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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I realize I have time before next spring, but I have spent a few hours searching for the "right" answer to this, and I figure some specific responses may help me to focus my preparatory efforts this fall.

A recap of who I am: H2H program, no bees this year, Kansas City, MO, USA, intent to run 8-frame mediums.

In another thread, I asked about Buckfast packages. My other idea/option is to start out is a locally sourced nuc from an experienced beekeeper who will supply medium nucs. Or maybe two of one in one yard and two of another in a second - who knows?

I would like to do foundationless. What's the best way to start introducing those empty frames with a nuc? Interspersed? One on either side with a follower or frame feeder at one end? Go all foundations and then checkerboard when a new box is added?

He says his splits/nucs are generally available mid-May, which would give me average temps of 76°F high and 57°F low, and an average rainfall of 5.13 inches.
 

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Interspersed is the best way at first, but the nuc must be strong in bees. Don't spread things out too much, just be happy to feed in one frame at a time into the cluster, wait till they have it 3/4 drawn, before feeding in another.

To get the bees to build the comb in the right place, keep the frames wedged up tight against each other so there is not a big enough gap between combs that might allow the bees to build the comb too much to one side of the frame. It can help to get a piece of comb foundation and cut it into strips just 3 or 4 cells wide and glue these strips into the groove in the top bar. The bees will then use this to start their comb and it will be in the right place. The hive should be exactly level so the combs will be built straight down, not veering to one side. You can wire the frames, if you do everything else right the bees will hit the wire right at the midrif (the foundation) of the comb and incorporate the wire into the comb giving a lot more strength.

Bees only build comb when there is nectar coming in, or they are being fed sugar syrup. So at the same time you feed in the combs you want building, you should be feeding the bees sugar syrup, unless there is a good strong nectar flow. If no nectar or sugar is coming in, the bees feel the need to conserve whatever they have, and will not waste any of it in converting to wax and building comb.

Bees in a natural comb hive like to have at least 20% drone comb. So expect your bees to build quite a bit of drone comb. Do not make the mistake of removing it, leave it there. If you remove it, the bees will build more drone comb. If you leave it there, once the bees feel they have enough, they will build worker comb.
A trick I use to get my foundationless bees to build worker comb, is to put at least 3 full drone comb frames in the hive. The bees then think they have plenty and only build worker comb. Later, I can remove the drone comb and replace with worker comb. Thus, it is possible to have a foundationless hive that only has worker comb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you, @Oldtimer. I was going to order the wedge-style frames and use the wedge in the groove as a starter as I have seen recommended in many places - does that seem reasonable?

So assuming I have three frames of brood and two of stores, would I use S-O-B-B-B-S and a follower board until they get the open one 3/4 complete, then open one up on the other side like S-N-B-B-B-O-S, and so on?

I assume, from reading anyway, that bees will re-work what they do not want, so I was not going to try to "trick" them into not making drone comb. Maybe that's naivete on my part?

Once the bottom 8 are filled, do I checkerboard new ones into a new box, or just put in 8 empty frames? If I were to guess/bet, I would assume checkerboard to give them some guiderails. All the while feeding.
 

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Here is a frame of drone comb in the making. The wiring in this case was 30 lb test monofilament fishing line. It was drawn and laid up in just a bit over a week. If only they would be so co operative with worker cells. I have not really given that a serious effort except to get some comb for cut cell queen rearing.
65355
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Thank you, @Oldtimer. I was going to order the wedge-style frames and use the wedge in the groove as a starter as I have seen recommended in many places - does that seem reasonable?
Yes that can work also. In fact that is what the inventor of the Langstroth hive, the Reverent Langstroth used to do, before anyone had invented comb foundation. If the bees do go a little crooked, you can push those parts of the comb back into the right place by hand and let the bees re attach it.

So assuming I have three frames of brood and two of stores, would I use S-O-B-B-B-S and a follower board until they get the open one 3/4 complete, then open one up on the other side like S-N-B-B-B-O-S, and so on?
Yes, but you can also put the empty frame right in between 2 brood frames, provided there are enough bees to still cover all the brood and keep all the brood warm.

I assume, from reading anyway, that bees will re-work what they do not want, so I was not going to try to "trick" them into not making drone comb. Maybe that's naivete on my part?
Totally over to you. The bees will build whatever drone comb they want then just continue with worker sized cells.

Once the bottom 8 are filled, do I checkerboard new ones into a new box, or just put in 8 empty frames? If I were to guess/bet, I would assume checkerboard to give them some guiderails.
Yes, when you add the next box you need to put a built frame or two or three into that box to get the bees started in the new box. What happens if you just add an empty box (which is a very common mistake for new players), is that the bees will not break their cluster to go and start building comb from the top of the new box. Instead, they will build bits of comb upwards from the bottom of that box but that comb will be all over the place and very messy. (It is different with comb foundation as the bees can start at the bottom of the foundation and work their way up. But an empty foundationless box doesn't work).
So instead, you put some frames with comb into the second box as a "ladder", that the bees will use to extend their cluster up, and once they get to the top of those frames they will then start building the adjacent frames downwards, from the top. You just have to make sure that the frames you move up to the next box are fully built all the way down to the bottom, so that the bee cluster can move onto the comb in a continuous cluster and then work their way all the way to the top. If there is a gap at the bottom of the frames you move up, the bee cluster will still have an issue crossing that open gap.

It's best when moving the first frames up into a new box, to have them all together, in the middle. In a week or two or when the bees are used to also using those combs in the second box, you can then seperate them and begin moving empty frames in amongst them to have combs built. But always not spreading the bees out too far so they cannot have enough bees to maintain temperature and do what you want them to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What happens if you just add an empty box (which is a very common mistake for new players), is that the bees will not break their cluster to go and start building comb from the top of the new box. Instead, they will build bits of comb upwards from the bottom of that box but that comb will be all over the place and very messy.
Is the same true of honey supers then? Seems like I'm asking to have a box of mixed-use since I have no other frames to move. What about a vertical starter strip (popsicle stick top to bottom in the center of the frame?)

But an empty foundationless box doesn't work
Do they need a continuous "ladder" (filled frame above a filled frame) or does the checkerboard work there then with open frames?

Here is a frame of drone comb in the making. The wiring in this case was 30 lb test monofilament fishing line. It was drawn and laid up in just a bit over a week. If only they would be so co operative with worker cells.
Industrious little buggers! So I guess you look at them every couple days during that time? Maybe they were just getting a head start on honey frames? :)

I was not planning on wiring mine, being mediums. There may be a special hell waiting for me during harvest, but I know I'll learn something out of it.
 

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Agree with OT a starter strip would be a big help to get started , not having comb.
Not sure the fear of foundation or the resistance to it, but IMO a good way to get to your goals is to go with some foundation to get to " hives with comb" , then insert a Foundation less frame at intervilles to get the natural comb.

what you read may or may not match what you see.

BTW any drone comb can be shifted to the edges for storage or up into supers.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Agree with OT a starter strip would be a big help to get started, not having comb. Not sure the fear of foundation or the resistance to it
Well, I want to go foundationless since I chose a "system" in which that is featured somewhat prominently. I am totally following the whole bees will follow the last comb idea, so using the nuc in that manner makes sense.

Some day I may ask myself why I wanted to cause myself so much grief. For now, "it seems like a good idea." I'm pretty sure the old-timers here take bets to see how quickly the NewBees change their minds. Like Mike Tyson says: "Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth."
 

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A few years ago I did NOT wire my foundationless frames. Soft new comb falls out of frames all to easily. I just got done making up some new deep foundationless frames last week. I buy a box of 100 wedge style frames and put them together. I use 10 frame boxes but you can use 8 frame mediums too. I add glue to the top bar flip them over then glue the bottom bar in place. I use a 18 gauge nail gun and nail in from the side, not the top, then flip it over to the other side and nail the top again. Then I take a 5 in 1 painters tool and pry the wedge out. I like to use a utility knife to remove the bottom piece of wood that holds the wedge in place. Then I turn the wedge over 90 degrees and put in 3 nails at an angle to hold the wedge in place. Next I take an awl and open up the holes on the side bars and nail 2 little (5/8") next to the top and bottom holes. I think mediums have only 2 if I remember right. Leave 1/4" or less standing proud of the bar to attach the 30 lb monofilament line to later. I insert the line into the top hole by the nail, run it through to the other side top then insert through the bottom hole and run it through to the other side at your bottom hole. I leave 1" plus sticking out then run it around the nail 3 times and take a hammer and drive the nail the rest of the way in. Go back to the top hole/nail and pull it tight and wrap it around 3 times then drive that nail home. Take your utility knife and cut the top line free, careful not to hit the tight line. Then trim the bottom excess line. Insert finished frames into your boxes and repeat until done.

You can put an comb less box on to start but you may/will have to go back weekly and move the new comb in the line along the wedge. New comb is fragile and breaks easily so move slow to re-attach in the direction you want. Since you will have bees on those frames when you work them can I strongly suggest you use nitrile gloves instead of goatskin gloves. You will have so much more mobility. Also a jacket with jeans and high topped boots will work well for your protection. Spend the money on a ventilated jacket now and not 3-5 sweaty years later.

l started with 2 nucs from a bee club member and was very happy. You can buy packages but you may not get honey the first year. Your local bee club will direct you to where you can buy local nucs in May. That's when they come available for the new beekeeper. You may have to search around to find medium nucs but they are out there. I'm closer to St Louis near I 70 so I can't help you with who and when you can buy from.

Do you live in a rural or suburban area? If suburban I make it a rule to not have hives less the 100' from a door. Same applies to rural. I'm in a small rural town and I keep my bees on cattle men's pastures or hay fields. All of my yards are 3-5 miles from my little town. Row crop people seem to be less friendly to having bees on their properties. That means I only travel 5 minutes to work my bees. Keep that in mind when and if you get yards away from your home.

Good Luck and happy bee keeping!
 

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Well, I want to go foundationless since I chose a "system" in which that is featured somewhat prominently. I am totally following the whole bees will follow the last comb idea, so using the nuc in that manner makes sense.

Some day I may ask myself why I wanted to cause myself so much grief. For now, "it seems like a good idea." I'm pretty sure the old-timers here take bets to see how quickly the NewBees change their minds. Like Mike Tyson says: "Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth."
I would be curios to see how such a "system" balances out on philosophical vs proven practicality issues before I got locked into one. Certainly there can be a lot of satisfaction in the pursuit of a vision. If things don't work out as envisioned you will have gained experience and can easily modify your course.

I think Mike Tyson made a good observation! You are probably correct too about the speculation on how quickly experience can trumph ideology. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
A few years ago I did NOT wire my foundationless frames. Soft new comb falls out of frames all to easily.
It seems like there is a lot more "leverage" in a deep frame to break comb. That works out mathematically anyway. I am hoping that the mediums allow me some semblance of security once it's anchored.

Despite some assertions to the contrary, I am assuming I will have at least some issues with foundationless, especially when harvesting. I can't find the reference right now but there certainly seems to be enough people who are extracting with foundationless frames. That said, maybe crush and strain are better for me if I happen to get a little honey my first year. Mostly after my first year, I'm hoping to have live bees. :)

Since you will have bees on those frames when you work them can I strongly suggest you use nitrile gloves instead of goatskin gloves.
Good advice. I have so far not been able to get past the mental block to doing that, let alone gloveless. One insurmountable step at a time I guess.

Also a jacket with jeans and high topped boots will work well for your protection.
I do wear boots already, but I have made a note to add velcro straps to my toolbox based on someone describing one experience as "stapling your socks to your ankles." That was enough of a visual to cause me to open up Amazon. o_O

Spend the money on a ventilated jacket now and not 3-5 sweaty years later.
Oh yeah - a guy I work with keeps bees and that was his recommendation as well. I have a very nice ventilated jacket and I was pretty comfortable this summer when in the bee yard.

Do you live in a rural or suburban area?
Suburban, up on the north side of KC. I mean we have pasture within a mile but we are in a neighborhood. I back up against what they call a greenway here - a strip of land designated as not developed. There is a creek in there and I can get the bees fairly far away but my current plan is a piece of rural-ish land a few miles away. Not as convenient, but easier on the neighbors.

I have already sent my neighbors a letter with a link to a web page full of other links explaining what I want to do, why it's important, and allowing them to do a little research on their own. While I can have bees here, a complaint is not in anyone's best interest.

I would be curios to see how such a "system" balances out on philosophical vs proven practicality issues before I got locked into one.
Well, it seems to work for Michael Bush who is not all that far away from me. Still not "local" but a similar climate. I appreciate the mix of lazy and treatment-free beekeeping. I am under no false hope that I will not have to treat (at least at first) and I will absolutely have to feed. I am hoping that over time, a combination of on-hand resources, survivor stock, and experience will allow me to experience some of the benefits Michael discusses.

If things don't work out as envisioned you will have gained experience and can easily modify your course.
Yep, the worst thing that happens is I have weathered empty boxes for my newly-purchased bees in 2023. (y)
 

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You are about where I pictured you living. Suburban people want bees pollinating their flowers but HATE bee hives close to their kids. I'm in a little 322 people town and I have had people complain about my bee hives.

I know a queen breeder in SE Mo in the bootheel who is treatment free. He uses VSH Italians so they keep his varroa population down. For the rest of us treatment is a pipe dream. You really only have about 2 years in an untreated colony before it collapses due to the viral load kills your colony. If you have 8-10 colonies in a yard those mite bombs will take out your whole yard, it happed to me in 2017. Now I treat OAV monthly with August and September every 4 days for 5 times, just got done.

If you chose crush and strain you use up all of your drawn comb and basically start new comb yearly. I've had mediums blow out trying to extract.

1 person in my little town bought packages 2 years ago and had to buy new packages again this year. We've been treating for her this year and hopefully they make it through the winter. Another bee keeper about 20 miles did the same for 2 years and hopefully they make it through this winter as well. You need 20 + colonies to make it past the 2 year breakdown to accomplish treatment free IMO. After you have been keeping bees for 5-10 years you know what bees do in order to keep them treatment free. Ask Oldtimer or Crofter what their opinion is about this.
 

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I would be curios to see how such a "system" balances out on philosophical vs proven practicality issues before I got locked into one.
Well, it seems to work for Michael Bush.........
Treatment-free works for M. Bush too, as told.
Well, after 5 year run I can tell - TF does not work for me as preached.
His reason for foundation-less is given as-if it is another prescription to be TF.
And so the M. Bush example turned out worthless for me (for sure, the foundation-less part).

This being said - what is it exactly do you want from foundational-less?
Because it is hassle and it better be worthwhile if followed through.

And for the record - I am foundation-less; have been and will be.
This is because i am a cheapskate and mostly harvest C&S and do have other interests vs. just maximizing honey harvest.
So yes, you can do it.
But do figure out that "philosophy" part for yourself (don't look into foundation-less as the "easy" way to be TF - not it).
 

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I have already sent my neighbors a letter with a link to a web page full of other links explaining what I want to do, why it's important, and allowing them to do a little research on their own. While I can have bees here, a complaint is not in anyone's best interest.
Just be ready for complaints.
Only a matter of time.

Complaints are absolutely in the interest of those residents who will get stung by a yellow jacket and they know of your bees. It is given.
The residents are all for your bees until the very next wasp shows up in their house - then they will be against. LOL

So have your plan B (invalid complaint action plan) and plan C (valid compliant action plan) figured out before getting into this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You really only have about 2 years in an untreated colony before it collapses due to the viral load kills your colony.
I'm not going to avoid treatment if they need it - I am just hoping that over time I will not need it or not need it as much. I did not mention it in this thread but I am spending time in bee yards this year learning to test for and treat against mites among other things.

If you chose crush and strain you use up all of your drawn comb and basically start new comb yearly.
Understood. I'm also going to check on the marketability of cut comb around here. That may be a benefit I'm not currently considering.

This being said - what is it exactly do you want from foundational-less? Because it is hassle and it better be worthwhile if followed through.
I want to give Mr Bush's system a fair try for one. I am also wondering about top bar hives and the like. This seems like a bridge to the top-bar, and if nothing else I will learn (the hard way) about how to do it. I won't know for sure if I need or prefer foundations unless I try it without them. I figure if nothing else, it will prepare me for cut-outs.

Just be ready for complaints. Only a matter of time. So have your plan B (invalid complaint case) and plan C (valid compliant case) figured out before getting into this.
You, sir, sound like a grumpy old man. I like it! :) (To my grandkids, I'm "grumpa.")

I get it. Right now I am on the end of a cul de sac so there are only two houses to worry about due to them being my only neighbors and the side spacing of the back of the lots on the end of a cul de sac. Yes, the neighbors could move, yes some moron could be on a drunken midnight ride in his golf cart, off-road, and blame me because he got stung. I'll be checking a rural lot tomorrow, and if all else fails there's always the family farm (but it's a ways away.)
 

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I want to give Mr Bush's system a fair try for one. I am also wondering about top bar hives and the like. This seems like a bridge to the top-bar, and if nothing else I will learn (the hard way) about how to do it. I won't know for sure if I need or prefer foundations unless I try it without them. I figure if nothing else, it will prepare me for cut-outs.
OK, I see now - you are actually willing to try TF (because that's what the "Mr Bush's system" is) - go for it.

Foundation-less/Top Bar/Small Cell/....blah....
It is all well-laid out.
:)
 

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You, sir, sound like a grumpy old man. I like it!
Good you like it.

Here is a sample of latest email back-and-forth I had with the City Admin (August 2021).
RE: Beekeeping complaint - <My Address here>
Greg,
It appears that you are in compliance with the code requirements at this time. .........
 

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OK, so you are willing to try TF (because that's what the "Mr Bush's system" is) - go for it.
I feel a "vaya con dios" coming here somewhere. I'm wide open for tips, or for people to talk me out of it. I'm in no way going to argue with anyone who keeps bees now since that's about a metric ton more experience than I currently have.

Here is a sample of latest email back-and-forth I had with the City Admin (August 2021).
Eh, I'm not going to fight anyone about it, unless/until I finally end up on the farm and someone gives me grief there.
 

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The idea of hands off and treatment free beekeeping is terrific click bait for youtube sites. It has fabulous attraction to people who have been energized by the the media hype that the european honeybee is in peril. This focus sells books, and speaking engagements but it seems you wont find many successful people taking part who are actually making a living at it.

Serious researchers and breeders such as Randy Oliver report only single digit improvements in overall survivability with selection from thousands of colonies and it takes concerted ongoing selection to maintain it. You get much different results if you do a neutral search for bees that survive mites long term without treatment for varroa.

Some operation models that sell nucleus colonies with purchased queens or rapid splitting etc, can manage to stay ahead of the mites but they are exporting them to people who certainly will have to, if they are to survive beyond a year or two. Some have geographic or topographic isolation that may make mite control relatively easy. That is not a transportable "system" or recipe for treatment free beekeeping. Read Greg V's experience.

When someone is telling us what we already wish to believe our BS sensors often go on holidays; when we encounter what is contrary to our preconceptions they bristle!
 

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The idea of hands off and treatment free beekeeping is terrific click bait for youtube sites. It has fabulous attraction to people who have been energized by the the media hype that the european honeybee is in peril.
Being hands off was pretty much the norm for the newbee in my area back in the days of nasty feral bees. Folks get stung up once and they are reluctant to 'work' the hive. In the end, the bees die and they are no longer beekeepers.

As to the 'foundationless' bees, I have been doing this for more than 15 years. I will admit to cheating by sometimes using plastic foundation in a few combs in order to convince the bees to build combs on the frames more consistently. But overall, I am mostly foundationless IOW natural cell, which I think is a better term. I don't wire frames, and I have learned that no support doesn't work too well in deep frames as the combs get too heavy. So what I have done is to use a deep bottom box in which I use 3/4 frames (7 5/8") and when they bees need more comb they extend the combs below the frame. That works pretty well for me. Again, I don't wire the frames and I do break some combs during extraction, but for me that's not a big problem.

I like Oldtimer's idea about throwing a few drone combs in intentionally on the sides. In fact, they are probably there already in my hives as I do move the drone comb to the outside or above an excluder as I find them.
 
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