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I experimented with foundationless for 3 years. I'm done. There were too many problems with wonky comb or comb falling off the frames when it was hot. I don't buy into the small cell story either.

I've learned that bees draw foundation at least twice as fast as they will build foundationless. They don't care about our theories they just want a place to put eggs and nectar.

Good luck to those that make it work. I'm not one of them and I'm done trying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
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.
I’m not approaching treatment-free desires out of a desire to see my hives once a year. It’s more being supportive of methods that will bring in new or support local lines which have shown to be resistant to locally impactful issues. Bees are in peril - but I'm not sure we fully understand whether it's the mites, the pesticides, or the beekeepers. There's certainly something that's systemically different about beekeeping now vs. the historic texts I read.

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.
Single-digit wins, if kept, will add up. I do read all of Randy's work I can find. I don't want anyone to think I think I'm an expert because I've read one website or watched one YouTube video. :)

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!
I’m not looking for a “swipe your visa” cure, I’m just looking to not swim upstream. Hopefully, that makes sense. Nothing about what I have read about Michael Bush’s approach seems to be anything other than a representation of what’s worked for him. To the extent that it causes a little more work in some areas (I’m calling it “experience”) I don’t think it’s poor advice. Let me know if you think differently.

I do very much appreciate the feedback. I would not have posted here looking for it if I was not prepared to receive it. You have all given me a ton to think about in two threads and I am exceedingly grateful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 · (Edited)
Just to be sure - this is not true. :)
Else define what exact "bees are in peril".
Well, I did:

Bees are in peril - but I'm not sure we fully understand whether it's the mites, the pesticides, or the beekeepers. There's certainly something that's systemically different about beekeeping now vs. the historic texts I read.
The peril comes in where "feral" hives (absconded domesticated hives) are ticking mite/virus bombs, and new beekeepers see a Netflix show and buy a hive without any training to be able to handle them. Without a beekeeper vs beehaver, most non-local hives will suffer a dwindling death (or so my research tells me.)

That is peril. Does it mean that without someone doing something, bees will go extinct? No idea but I doubt it. Does it mean we might feel some pain with regards to pollinator-supported crops? Possibly, probably in the case of the almond crop. If monoculture is bad, an entire species being leveraged solely for that and possibly sustained by that need is certainly precarious.

Anyway - that's all big picture stuff. I am taking it one step at a time and trying to learn to be a beekeeper in my part of the world for now.
 

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The single digit improvements in varroa survivability do not appear to be happening on an ongoing basis. Certainly not to the extent that is often touted in some proponents of not treating and simply breeding from the survivors. Minor gains here and there have occurred but often are a tradeoff with other desireable traits. There are lines of bees that are superior for special conditions. The largest market for bees, pollination, produces bees whose sheer numbers and distribution commonly swamps attempts to develop and sustain local adaptation. Local adaptation enabled by isolation is a double edged sword in that other resistances may be lost and inbreeding depression has to be guarded against. Some of the famous examples of claimed varro treatment free bees have fallen victim to cyclic or cataclysmic collapses. Like the Red Queen, you have to run as hard as you can just to stay still in regard to varroa survival.

The popular media hypes the oncoming bee apocalypse but the reality is that depredation by varroa is a serious nuisance but knowledgeable and diligent beekeepers have means to handle it. The ones with problems are those who buy into simplistic systems to deal with it or wait beyond the point of no return to deal with it.

Optimism about finding and using a simple system of beekeeping blinds a lot of people and they engage in filtered searches of the available spectrum of information. Much of the reality has been de selected by wishful thinking filters. They then get blindsided from too many angles.

Negative? Perhaps, but I have seen the comings and goings of people here over the past ten years or so and patterns develop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Optimism about finding and using a simple system of beekeeping blinds a lot of people and they engage in filtered searches of the available spectrum of information.
I can appreciate that - and that's why I appreciate you being honest with me about your own experiences.

"Peril" doesn't mean "doom" in my mind. Peril is "danger" and I think we can all agree that a combination of predation and lack of understanding/attention to needs can embody that peril.

The good news is, I have LOTS more to read and learn about before next spring!
 

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Glad to see you taking this in as constructive criticism. It could appear that we are being a bit rough on you! I had varro well under control and had not lost a winter colony for about six years then got (needlessly) blindsided by European Foulbrood. Went from 13 colonies to about 7, then the following winter I tried zero upper entrance and weird weather led to total icing in and asphyxiation, and I went from 7 down to to 2, one of which queenless. Now going into winter with 10 colonies and that is as much as I want to play with. Looking forward to seeing how the Buckfast bees blend with the ones I have.

The original beekeeper I talked with at length before embarking was a retired bee inspector and I bellieve had been an electrical systems inspector. Not a man that subscribed to anything much in the way of fairy tales! I did not have to discard much of his advice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Glad to see you taking this in as constructive criticism. It could appear that we are being a bit rough on you!
I'd rather someone pierce my soul than watch me fail and tell me "I told you so." Well, maybe not piece my soul, but I definitely appreciate qualified advice.

then the following winter I tried zero upper entrance
Man, we were almost to a stopping point then you throw another whole religion out there! :)

So long as I'm taking arrows, I'll state that a solid (or at least closed) bottom board and an upper entrance (not sure if I think I need both) seems like a good idea for wintertime success. I've never seen a tree with a screen nor his and hers entrances. The ability to vent moisture seems like my greatest concern and being away from snowdrifts and vermin seems like a positive thing.

Fire away! :)
 

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There are so many "It all depends" throughout beekeeping scenarios, that a short unqualified answer is often impossible. Upper emergency exit and vent hole would have saved me. Commonly hives are burried in snow over their heads but it is loose snow and hive heat may create a small space around, in any case still allow oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. What I encountered is the situation where I had been shovelling out around hives for a few snows and each hive was in a snow well with sloped sides as high as the boxes. We then received a heavy wet snow that filled the wells, turned to rain followed by a drop down to about 20 below in short time. No breathing to that snow. Gray Goose may have got hit with the same system as he is just around the corner on Lake Michigan.
Upper entrance or vent area can easily be overdone though, resulting in too much heat loss and dehydrating conditions for the bees. The Igloo system of heat retention by low entrance and very limited upper ventilation does not create much disagreement about its value in that environment. Rather special local conditions and experience can result in advice that might not apply. Be wary of a simplistic solution to a complex problem.

From coastal Georgia to New Mexico and Florida to Alaska create lots of all depends. Add to that different instinctual behavior variations in bee types.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Yeah .... I don't think we get lake effect snow here. I've not seen snowfall like that since I lived in Salt Lake City.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
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.
@Litsinger mentioned this bit and I wanted to commit it to memory (riiiiight) but I wanted to ask a clarification question:

"put at least 3 full drone comb frames in the hive" - got it
"The bees then think they have plenty and only build worker comb" - got it

At this point, doesn't her highness get to work on said comb?

"I can remove the drone comb and replace with worker comb" - got it
"Thus, it is possible to have a foundationless hive that only has worker comb" - This is where my head exploded.

Won't they just tear down/rework portions into drone cells when they want them in the spring again? Or is this going to be an annual cycle?
 

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Won't they just tear down/rework portions into drone cells when they want them in the spring again? Or is this going to be an annual cycle?
No. This is something you said earlier on that was not addressed. It is very rare for them to tear down comb and re work it. Especially after it has had a few cycles of brood through it, the bees will not re work it.

Mostly when beekeepers think it happened is because they damaged the comb and the bees fixed it, or comb was destroyed by wax moths or similar then the bees re worked it, or the beekeeper was simply mistaken.

Should add I have seen it happen occasionally. But that is because I am a retired commercial beekeeper and have worked thousands and thousands of hives, literally. So I have seen some unusual behaviors.

If you are going to keep a handful or couple of dozen hives, the odds you will see bees tear down drone comb and re work it to worker comb are about as close to zero as you can get.

The idea bees do it regularly is commonly held, so there will be those who disagree. I won't argue with their observations because those are their observations, and my observations are my observations only.

For you, you will find out for sure, once you get your own bees. You could even do an experiment. Artificially engineer a situation where it would be an advantage for the bees to tear down a comb of either worker or drone cells and re work it to the other. Then see if they do it.

A caveat here. With new white comb recently built, with the wax still maleable, bees will sometimes re work a few cells. It will not be enough to be of any consequence.
 

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@Litsinger mentioned this bit and I wanted to commit it to memory (riiiiight) but I wanted to ask a clarification question:

"put at least 3 full drone comb frames in the hive" - got it
"The bees then think they have plenty and only build worker comb" - got it

At this point, doesn't her highness get to work on said comb?

"I can remove the drone comb and replace with worker comb" - got it
"Thus, it is possible to have a foundationless hive that only has worker comb" - This is where my head exploded.

Won't they just tear down/rework portions into drone cells when they want them in the spring again? Or is this going to be an annual cycle?
in a natural hive the ees will build 20 ish percent drone cells.
if they have them they count in the math.
so adding already drawn drone from else where and encouraging worker cells helps the math. after 100 combs, instead of 20 maybe you have 4. then you get 16 more frames of workers per brood cycle to work, rather the drones needing fed.
UNLESS you are building a DCA then it may be fine at 20 Percent.
understanding what the bees want and do about it. then harness a workaround to either gain bees or profit.

they will tear down, but not right away , and if there are bars to build they will start new as a priority over re do old, or they dislike re work over new work however you wish to think it.

all worker comb is the production goal, for honey gathering.
likely you will have it as a don't matter, until it does, hence the forewarning

GG
 

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I have been giving each 10 frame box two frames with only half worker foundation in each one, and they fill the other halves with drone. that is 20% drone space. That just about entirely eliminates drone cell building between upper and lower boxes etc., Since I am doing some queen rearing and need depend on my own drones for breeding, that percentage is tolerable. In July they start filling much of that area with honey so it is not a loss except early in the season.
I sometimes pull one of those frames out and put them in Nuc hives. Having the drone comb in designated areas is less bothersome than having it put higgledy piggledy throughout the colony.
 

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I have been giving each 10 frame box two frames with only half worker foundation in each one, and they fill the other halves with drone. that is 20% drone space. That just about entirely eliminates drone cell building between upper and lower boxes etc., Since I am doing some queen rearing and need depend on my own drones for breeding, that percentage is tolerable. In July they start filling much of that area with honey so it is not a loss except early in the season.
I sometimes pull one of those frames out and put them in Nuc hives. Having the drone comb in designated areas is less bothersome than having it put higgledy piggledy throughout the colony.
Frank,
good plan , i'll need to give it a try.
I presume you are using plastic foundation , not Wax foundation to better do the cut out if needed.

A trick I do is use starter strips in a medium super, once built and filled i extract.
in Spring the first super I add if I plan to expand the brood nest is a super of the drone comb from the starter strip frames.
If I have stickys I prefer them as they get the bees up there faster.
Once the bees are adding nectar to the super , they have done the math and with the super is way over 20% drone, now I can add a 3rd brood box, or pull 3 or 4 frames of brood for a split and add back in the empty frames, or foundation. It seems the frames get build best then. else they will make several into drone comb.

I will do some of the 1/2 frame, sounds interesting.

GG
 

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Me, I have the bees build frames of either all drone comb (as pictured), or all worker comb.

Meaning I can manipulate the hives exactly as I wish, with frames of one, or frames of the other.

All foundationless frames are wired of course, as a rough old beek who throws things around and drops things I need that 😄.

 

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I do use foundationless and had good luck with the wedge frames. I've never wired or fishing lined a foundationless frame and it's been mostly deeps. Just be careful with them. But you'll still have something go sideways more often than with foundation. I was constantly in my hives when I tried 100% foundationless. That was stupid. I consider it the second biggest waste of time I've ever done with bees. The first is TBHs. I don't have anything against using it. In fact, I still use it now because I'd rather have a couple drone frames than gobs of burr comb. And foundationless frames work well for that. And between two nice frames of brood, they'll draw a beautiful comb most times. You can manipulate who is drawing what, nucs are more likely to make worker comb. Bigger colonies are much more likely to draw drone-after-drone-after-drone in my experience. I've even extracted from some of them, but they do have a high blowout rate for sure. I've quit extracting deeps now though. I did have some foundationless mediums mixed in this year and they extracted fine (no wire).

The key really is nipping any bad comb in the bud immediately. That was an every 3-4 day thing for me and, while the result was great combs, it distracted me from actually monitoring the bees. I would really suggest starting with foundation and then if you want to in the future (like the next year), mix in frames between "perfect" ones. And then once that ball is rolling I assure that it's SO much easier that way. So if you've got good combs from a nuc or something, you can do that the first year.

Bees are in peril
I mean no offense by this, but this is absolutely the most oft-recited nonsense regarding honey bees IMO. Statistics are so easy to use to spread a narrative, colony counts were at like a 20 year high here within the last few years. So then they were focusing on the "losses" which is a silly number based largely in how a commercial operator wants to report it. And, as I recall, most of those numbers are gathered at really strange times during the year.

Now... if you're talking bees in general... yes, there are plenty of native species that aren't doing so great. If we could convince people to stop killing every "weed" in their yards, I suspect that native bees would have a massive bounce back in about three years. Our house is constantly swarmed with native bees because I have dutch clover and I don't mow every two days. And a lot of the landscape is native wild flowers. Funny how that works. I do suspect the bees are kind of concentrated in our yard as most everyone around us has a TruGreen Chemlawn (tm). And yeah, maybe every once in awhile someone tosses clover seed into their yards.

Nothing about what I have read about Michael Bush’s approach seems to be anything other than a representation of what’s worked for him.
I'm going to shoot you a PM.
 

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Hi jw, i am interested in your response/ reasoning in your pm to Lbussy re "Nothing about what I have read about Michael Bush’s approach seems to be anything other than a representation of what’s worked for him."
Frank, unless i missed something, 2 half frames in a 10 frame would still be 10% drone, not 20%. 20% of the comb is a lot of comb!
I have been foundationless for many years and i find the first comb drawn in the season is always drone (i u 88thse some form of osbn). If the colony is big then the 2nd and 3rd frames may also be drone.
I managed to experiment with this this year: i put on a box with 50% drone comb and 1 empty frame, which they drew to mostly drone. I hope to experiment with putting the 50% drone box on before giving them any empties to draw to see if they draw worker then....
 
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