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

October 23, 2019

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

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  1. I started foundationless last year, after reading Bush's Practical Beekeeper. the two bastard russian colonies rebelled. ignored the guides, ignored the frames, build all their comb perpendicular to the frames. Total mess.complete disaster of unworkable hives.  Italians and Carniolan colonies have done great with it, and those hives were very pretty.

  2. I use unguided top bar only hive at the moment, will be interesting in my hive inspection this week to see how much of a nightmare their comb is 😛

  3. I wonder how flow hive sounds when vibrated? 🙂 I am using foundationless frames in my hybrid hive.  Where do you recommend buying those frames with the wedges.  Mine did not come with those. I guess it because I bout frames with foundation but I took it out because I did not like the plastic.

  4. You just explained a problem I've been having trying to go foundationless.  I was putting empty frames in between frames with foundation!  Thanks Bill, your illustration points out exactly what was going wrong!

  5. I will try foundation-less this season. My question to you do they take longer to build their own comb? Do they require more feed? Cheers

  6. I have both the wax with wires, and plastic foundations.  I personally like the plastic better due only to its fit in the frame, my wax foundations seem a bit bigger and end up getting bent….  ive seen the pins used to keep the wax straight, but common… really… do I need another product? or will the plastic be ok?

  7. Thank you for your videos – all of them! I have been watching since some time last summer, went on a marathon at first to catch up and have eagerly awaited every new one after that! I already had an interest in starting a couple of hives before starting to watch but after watching I am really interested in trying your "style" of beekeeping. I am about to push the order button for 2 all medium foundation less hives, wish me luck!

  8. To me making frames is very hard and time consuming even with a jig. i spend a lot of time making and cutting the pieces out for frames   I don't use the plastic wax foundation my bees want draw it out, and i make my own foundation, from my own wax,  it's not embezzled  just rolled out and cut to fit inside the frames so it want break if i'am short on wax i will use starter strips.  There no way in hell i'am paying 3500 bucks for a foundation roller with the embezzle cells on it, i would make a rubber embezzle mold for foundation.. But its not that important, Its just a little bit faster with cell foundation or have the bee wax starter strips or a blank foundation wax with out the cells is what i use. Just a little bit faster, Than using no foundation  I have No Wire No my foundation.The bees will draw it out them self reguardless  Thanks for sharing cheers

  9. I love watching your videos. They're so informational in a way that is easy to understand. I have not yet gotten my own bees, but I think that along with my books and other educational things you will be a great help. Thank you so much for posting videos on the interwebs. 

  10. I know I know this don't have any thing to do with foundation but i just ran across this article.  I wanted to share with you!  Give your bees some coffee in there sugar water, not a lot.  just a little bit  he heee    Next they will be eating steak and drink wine at our dinner tables He Heee a study in UK on HB  I don't think it would hurt them. they might get wire if to much Now they can drink coffee to wake up from the beer He Hee i'am going to give it a try Click The Link >

  11. Great info thanks!  How many supers do you stack at a time?  I've been told only add a super when the one being worked is almost full.  Then we were told at the bee club mtg to stack 3 supers at a time since bees patrol all open frames and it would keep pests (wax moths) out of your frames and keep everything clean.  Not sure which way to go and would be most interested in your opinion.  Thanks again, Vickie   

  12. Thanks for another great video.
    How do the foundationless frames stand up to being spun during honey extraction?
    Would it be worth putting some wires in too do you think?

  13. Thank you for your information videos.  I am learning a lot.  I plan on retiring in about 2 years and bees are going to be part of that time of my life.  I had bees many years ago when I was living in the mountains of North Carolina and enjoyed the hobby very much and look forward to it again.  I just watched your video on the FLOW HIVE and I think it would take all the fun out of it.

  14. Bill, I'd like to elaborate on a few things in this video. The video is all very good information I just wanted to touch on a few points. First "bee space"- we use 3/8" in our Langstroth hives for several reasons. I just wanted to point out that when the reverend Langstroth discovered bee space he noted it to be somewhere between 1/4" and 3/8". We use 3/8" because it works and we can guarantee that it won't be to small. The second thing I wanted to mention was the sandwiching foundationless frames between frames with foundation. I have used this technique very successfully when starting brand new colonies. Drawn comb as you said is much more reliable, however when you start out we don't all have that luxury.  I'm sure there have been plenty of beekeepers have had the two combs in the center of three frames. That's just not been my experience. Bee's do have a mind of their own though and I've had plenty of cross comb and weird comb so I certainly wouldn't put it past them. Great video keep them coming.

  15. I have to respectfully say that your theory about getting wax from other bee keepers whose bees collected it from flowers sprayed with chemicals is flawed.   Can you guarantee your bees will not collect wax from flowers sprayed with chemicals ?  Secondly, your non-use of foundations in frames causes the bees to consume more time on building the foundation and less time collecting honey.  At the end of the day  bees will do their own thing… if the cells are too big or too small for their liking, then they will change the size.  I do not use plastic foundation…  I can't chew it.

  16. I am starting a nuc and a package and wanted to go foundationless. I was told that this might be difficult on the package and to alternate foundation and foundationless. You showed why that doesn't work. Would it be ok to go all foundationless with both the nuc and package? I am in Montana so it will be awhile before we get blooms.

  17. I found two suppliers that make frames specifically for foundationless comb. Kelley Beekeeping and I haven't used either, but am going to order some.

  18. I'm just getting into bee keeping. Can I start all foundationless or should I use foundations until I get comb and then place foundationless frames between the combed foundations?

  19. at 10:12 where you describe putting an empty frame between two frames with foundation.. this is exactly what I did in my hive (plastic frames alternating with wood foundationless). I am a new beekeeper this year. If you don't have drawn comb to start with, how do you get them to draw straight comb without foundation?

  20. I'm loving the idea of going foundation-less on my beehive! Have you ever tried adding wire to the frames as well? I'm hoping that the bees would be able to build comb over it so i could put the 'stronger' frames in an extractor.

  21. Mate your the best bee guy along with fat bee man and mike palmers please make more vids. Is there a donate option or do you have a sit

  22. Great video and Thanks. I have decided to go foundationless this year as I believe it is more natural with less risk of obtaining contaminated wax. I have a question for you. I make my own frames. Have you seen the ones where you make the top par with a beveled bottom for the bees to start drawing off of? What is your take on this type?

  23. #24 (Vlog #163)
    For a person wishing to build their own frames which source of lumber do you recommend? I’m sure Pine is cheaper but which (if any) has proven to be better overall and why?
    BTW – Just finished your playlist “For Beginners”. Now we’re just going to start all over again and watch them in chronological order. So much to learn and we’re excited to get started.

  24. I'm not a beekeeper (yet) but after watching a lot of videos it would appear there is a lot of "personal preferences" going on. I've seen videos where people say that you can make foundation-less comb by sandwiching empty frames between pre-made foundation frames. You very clearly explain why that method isn't best, and when I eventually start my own hive I definitely want to avoid using any pre-made foundation, even a small strip to get the bees started. Using the method of a wood/popsicle strip as the guide, could one put a line of wax all the way around the inside walls of the frames instead of just one line on the top? My thinking is that this outline of wax all the way around would encourage them to connect it straighter, but as I've never worked with bees I don't know. I haven't seen that idea mentioned before, only the one line, so I'm curious if it has been tried…

  25. This is a great presentation. You have a friendly, easy going approach to sharing your knowledge and you do an excellent job explaining the reasons for each task. Thank you for your help.

  26. I really like your videos but I have to say if anyone in America thinks they have bees with no chemicals in their combs and hives they are kidding themselves. City folk use as much or more chemicals as farmers. I use one inch strips of the plastic foundation as starter strips.

  27. Hi Bill, for example if i am adding a super to a hive, is it bad idea to put only foundation less frames into that super?

  28. Bill, I've been using natural comb (foundationless) for some years now. One of the biggest tips I could share when getting started with foundationless (natural comb) and one has no older pulled foundation (drawn comb) is….. is to level the hive from side to side. Since, like all creatures on earth, bees have to deal with gravity. Gravity is a major player in the bees life and thus help is drawing straight vertical comb. You do a very nice job explaining the different techniques of beekeeping. Keep it up!

  29. I have a question. I would like to go without the pre-comb sized foundations on my bee frames but like the idea of giving them a foundation to keep straight. Could I make my own wax foundation but just not emboss it with the cell pattern so they can build the cells whatever size they want? That way I sirt if get the best of both worlds. I get to use my own wax for the foundation which I can reinforce, get straight comb, and the bees preferred cell sizes. Can you think of any reason this wouldn't work? Thank you for your time.

  30. Glue is NOT overkill. I use staples on mine and since they arn't glued down, its really easy to pull it apart. I've found this out lately since I'm redoing my frames with fishing line.

  31. I have started working a relationship with a Pest management business that normally destroys bees when they swarm and I have no clue of doing things when working with bees, But I have managed to get the plans to build a Langstrom Hive set up and the frames..(working with wood is not a problem for me) But how or where would I get older brood comb every for the bottom of the hive if and when I do collect up a swarm or can I just start with empty frames on the bottom….

  32. I'm planning on starting to switch over to foundationless this coming year. Modified a couple frames last year and they were drawn out nicely. Purchased the W. T. Kelley foundationless frames and looking forward to seeing how the do.

  33. I have been splitting paint stirring sticks and gluing them in for a guide. The groove at the bottom is a great place for hive beetles to hide, so I have also been gluing the sticks in the bottom. I wish there were more options to buy foundationless frames without that bottom groove! So far they're building fairly straight comb. Thank you for the great videos. …they're very helpful!

  34. Thanks for your videos. We are going foundationless in our apiary. I have read that it is important to make sure the hive boxes are level side to side to keep them building straight come from top to bottom. The writer said this is because the bees hang like a plumb bob from the starter strips.???

  35. I plan on using fishing line on the foundationless frames to aid in creating straight comb between frames with plastic foundation, I'm a newbie and this will be my first hive. Frames with comb drawn will take a way. Also my so called 8-frame boxes I can easily put 9-frames into them, then only a slight space is left. Boxes and frames are from Mann Lake.

  36. I want your shirt and also loved the beginnig of the video your sight just the real thing, thanks for sharing. Please if you sell the shirts or know the sourse please share. Thankyou nice to discover your beelog.

  37. Hi, could you put a frame with foundation in the middle and all the rest foundation less or just a strip of foundation


  38. I just started beekeeping and want to go foundation less because I think it's better for the bees but it scares me a little so I am trying something I have not seen, which is to put a wire mesh as a foundation but not something that will set cell size. So I am hoping this will get them to build the comb in the frame as they should while letting them build the comb as they like.

    Anyway, this is what I'm doing

  39. Best comment ever by beeks is "I don't share tools between my hives, I discourage drifting and I don't move comb between hives, but I use foundation from hives about which I have no knowledge". I am glad you covered this chemical contamination / medication / bacterial spores are likely to be present especially if it came from a commercial operation.

  40. Okay – Something is VERY wrong here: 666 "likes" and 6 "dislikes"? Are we now the 'mark of the beast" or something? Someone please tell us that the 'rapture' is not here, and that our bees are going to be here tomorrow… :O

    BTW: plastic foundation is evil. The Anti-Christ will be coming on a plastic foundation…..

  41. Most those sheets come from china now which I really don't trust. But question, if you don't trust the wax on the plastic frames, how can you trust this wax?

  42. what if you use 1 foundation fame with a bunch of foundationless frames (like sandwich the foundationless frame around the foundation frame) then would all the frames be straight or not.

  43. 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!

  44. ¡!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!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!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. 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.

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

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

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