The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Foundationless Frame Results

Foundationless frame.I'm starting to get a handle on foundationless bee frames.  I've tried three methods, a good one, a mediocre one, and a bad one.

The mediocre one was the one I started with, which you can see to the right.  I cut each sheet of foundation into five pieces, sandwiched one foundation piece between the wooden strip and the rest of the frame, and nailed the wooden strip into place with vertical nails.  The bees built down from the foundation piece just fine, but the foundation tended to slip loose before they started building on it.  I had to reattach about a third of the foundation pieces in the first week, after which all was well.

Foundationless frame with burr comb.The good method is the same as the mediocre one, with a slight adjustment.  Rather than nailing the wooden strip back in place with vertical nails, I turned it 90 degrees and nailed it in with horizontal nails.  This gave the foundation piece more structural integrity, and since the nails went through the foundation it also tended to hold the pieces in place.  I haven't had to replace any of those foundation pieces.

The bad method consisted of reattaching the wooden strip vertically to the frame with no foundation material.  This was a big loser.  The wooden strip was too wide to give the bees a firm guideline on where to build, so they built their comb crooked.  Good thing they'd only been at it three days before I checked on them and replaced the frames with the good method.

Read other posts about foundationless frames and varroa mites:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I noticed that you have had trouble with turning the wedge 90 degrees and nailing it to the top bar of the langstroth frame with no starter wax. That is all I have ever done with langstroth hives and so far have not even had any cross-comb or other problems. I do level my hives with a level. I once took one of my brood frames to an entomologist at UNL for a diagnosis of sacbrood and he did not even notice that it was a foundationless frame until I told him. Even he was amazed. I suppose that some colonies are better at building straight comb than others. I also have three horizontal top bar hives in use and build my topbars on a table saw in one solid piece with a triangle design for a comb guide. I have never used any wax starter or anything like it as of yet and have had no problems with comb attatchment. All that I give the bees is bare wood. I mostly do this because I am too lazy or busy to do it. I am new to beekeeping and have never put foundation in any of my hives and I hope that I never have to. It costs too much and I would like to spend that money on more hives and more bees. Do I sound cheap or what?
Comment by Todd Wed Nov 25 23:56:01 2009
Hey, cheap is good! :-) I'm intrigued to hear that you've had no problems --- did you shave down the wedge so that it came to a point? I'm very new to beekeeping, and I think I actually put the supers on too soon. I might have given up on them building on the bare wood prematurely! I'll have to give it another shot next year. Thanks for the feedback!
Comment by anna Thu Nov 26 08:55:23 2009
I did not shave down the wedge, I just turned it 90 degrees and nailed and glued it to the top bar. Most of the beekeepers I know do use a wax starter strip, but so far I am able to get away with not using anything. I recently took someone's advice and now use an air powered stapler instead of nails and a tack hammer to assemble frames. I am now getting things done so much faster! I also made a jig to assemble the hive bodies. I got that idea on Michael Bush's website-he has several pictures of his. I also have a frame assembly jig.
Comment by Todd Sun Nov 29 00:58:54 2009
Thanks for the extra info! I'll definitely give it another try --- that sounds very much like my first shot at it. I probably just didn't give them long enough to build.
Comment by anna Sun Nov 29 20:20:02 2009
Hello there! I really like your web site on Beekepping! I too use the foundationless way of beekeeping. I have a little technique I learned from the Bio Dynamic folks. so, when installing the 1 inch strip I take a frame that usually gets plastic foundation and I use the empty slot to put in the 1 inch starter strip and I "glue it" in with beeswax. This way you lock it into the frame and there is no way of it becoming loose. Then if your hive is set "dead level" your in business. Try it and see how it works for you.
Comment by Neal Thu Apr 1 01:10:10 2010
By gluing it in with beeswax, do you mean you melt some and paint it on like glue? That sounds like a good thing to try!
Comment by anna Thu Apr 1 07:38:05 2010

Please tell me how the bees are doing with your foundationless method, are there no more mite problems then? Or if there is, have you been able to continue using the bee 'smell' strips? I'm trying to spread information that could help save bees so please reply back to me, thanks for your time and concern. Have a wonderful day,


Comment by Ayisha Sun Jun 10 01:38:06 2012
Ayisha --- It definitely seemed to help for a few years --- we made it for three years with moderate varroa mite levels and no chemicals. But then our hives died, possibly of colony collapse disorder. We're still experimenting. You might want to read some of our more recent bee-related posts for more information.
Comment by anna Sun Jun 10 14:32:19 2012

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