Foundationless Frames – Bee Vlog #163 – Feb 28, 2015

Foundationless Frames – Bee Vlog #163 – Feb 28, 2015

Hello and welcome back to The Bee Vlog Yes I’m back out in my messy garage I should probably do something about it and clean it up But who has time for that? Anyway, today I’m going to be talking about foundationless frames I got a couple questions on Facebook from Steve and Cardwell about how to get started with foundationless And how to keep the comb straight I want to first talk about what foundation is This is what a lot of beekeepers in my area use, it’s just a plastic foundation And that is a thin sheet of plastic that has the honey comb pattern – the hex pattern – embossed on it Then it’s got a thin coating of wax over it so that the bees are attracted to it I don’t like using it for several reasons First of all, one of the modes of communication for bees is vibration and the foundation actually inhibits that and they can tune a foundationless comb to be able to propagate those vibrations So all the bees in the hive can basically hear what’s happening Second, the wax that’s used in foundation comes from other beekeepers and, sorry guys, but I don’t trust your wax The wax that comes from all over the country can have chemicals in it that are either applied by the beekeeper or from the flowers that are being visited by the bees and the pesticides that are on those flowers Because a lot of these chemicals can be absorbed into the wax and just show up in your hive Third, I like to allow the bees to draw out whatever size cell they want And I’m not talking just about small cell I’m talking about any size Bees use a variety of sizes of cells in the hive They can vary not just for the size of the brood and the size of the drone, but also for the honey itself They’ll draw it out actually a little bit bigger so that there’s a more efficient use of wax when they’re creating the honey comb There’s another type of foundation and that’s just pure wax You don’t have to get the plastic kind You can get the wax kind This doesn’t have wires in it, but you can get it where it has wires that are going vertically in it If you use the wax foundation it’s a good idea to secure it with wires and it helps to stiffen it and give it more rigidity so that when you put it through a spinning extractor to extract the honey it doesn’t blow out the comb But even foundationless beekeepers can use this and I’ll show you how today There are a couple ways to make your frames so that they’re foundationless One is to use a wooden comb guide like I’ve got here And I’ll show you how I make that But it’s just a piece of wood that acts as a ridge that the bees hang off of and it helps to keep them going straight It doesn’t work 100% of the time Sometimes towards the end they’ll go a little off track and get a little crooked But that can be fixed, it’s pretty easy to do Some people will apply wax to this comb guide I don’t bother doing that because it’s messy and there’s a lot of work and I don’t think it really matters Another option, and this is where the wax foundation comes in Is to just cut a strip of that wax and put it up along the top here The first method I’ll show you is just the wooden comb guide, this is my preferred method because it’s fast and it’s cheap, you don’t have to buy any extra parts Most frames come with a little breakout wedge on the bottom side of the top bar You just break that off and then I do a little clean up on it with a chissel Sometimes there’s a little burr along here Just clean that off You can use a sharp blade too, but this is really the easiest and fastest way to do it When the wedge was in there it was lying flat Now we’re going to turn it up on its side at a 90 degree angle And you can use glue if want to, you don’t have to I use a little bit of glue just to make sure it doesn’t fall out Not much Put the strip in Then I’m using a brad nailer with 5/8″ brads And because 5/8″ is actually a little bit longer if not exactly the distance here I’m going to put them in at a slight angle so that they don’t poke out the other side Only need a few Watch your fingers And it’s done That frame is ready to use The 2nd method is to take that sheet of wax foundation and cut little strips out of it like this Now if it’s cold outside while you’re doing this be careful that the foundation doesn’t crack or break It can get kind of brittle in cold temperatures This is a medium size foundation, it measures 5-1/2″ I can get 7-8 strips out of this You don’t have to be perfect with it I just don’t want to have any waste or cut-off that’s too small to use So, if I use… If I want 8 strips and I cut them at about 5/8″ then I can get them all in there Once you’ve got all your strips cut out it’s ready to assemble Just like before, we’re going to break that wedge off the top Do a little clean up with a chisel This time when we assemble it I’m not going to turn the wedge 90 degrees, I’m going to put it back in flat again And it’s going to be used to clamp this strip of foundation in place Put it in there nice and tight Again with the 5/8″ brad nails Give it a good clamp to hold that foundation in These can go in straight Only need a few nails in place I don’t recommend staples because if you need to pop this wedge back out again it’s going to be a harder time getting staples out And there we go That’s ready to use too And now the big question is, how do you get them to draw straight comb Well, first that comb guide is important That’s the first step, if you have a good comb guide you’re 90% there The rest of it is just keeping an eye on what they’re doing At least once a week you’ll want to look in you don’t have to pull any frames out Just look through the top, down between the bars and see if the comb is still going straight If you’re starting to see a little bit of it go off track, you just take that piece out And if this were crooked I would cut it free from the top bar and just push it back into place The comb, when the bees are using it, is really warm and soft and pliable So it’s really easy to just come in with a sharp knife or even your hive tool separate the crooked part from the top bar and push it in nice and straight You might do a little bit of damage to any brood that’s up at the top or make a mess of some honey, but that’s okay It’s actually better in the long run to get it taken care of early instead of making a big mess of it And believe me, I’ve had my cases of big messes and a little bit of maintenance is better than having to deal with the big messes Another key is “straight comb begets straight comb” meaning, when you have already drawn out comb in the box they tend to keep going in that same orientation and keep the same pattern If your comb is getting a little crooked and you think maybe they’ll fix it on their own, they don’t, they actually make it worse The next comb will follow the same pattern and sometimes start to magnify that turn and so on all the way down the box, it just makes a mess of things Let’s have a little lesson on bee space Bee space is 3/8 of an inch And all of the boxes and frames in a Langstroth hive are built around this concept of bee space 3/8 of an inch is the ideal gap where bees won’t fill it with comb and they won’t close it off with propolis When bees build comb the thickness of the comb is about an inch or 7/8 of an inch for brood comb And the distance between the combs is about 1-3/8″ So on these frames these end bars actually measure 1-3/8″ so the center-to-center distance between the combs is always 1-3/8″ So Steve asked me, one idea about getting straight comb, what about if you put an empty frame between 2 frames of foundation and create kind of a barrier and a pattern for them to follow When you create an arrangement in the hive of an empty frame sandwiched on either side by foundation that doesn’t have any drawn comb on it you’ve created a gap that is 2-3/4″ The bees will see this as an opportunity to draw out 2 foundationless combs in-between the frames In-between the top bars They’ll see the foundation as walls of a cavity and they’ll want to maximize the space for drawing out comb If you have available to you some drawn comb it’s better to sandwich your empty frame between 2 frames of drawn comb instead of 2 pieces of foundation That way they don’t have that 2-3/4″ gap that they’ll want to fill They’ll have just enough space to draw out 1 perfectly straight piece of comb This concept of bee space is also important when working in the hive Because when you’re putting back your frames or when you’re putting the boxes back together If you have any gaps in between the frames you’ll want to make sure that you close those up Get all the frames pushed together tightly So that there’s shoulder-to-shoulder contact between the frames And I like to center them in the box so that the distance and the gaps between the outer walls is about equivelant This is to prevent any kind of excessive burr comb that they can build up in that gap So that’s how I work with foundationless frames If you’re enjoying these videos please share them with a friend Thanks for watching

7 thoughts on “Foundationless Frames – Bee Vlog #163 – Feb 28, 2015”

  1. What excellent use of graphics to demonstrate a point … I especially like how you explain why not to put an empty frame between two un-drawn foundation frames. Thanks!

  2. ¡!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!llllllll I gather from other youtube videos that the bees will build worker comb in the spring buildup and if you miss that you will generally get drone comb also drill a hole or holes in the top bar preferably the size of a bamboo Barbecue sqewer and push them to the bottom of the frame and this will support the comb!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Great presentation! You're a natural teacher. I've used foundationless frames for years and like doing so very much. I learned a technique from Michael Bush that works perfectly. If you have no drawn comb available, to better guarantee the bees will build straight, just intersperce 2, or better 3 frames with foundation, inside the hive box. Works great.

    I in my honey supers, I now have all frames with foundation except for one or two for cut comb.

  4. Have you thought of attaching wooden chamfer strips to the top bars to create a upside down wedge as the comb guide?

  5. Cool video!! Stumble across yours and learned allot .. check mine out sometime give me some tips!

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