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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm hoping Michael Bush or anyone else who is foundation-less can chime in here.

I'm wanting to switch to foundation-less in my brood chambers. From what I've read, the preferred end bar width is 1-1/4". I currently make end bars at 1-3/8" and those are in the hives now. When I make the switch, how much trouble will it be leaving the wider frames in the hive and placing the narrower frames between them gradually until I transition out all of the foundation?

Also, since these are brood only, and will never see an extractor, are dowels or wires required or recommended?
 

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Here are pictures (https://imgur.com/user/viesest) of my foundation less ... well not just frames but complete hive. The key point of that hive, why it is different from standard hive are smaller frames. When frames are shorter it is less likely that the bees will build combs across to another frame. Also smaller frames are with no wiring and despite of that no problem with extraction of honey.

My savings are not in making hives, but in not buying foundations (for example the price for wax foundations for standard LR hive is almost as price of hive).
 

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I'm hoping Michael Bush or anyone else who is foundation-less can chime in here.

I'm wanting to switch to foundation-less in my brood chambers. From what I've read, the preferred end bar width is 1-1/4". I currently make end bars at 1-3/8" and those are in the hives now. When I make the switch, how much trouble will it be leaving the wider frames in the hive and placing the narrower frames between them gradually until I transition out all of the foundation?

Also, since these are brood only, and will never see an extractor, are dowels or wires required or recommended?
Keep in mind that if you narrow the shoulders of the sidebars without also narrowing the top bar, you encroach on bee space between top bars. It does increase bridging. Fusion_power has an excellent post on relationships and dimensions for 1 1/4" spaced frames. Also the increase need for them being perfectly square and no twist. The narrow frame spacing had advantage in early spring build up but also advances swarm season. Swarm cells that do get built on narrow spaced frames create problems with projection and interlock with adjacent frames comb. If you have to move frames around, then they may require being spaced to accommodate.

People fall in love with some intriguing ideas and can be very creative at building justification for them. Often their day in day out implementation does not support the honeymoon glow.

I made a run of dedicated narrow frames but now the ones I make will interchange with Mann Lakes top or side bars. You can fiddle around with makeing the top bars undersides different to encourage centered comb construction but it is so easy to have available strips than can be glued into the grooves in seconds. Still has options of using snap in plastic foundation full or partial sheets. That is a good way of getting foundationless drawn out flat and plumb.

There will be no problem inter spacing the wider sidebars with the narrower ones.
 

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I make those frames which will never leave the apiary from 5 pieces of 25mm x 10mm batten, and simply insert small woodscrews to achieve inter-frame spacing. The advantages of woodscrews are: frames can be precisely adjusted to whatever spacing the bees are happiest with, and by eliminating the Hoffman contact areas, propolis build-up is no longer a problem. If the screws are positioned appropriately, these frames can co-exist with commercial Hoffman-style frames.
LJ
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Keep in mind that if you narrow the shoulders of the sidebars without also narrowing the top bar, you encroach on bee space between top bars. It does increase bridging. Fusion_power has an excellent post on relationships and dimensions for 1 1/4" spaced frames. Also the increase need for them being perfectly square and no twist. The narrow frame spacing had advantage in early spring build up but also advances swarm season. Swarm cells that do get built on narrow spaced frames create problems with projection and interlock with adjacent frames comb. If you have to move frames around, then they may require being spaced to accommodate.

People fall in love with some intriguing ideas and can be very creative at building justification for them. Often their day in day out implementation does not support the honeymoon glow.

I made a run of dedicated narrow frames but now the ones I make will interchange with Mann Lakes top or side bars. You can fiddle around with makeing the top bars undersides different to encourage centered comb construction but it is so easy to have available strips than can be glued into the grooves in seconds. Still has options of using snap in plastic foundation full or partial sheets. That is a good way of getting foundationless drawn out flat and plumb.

There will be no problem inter spacing the wider sidebars with the narrower ones.
I was under the impression that when going foundationless in the brood chambers, reducing the frame centers was almost a requirement. So you're saying standard spacing is OK?
 

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Standard spacing is working well for me. Mann Lake groove top/groove bottom frames with holes. Add a waxed starter strip and some supports, wire or fishing line, and you're done.
 

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I was under the impression that when going foundationless in the brood chambers, reducing the frame centers was almost a requirement. So you're saying standard spacing is OK?
No requirement to go 1 1/4" spacing just because the comb will be foundationless. Some hive designs in fact were set up for 1 1/2" spacing and apparently worked fine. Search up what Fusion_power explains is benefit of narrow spacing as well as the needed attention to detail to make it work. I think much of the emphasis on narrower spacing came with the movement towards forcing bees to draw smaller cells with the idea it had benefits in mite control. I think there are other things to spend time on that will be more likely to result in surviving bees.
 

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I use standard frames and have never used foundation other than wax on occasion. I don't have any overwhelming problem with cross comb, they will build "bridges" in a few hives at the top bars, but that is only a few queen lines.

I run 8 frame and even at standard width, I have nearly 1/2-3/4's of a frame space I have to split on either end, personally I wouldn't go to the trouble of reducing my frames, I have enough to do and the bees are better at managing their space most of the time, at least mine have been pretty reliable.

Keeping hives level seems to be a bigger factor here. I also wire, or use hardwood dowels in most of my deep frames.

I do run about 60-75% rite cell foundation in supers though.
 

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Western, are you using deeps or mediums in brood box. Mediums seem easier to get drawn foundationless compared to deeps. I am putting together some Dadant depth boxes and will start out with foundation and then see how the draw foundationless when sandwiched with drawn frames either side. Factory foundation in dadant is over $3:50 a sheet so I am motivated. Fusion_power went with 1 1/4 spacing on his but I am going to give myself much more wiggle room.
 

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Frank, I run double deeps for brood. I keep some wax for frame exchange when making a nucs to help speed up the donor hive recovery/resources. Have also used it for the reason you mentioned.

I also stopped wiring the whole frames around 4-5 years ago, getting drawn down to half- 3/4 frame isn't a problem, getting a full bottom takes more time, at least it has for my bees, so I started just wiring/dowel on the last 2 holes on the bottom of the frames. So far it has worked real well and they generally have no issue tying into the last 2 supports, even if they dont pull the full bottom out the 1st year. If thye only tie into the 1st support, it still greatly increases strength of the comb even though it is 2+" from the bottom bar. I think you'll find the bees often manipulate the bottom as they see fit, as in, if they want a "breezeway here", they make one:D

Honestly, my biggest issue has been full frames of honey in late summer when the temps are highest, I take extra caution if I'm in a hive like in Aug. and need to pull a super frame for whatever reason, even when attached on 4 sides.
 

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Wanted to add to something I either read in this thread, or another.

Only time I have them build "wide" is when there is an empty frame on that side, if I move that frame to the wall side or, against another drawn comb/ wax foundation, they generally slowly fix it, even if the comb is touching the wall, they will take it down over time. If I have to, I will use my bread knife and slice it down, but I cant recall 2-3 times having to do that.

Never had comb with brood like this though, almost always nectar stores in my experience. I just realize they will work with what I give then and don't stress it, all that is manageable. As i mentioned before, not all my queens are as obstinate, but I have a couple that seem to want more of my time:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'm updating with the current results.

About a week or so ago I had to move the hives from a dangerous situation. The old shed they were behind was threatening to collapse onto them. After moving them I gave them a few days to settle in then went in to see how things were going with the foundation-less frames.

Everything is looking great. All hives have drawn out at lease one frame completely from top to bottom and a couple have drawn multiple frames. They are drawing straight and true from top to bottom. As I expected, I'm seeing a lot of drone comb, which is mostly centered in the frame, with worker brood surrounding it. What I did not expect to see was the size of the cells.

The new cells, on the foundation-less frames, are considerably larger than the cells on foundation. I wouldn't expect regression to smaller cell size immediately, but I sure didn't expect to see larger cells. If the weather will ever cooperate, I'll get some pics.

This is shaping up to be a good year. I took four hives into winter, and have four hives out the other side, all are booming.

As a side note, the shed wall fell the other day. Had I not moved the hives, three of them would have been destroyed.
 

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I have done lots of foundationless. I have never used 1 1/4 spacing. Always the standard 1 3/8 spacing to get things drawn out. After that I use 9 frame per box which gives 1 1/2 spacing. Howerever if I winter in singles I maintain 10 frames per box. But once built up I switch to 9 frames per box. However I have no doubts bees could draw foundationless at 1 1/2 spacing. I just choose not too to minimize the occational issues. But truth be told these problems could probably happen at any of the above spacing.
 

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SmokeyHill;

The bees build what is instinctively the right size cells for their needs at the time. It can vary depending on where in the colony it is and the time of year. A lot of the small cell, regressing bees, mite survival stuff is not well supported by valid experiments in real life conditions. It was more of a fad a number of years ago. Much of the stuff still up on web sites was by people who are no longer doing it. They were enthusiastic at the time.
 

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Agree you don't need narrow spacing for foundationless. Also don't need starter strips or wax dribble or wedge shape or wires or supports. Just drop a frame in between 2 brood combs during a flow and they will do the rest. Keep hive level. We do extract from foundationless deeps but we do have to be careful: spin more slowly and sort out weak combs or combs not attached on 4 sides.
Narrow frames are for a different purpose: they are natural brood nest spacing in most feral bees. At top of brood nest with 1 3/8" the honey dome is drawn out a bit farther than brood. This can result in more rolling bees. Bees on narrow brood frames can tend more brood in early build up as there is not so much gap to fill/heat. You can fit an extra frame in brood box giving them more space for brood before they swarm. This only makes noticeable difference in smaller boxes, ie 10frame deep colonies are big enough to drop another box on if needed; 5 frame mediums it may be nice to have an extra frame before adding volume if it's cold. Ultimately during use the frames get mixed in each box. Its too much trouble to keep separate. Over time I cut drone comb out of narrow frames as 1 3/8 is perfect for drones. I move drone comb to the outer 1 or 2 frames (aiming for 20% drone comb). I put narrow frames in center of brood box, wider frames / combs to outside.... I hope that helps!
Glad you moved them out of harms way!
Honey supers get fewer combs when they are drawn out and it does not matter how wide the frames are....
 

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I'm hoping Michael Bush or anyone else who is foundation-less can chime in here.

I'm wanting to switch to foundation-less in my brood chambers. From what I've read, the preferred end bar width is 1-1/4". I currently make end bars at 1-3/8" and those are in the hives now. When I make the switch, how much trouble will it be leaving the wider frames in the hive and placing the narrower frames between them gradually until I transition out all of the foundation?

Also, since these are brood only, and will never see an extractor, are dowels or wires required or recommended?
I never purchased foundation (no future plans either).

Some subjective comments in that regard (based on four season continuous testing):
- I will not be spending any more time/effort to maintain 1.25" spacing and will just use what comes along - 1.375" is fine to reuse if you get the free frames - I spent too much time retro-fitting into 1.25" spacing with little effect to show the benefits of it; if make own custom frames - than makes no difference in effort - sure, make 1.25"
- 1.25" spacing does not automatically translate into "small cell" (one claimed benefit of it) - bees will build what they are genetically inclined to build
- 1.25" might make a difference when a small cluster is trying to brood in cold conditions - but at that rate you have bigger issues to solve and better ways to do it
- instead should focus on more ergonomic hive for the bees where they can control the micro-climate as a whole unit better (compact vertical hives on small frame; 8-7-6 frame Langs; deep horizontals; I really like the equipment demonstrated by viesest just the same)
)
- for medium Lang frames I would not bother with any additional supports (unless really want and have time to do it; additional support helps but is not necessary on this frame)
 

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I would suggest to what Greg said: it seems they can build up noticeably faster in spring on narrow frames because fewer bees can take care of more brood. So even if the colony is not small they can take better advantage spring flow on narrow frames. I agree it's not really worth the effort to retrofit frames....
 
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