it is going back 150 years to the days before foundation was invented. However, I think it should be done with a complete understanding of bee behavior. Then it would work fine.

You have to understand the natural progression of comb building in a hive. When a swarm first moves into a cavity they build worker comb. The percentage of drone comb is zero. Gradually as the nest enlarges, they begin to build drone combs, mostly for honey storage. Drone combs are easier to build for them, use less wax and store more honey than worker comb. According to people who take wild hives apart, they usually have about 20 percent drone comb.

So, if you hive a swarm, you can probably get a box of worker comb out of them, and then they will switch over to building drone cells. You could just let them do it, what harm is there? If you don't want umpteen million drones, you merely have to insert a queen excluder, and confine her to the first box. Then they can build all the drone comb they want in the honey supers.

If you have an established colony, the task is a little more complicated. I would suggest the best plan is to do a shook swarm. By this method, you shake all the bees off the combs and take the combs away, so that they have to rebuild the entire nest. They behave pretty much the same as a normal swarm, building worker cells first until they feel like they have enough.

The alternate way is to insert empty frames into the brood nest. The bees will build worker or drone, depending. By the way, whoever said putting wires in was a good idea, that is right. Wire them up good and tight and the bees will include the wires in the comb. They should be every bit as good as ones with foundation, plus, all natural.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
> you will end up with the same number of drones no matter what you do.

BS...None of the foundation frames I have made in 40 years are 100% drone comb nor is the queen making that many drones. Just because you read it in a book or on the internet proves that it is true.

> The bees are not one bit concerned that we want maximum honey production out of them. What is more important to you?

I am not keeping bees to make the sex life of local virgin queens easier. They do just fine without 18000 extra drones. Making more honey is very important to me. Honey is money, duh.
 

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>Honey is money, duh.

Even if you are making a living keeping bees, a few thousand (18,000?) extra drones won't matter. How do you know that all those drones will reduce your honey crop more than, say, the weather, or your management, or even genetics, or etc. etc. Get the point?
 

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> a few thousand (18,000?) extra drones won't matter. How do you know that all those drones will reduce your honey crop more than, say, the weather, or your management, or even genetics, or etc. etc. Get the point?
Would any business, work force or lets say, army, of any kind, be as productive with a work force reduced by 20 -25 % ??? Regardless of weather, management or genetics?
 

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I really think you are missing the point odfrank, you cannot disregard those other more important factors that I listed, they have more impact on honey production than drone counts, unless of course you have a queen that lays only drones! I would focus my energy on things YOU CAN DO to up your honey production, and quit worrying about things you can't control.
 

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People are reexploring primitive beekeeping; foundationless, top bar hives, no medication, etcetera and they are so excited about it that they think it is better. It is not, unless you want tons of drones and combs that can't be transported or extracted. It's much cheaper to learn from others but more interesting to learn the hard way.
 

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I can control this problem - by continuing my use of worker foundation, which is one of the greatest factors of modern productive honey production.

I have no objections and only salute to those whose wish to go back to a more natural and pure type of beehive using no contaminated wax and letting the bees build comb naturally. None of these people should feel threatened by my opinions. I continue to test and compare organic theories against those with which I can produce a clean product in substantial and profitable quantities. For over six years I have tried small cell, housel positioning, unlimited brood chambers and now foundationless. I am not yet converted to any.
 

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> None of these people should feel threatened by my opinions.

Trust me, I don't.

If you feel that using worker cell imprinted foundation is getting you more honey production, then I would continue to use it too. No question, bees use more honey, nectar or sugar syrup to construct comb from scratch, instead of using foundation, and that would possibly take away from your ultimate honey crop, but just possibly, because other factors can limit honey production also that may be harder for you to put a number to.
 

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I caught a bait swarm that filled a deep box of drawn worker comb wall to wall, a wax drawing machine. I thought, they will only want to draw more worker comb so that they can guarantee a large future population, drone combs will come later.

Let me get this straight...

You thought you knew what the bees wanted. (to continue drawing worker comb.)
You thought the bees would draw drone combs later.

You gave the bees the choice to draw what they wanted, and the bees decided the later was right then.

You thought wrong, and now you are blaming the foundationless frames because the bees didn't do what you wanted them to do. I would surmise the bees decided the broodnest was large enough, and decided to draw honey storage cells, which are similar sized to drone cells. Since you placed these honey storage combs so close to the broodnest, the queen laid in them.

Instead of trying to force the bees to do what you want, try to work with the bees and let them do what they want.

Next time, put the foundationless frames in during broodnest expansion. Install foundationless frames in that first box the bait swarm draws out.

This morning I videotaped an inspection of 4 package hives that were started mostly on combs drawn in foundationless frames. Yes, there is some drone brood in the combs, but not on the scale you are seeing. As soon as I get the video edited and uploaded to YouTube, I will post it here so you can see what foundationless frames look like with worker brood.

I'm glad my bees didn't read the same directions yours did.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
>>Next time, put the foundationless frames in during broodnest expansion. Install foundationless frames in that first box the bait swarm draws out.

This was a week after the swarm moved in, isn't that a time of brood nest expansion?. This was the first box the swarm drew out. They did not make honey storage combs, they made drone cells for the queen to lay in. They were almost 100% filled with larvae, just a trace of honey.

>>Instead of trying to force the bees to do what you want, try to work with the bees and let them do what they want.

I didn't try to force them to do anything, I let them do exactly what they wanted. They did what they wanted, not what I wanted.
 

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This was a week after the swarm moved in, isn't that a time of brood nest expansion?

Bees don't go by a calendar. I think bees go more by broodnest volume. Once they feel their broodnest has an adequate volume of worker cells, then they start drawing honey storage and drone combs.

This was the first box the swarm drew out. They did not make honey storage combs, they made drone cells for the queen to lay in.

In your first post, you said the bees had already drawn out a deep box of worker comb wall to wall. and then you added a second box, with 4 foundationless frames and worker foundation.

I've seen feral colonies living successfully in cavities roughly the same volume as a deep box. That volume is adequate for broodnest, honey storage, etc. You gave your bees an even larger volume, but expected them to continue putting all their efforts into broodnest expansion.

Next time, put the foundationless frames in the center of the first box the bees draw out and see if they draw out drone comb or worker cells. ;)
 

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>BS...None of the foundation frames I have made in 40 years are 100% drone comb nor is the queen making that many drones. Just because you read it in a book or on the internet proves that it is true.

Certainly not. But the study agrees with my experience. The bees have a threshold of what they want for drone comb and for drones. They will work to meet those thresholds no matter what you do. Also I've seen Dr. Collisons presentation on that research. Even if I didn't already have that same observaion, his research is pretty convincing.
 

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My first season of going foundationless bees draw almost two supers of drone combs. Looked like they were pent-up and enjoyed sudden freedom. The queen laid a lot of drone combs but not all. Next seasons they were satisfied and built mostly nice worker combs. Lot of drone cells in brood chamber used for honey or even pollen. No problem with drone cells now.
What is a concern for me now is system of replacing old combs. Picking comb by comb is labor extensive and removing by supers may disrupt broodnest structure. Do you have any hints?
 

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I don't pull old comb. Other than getting the 5.4mm comb out and the contaminated comb out, I leave the rest. I think the issue of old comb when it comes to smaller cells is this: Grout says they will reach a threshold where they will chew out the old cocoons when the cell gets too small. This happens in a few generations in small cell. This almost never happens in large cell. So you have many layers of cocoons. That might be a problem. I don't know but theoretically that is a lot of places for foulbrood etc. to hide.
 
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