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Discussion Starter #1
This is my first season as a beek and started a Langstroth Hive with plastic foundation and a package of bees. The bees have drawn their comb pretty evenly except on one frame they've done something that seems odd to me. Most of the frame is drawn normally except about 1/3 of it protrudes greatly and it appears the bees have tunnels that go between the back of the comb and the plastic foundation. The first time they did this I caught it early and removed that section of comb. But they built it the same way. I don't want to keep removing it if they're going to keep doing it like that and waist their resources when I'd rather them be drawling out new comb on frames not yet complete. I'd appreciate any feedback and can add photos next weekend but I'm out of town at the moment.
 

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Be sure that your plastic foundation has some wax on it. You can melt or rub beeswax on it to make it more acceptable to the bees. After scraping of the comb that it built wrong, put the frame back in the hive and turn that side towards a drawn out frame. Push frames together very tightly.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Yeah, that is pretty common with plastic. Those tunnels make a great place for the queen to hide too. Keep scraping it off. Don't worry that that little bit of wax is a waste. Save it or rub it back over the cells to help them get the right idea. For some reason I have a few plastic frames the bees simply will not draw out properly. I removed most of them this past weekend and gave them foundationless frames instead. They draw those out real nice when place between two good frames.
 

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If bee space is a bit on the large size they will often build comb out away from the foundation. Often that then is drone. I have had some frames that may have been stored in the heat and had a wow in them enough to give tight and loose bee space depending on how they were placed in the hive bodies.

Have an eye to that when you scrape them off and give them back.
 

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Scrape and keep an eye out. Plastic can be a pain. It's just not natural so you never quite know what you get.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the info I'll give a good scraping and waxing a try. The comments about bee space got me wondering about something else too. I try to very hard to deliberately space all of the frames as near evenly as possible. That said, I've noticed for some reason on some of the frames - especially when they're being used for honey - they will build one frame way out beyond what they should and the other frame will be built very shallowly. Is this pretty normal or is this likely a bee space issue? If they're too far apart why only build on one side vs building out from both sides?

I know this is pretty entry level stuff but I don't know any other beekeepers to ask and I appreciate the help.
 

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I am following this thread because I've had the exact same issue and posted today for advice on the BeeKeeping 101 forum. My bees did most of both sides of one frame with some kind of hole like that and the entire side of comb fell off when I lifted the frame out. This comb had tons of larvae and capped brood, pollen, etc. It is plastic foundation but coated in wax and seemed like things were going fine. Frustrating.
 

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In the brood box the frames should be placed tightly together, frame endbars tightly together. Honey supers also for the first time they are drawn out. After the first time fully drawn out, one frame may be removed and the remainders spaced out evenly across the frame rest ledges. For honey the bees like to draw them out fat. The draw them out as far as they can while leaving one bee space between capped faces (about 5/16" or 8mm)

Wide spacing of bee frames encourages the bees to get creative with between frame comb.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Yeah, in the brood chambers, frames should be tight together and any extra space should be between the outside frame and the hive body wall. Leaving extra space between the the frames allows the bee to get creative, something you as a beekeeper do NOT want. Second year honey frames can be placed wide, 9 or even 8 to a 10 frame box. This makes them easier to uncap and the bees like to draw honey frames fat anyhow.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I did not know that. Hope it isn't too late to make some changes. I was just trying to make everything equal. Will having all the extra space on the outside not lead to a burr comb nightmare on the box wall? Or just because the outside tends to be honey they'll just build it out further?
 

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I did not know that. Hope it isn't too late to make some changes. I was just trying to make everything equal. Will having all the extra space on the outside not lead to a burr comb nightmare on the box wall? Or just because the outside tends to be honey they'll just build it out further?
It is highly unlikely to ever have brood on that outside to the wall. Fat on that surface has no adjacent frame comb to screw up. You can extract that frame if you want to work it into the brood nest.
 

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I did not know that. Hope it isn't too late to make some changes. I was just trying to make everything equal. Will having all the extra space on the outside not lead to a burr comb nightmare on the box wall? Or just because the outside tends to be honey they'll just build it out further?
You are supposed to have extra space near the box walls. Keep frames tightly together and center them in the middle of the box. The two last frames will be honey frames and will be drawn fat. Don't worry about burr comb near the walls, it rarely happens. If you get burr combs near the wall then typically they are running out of room.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I went out and scraped today. Attached is what came off. Drone comb on the back side. I pressed all the frames together leaving extra space on the outsides. In some places the comb from one frame pressed against the adjacent frame's comb. With the queen safely caged I just pressed them together anyway and I'm hoping the bees will clean it up and sort it out?
 

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Keys to good straight combs are, A well mated queen, a good flow or feed program, fresh wax foundation or nicely coated plastic foundations. After years of wiring wax foundation I grew to hate it considerably. So we went foundationless for one year. Talk about drone combs. I finally caved and went the plastic foundation route. They are awesome. Our first order of 5000 sheets of foundation from acorn had me hooked on the HUGE time savings. They need a good coat of wax and a flow to work but that is no different than wax foundation. Sure the bees mess a spot or two up every now and then but that is the same with foundationless and wax foundation. I use my combs for 10 years minimum so plasic foundation is a great way to save time and play with the kids more.

Coating plastic foundation is easy to do yourself. A pound of beeswax will do 40 plus sheets and my wife can wax a couple hundred an hour.
 

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Years ago, when I first started using some plastic foundation, I had the same problem. Haven't had it happen in many years now. Early on, I bought 5 lbs of wax from one of the bee supply companies. I melted it down in an old crock pot and would take a small paint roller and roll a light layer of new wax on to the foundation. Each year since, I take my cappings from honey processing and use them for next year's new foundation. I probably go through 200 new frames each year because of nuc building. The new layer of wax really is difference maker in bees being drawn to new foundation. And because I am an all organic operation, I know that the new wax being rolled on is clean.
If you're feeding and they aren't drawing the foundation out, I would guess it's because of a lack of wax on the plastic. Alot of the "whole hive in a box" packages don't appear to have much, if any, wax on the foundation.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This past weekend I was able to check back in on things. I am happy to report the scraped area has been drawn in without issue. Thank you for all of your help.
 

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It would be nice to have a succinct and unambigious name for such comb. The best I can come up with is “a paralell half comb” since it is a half comb (cells on only one side) and it is paralell to the foundation. It is a common occurance with either plastic or the old DuraComb or DuraGilt. The other kind of messed up comb you get are “fins” which are 90 degrees to the foundation.
 

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I presume the “accurate and unambiguous name for such comb” should be “parallel half comb”. I think many beekeeping people following Michael Bush would change the English language to describe such comb as typed - a credit to his insight, but due to fingers missing the correct key.
 
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