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Discussion Starter #1
No this isn't another "How fast will my package fill my frames" thread...

I installed 2 packages on May 25th. I'm using medium boxes w/ foundationless frames. I put 8 foundationless and 2 plasticell frames in each brood box (FFFPFFPFFF). I installed the bees into both and left them alone for 3 days. Went back to be sure queens were released and found niether were so I released them (they also had 4 days shipping time with the queens). I left them alone for another week and went to peek at them to see how they were doing. One hive had drawn out 80-90% of each of the 3 left most frames (against the left side of the hive) and were kinda sorta drawing on the left side of the plasticell. NO bees at all on the other side of the plasticell. The other hive only had about 4" of comb drawn on 2 frames (again to the left side of the hive against the side), but they ended up being queenless and I had to replace her so I'll stick to talking about the 1st hive. Ive checked several times on the first hive and they refuse to move beyond the plasticell. I've moved the plasticell over and placed empty an foundationless frame in the middle and they filled it out pretty fast...about 3 days later I put another foundationless frame in but they've left it mostly alone. The first new bees should be hatching any day so up to this point it's only been the original package. Any ideas on why they won't move over and fill the rest of the hive? I'm guessing that they don't want to spread themselves out too thin and will start moving over when the 3 frames of brood that are in there hatch? Also, why the side instead of the middle? Could it be because the entrance reducer opening happens to be right in front of the frames they started drawing?

So I guess my questions are:
1. Will a queen only lay as many cells as can be kept warm with the current number of bees in the hive? IE is she that smart? If so thats amazing!

2. Will the bees only occupy so much room (frames) so that they don't spread themselves too thin? I guess this is related to the above question but more is it the bees that wont draw more comb than they can nurse, or the queen won't lay more?

3. I know bees will do what bees do but Ive always been told that they start in the middle and work out. I'm assuming that since the entrance was right there, and the plasticell acted as sort of a wall they used that as the initial hive chamber. Does this sound reasonable?

Yes, I'm a new bee keeper and yes I'm using foundationless. I used 2 plasticell to help guide the comb and act as a ladder (which seems to have worked very well, as they are drawing beautiful straight comb on the foundationless). So far all I've heard is that my first mistake is using foundationelss as a new bee keeper. I don't really see the issue here to be honest, as I'm simply trying to learn why they are doing what they are doing... not that I think they are doing it wrong. But by all means... if they are and I should change something, let me know. =)
 

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A new package can only draw comb where the bees are clustered, it must be around 95 F for the wax to be made and worked. This obviously limits them to making wax and a place for the queen to lay to the size of the cluster. Once the brood is capped in that initial space, they can expand some more. The brood makes enough heat it doesn't take as many bees to keep the hive warm, and that lets them make more space for the queen to lay, typically the face of the comb next to the outermost brood that is capped. Once the first round of brood emerges, you will see some large orientation flights and the activity at the entrance will pick up and they will draw more comb, plus the brood nest will expand.

They are only working the area between the box wall and the platicell because they perceive that as the hive. They can't cover more area, and the plastic insulates enough that they won't work the other side anyway, not until it's covered with bees. If you have bees that are not fond of plastic foundation, they may only work it once all the other frames are full.

A package will almost always start working the frames where the queen was suspended, so if you put the cage a couple frames over from the side, that's where they start comb and the brood nest. As the numbers of bees increase, they will move outward. However, if you have a shaded side of the hive, they may never draw that side completely, my brother had a hive that left the outside comb face to the east unused for six years.

And they will indeed do what they do, they don't read beekeeping books! Always a surprise waiting for you somewhere in that hive.

Peter
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks a lot for the response. It makes a lot of sense. This must be why they don't really draw much comb when its chilly out? Is there a general rule of thumb for what the outside temp should be before they start really building comb? Or is it more dependant on the size/health of the hive being able to keep it warmer inside?

My overthinking brain worries that they aren't expanding sideways, but I know logically that they will expand as much as they need to when the brood hatches. Another question is...They are sill expanding the brood hive, but I know nectar is flowing. Should I put a super on even though they haven't filled the brood box yet? My gut tells me no, because the outside most frames are pretty much straight honey, and I think they will simply push out as they need room? Also am I right to put empty frames into the middle of the brood frames, or should I just let them expand over on their own?

Thanks,
 

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I would suggest feeding with a hive top feeder to get them up and going. They will only draw comb when it's warm enough in the hive AND they have a need for it (nectar and pollen coming in). I would not depend on the natural nectar flow to get them up to full size before winter, it takes lots of bees to bring it in and you don't have lots of them yet!

Do not add more space until what you have is 90% full of bees and stores, empty drawn comb does not count.

Feed some syrup and some protein (MegaBee patties of something similar) and they will grow quickly.

Peter
 

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Until the hive is booming with nurse bees, I try not to split up the brood frames. I believe keeping them together helps the small population regulate temperatures more efficiently.

Wayne
 

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>1. Will a queen only lay as many cells as can be kept warm with the current number of bees in the hive? IE is she that smart? If so thats amazing!
The queen will lay eggs where there are open cells to lay them. I have observed nurse bees shepherd her around to where they want eggs laid. Not sure who is controlling who, but they seem to work together.​

>2. Will the bees only occupy so much room (frames) so that they don't spread themselves too thin? I guess this is related to the above question but more is it the bees that wont draw more comb than they can nurse, or the queen won't lay more?
Yes and no. They tend to limit brood nest building to where they are able to keep temps regulated by covering that comb. I have seen them build comb to contain nectar and pollen regardless of being able to cover it with bees. This is why folks feed sugar syrup to spur comb build out for new hives. Flow --> comb to hold it.​

>3. I know bees will do what bees do but Ive always been told that they start in the middle and work out. I'm assuming that since the entrance was right there, and the plasticell acted as sort of a wall they used that as the initial hive chamber. Does this sound reasonable?
I had a hive that loved one side and built out those frames first. I ended up moving those frames to the center after they were 3/4 built and full because they seemed to slow the building the further away from that start. Worked well for me.

> So far all I've heard is that my first mistake is using foundationelss as a new bee keeper.
Why? Its easier, cheaper, bees tend to like it, and 100% natural. I started my hives on nothing more than an empty frames. After you get them started, you can used capped brood frames as templates on either side of a new frame and get really nice comb (fast). There are many more reasons in my book to go foundationless from the start than not. Clearly not a mistake to allow bees do what they do best.​
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the responses. So great to learn things I didn't know and confirm stuff I kind of knew/suspected.

I agree about starting with foundationless frames Zbee... I did so for all of the reasons you mentioned. I wanted natural bees, and I don't want to treat with chemicals. Everything I've read so far points to foundationless as being better for natural beekeeping. I used a plastic frame as a guide, and the comb they are drawing is perfect and beautiful. I'm very excited about it. Eventually, I'll rotate the 2 plastic frames out and have 100% foundationless (I hope). So far, I've had a few problems, but I can't see how foundationless frames had anything to do with them.

One last question (I think). I think I might have screwed up (Pretty sure I did), now that Im thinking about the nurse keeping brood warm. I've been anxious for them to draw more comb to fill the hive so going against my original intention of "letting bees do what bees do", I tried to force the issue by putting an empty frame between the center brood frames. Hoping they would see the empty space and draw it asap. And it was cold out when I did it. I haven't checked on them since, and now its got me worried. I'm thinking I should have put empty frames on the edge of the brood nest and let them fill it as they had the need. So my actual question is... Where is the best place to put empty frames in a brood nest?
 
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