I have seen some bad reviews of plastic foundation lately on some other blogs and feel the need to put my two cents in.  Earlier this spring I pulled and photographed some frames from some dead-outs to show the building results on different types of foundation as well as on foundation-less frames.

Wax foundation frame.

First I will show wax foundation.  The bees built well on this.  They provided themselves nice worker sized brood comb.  They also made pass-throughs on the edges of the comb as well as a hole in the center.  I have seen this configuration in several cutouts.  They will provide themselves passageways through the comb.  I would make the assertion that this must be more natural than using plastic since they have no way of constructing pass-throughs.

Other side of wax foundation frame. Not the hole in the center.


Duragilt foundation. Well built comb.


Next we will look at a couple of frames that had Duragilt foundation placed within them.  One thing that I LIKE about this foundation are the holes in the bottom corners.  The bees seem to like to go around and through the combs.  These holes allow for this on a limited basis.

Wacky wacky wacky

I am not sure what cues them to build wacky comb on this stuff but when they do it is a disaster.  When they decide to build well on it they make it look beautiful.  One problem that has been noticed is that even when they do build “well” they sometimes pull wax out beyond the dimensions of the frame.  This causes a problem across the box as one frame will be pulled out quite far and the next will be so shallow that the queen refuses to place eggs within the cells.

A little more wacky from another frame.

I will not rip this foundation apart.  I have seen some good results from it, but I have also seen some VERY bad ones LIKE THESE TWO!!!!.





Duragilt foundation with plastic exposed. Note that they just refuse to build on it once it is in this condition. I have seen this result repeatedly.leaving the plastic.

One thing that I DON’T like about this foundation is that sometimes the bees will removed the wax from it.  Once the plastic is exposed they will NOT build on it anymore.  I have about 200 sheets of this stuff that was given to me for shallow frames.  I intend to use it in honey supers at least until I run out.

Foundationless frame side 1

Lastly I will show a drawn out foundation-less frame.  Now I will mention that this frame was not drawn out as completely and as nicely as the Duragilt.  The pictured frame was one close to the outside of the box.  It seems to have been built with a lot of drone comb.  Since I was using combs from dead-outs I am showing what was available.

Foundationless frame side 2

Perhaps this is a clue to the colonies demise.






Comb on a deep frame when traditionally supered. They attempted to build UP instead of down.

One last side note.  I have noticed a repeated occurrence with DEEP foundation-less frames.  When I have supered in the traditional way I have had trouble getting bees to build well.  It appears that they attempt to build up from the bottom.  Ultimately they abandon the effort and leave what is displayed in the

This frame was UNDER SUPERED (nadired). Note how they have begun building in the normal fashion from the top down.

accompanying photo. When they are UNDER supered (nadired) bees will build comb in their normal fashion.

I have seen video on The Bee Vlog showing foundation-less MEDIUM frames that were built well using the traditional supering method.  I don’t know if something was done to prevent the problems I have experienced or if Bill’s bee are just smarter than mine.  Next year I will super a couple of the hives with empty MEDIUM foundation-less frames to see what happens.  I have seen multiple posts on bee forums where Michael Bush has stated he has no problem with foundation-less frames.  He also advocates the use of all mediums.  It would be something to think about if this is in-fact true.

What do you think?  What foundation are you currently using?  Do you like it or are you thinking of changing to something else?  Leave me feedback in the comments section.

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51 Responses to Foundation

  1. Bill says:

    When I added boxes I also pyramided the frames. Like checkerboarding but only bring up a couple of fully drawn out frames. I’m not really sure if that’s what has made the difference though, as I only have the example of one colony to show so far. I’ve been told that pyramiding encourages the bees to move up into the new box, and I hypothesize that it lets them more easily crawl up (which they seem to prefer over flying up) higher into the box to start building comb.

    One thing I like about foundationless is how much less burr comb there is (unless they build crooked comb which is a problem I’m dealing with in my smaller hive). The bees want to build a certain amount of drone comb and if they’re given only worker size foundation then they put drone comb wherever they can, which is usually between boxes. Then when you open the hive you tear everything apart and the bees busy themselves with fixing your mess.

    But the main reason I went foundationless is because I don’t want any chemicals in my hives, and it’s hard (and expensive) to find a source of clean wax. Foundationless is cheaper, cleaner, and less work. Plus the added benefit of giving the bees the opportunity to build natural sized cells. (Most foundation is larger cell for making bigger bees.) Small cell comb is a natural mite deterrent. And, according to many sources, small bees are healthier, more productive workers.

    • Jason says:

      I have done some “pyramiding” this year in my honey supers. I am watching it all play out. I have also done an inverted “pyramid” type thing where I take a couple of outside frames from swarm traps and put them below the main brood nest. This also seems to work.

      I too have had them build across the frames. I don’t know what makes them decide to do it. Things can be going along just find only to find out two or three weeks later that you have 3 or 4 frames built crossways. In the two cases where I have had bees build things super bad I have just left things alone in there. I eventually am going to work those boxes UP in a Warre fashion. Once they are full of honey, I will take them off and bust things out of there. I will then use the crush method to get the honey out. I have found it is hard to make the bees do what I want them to do…. 🙂

      I agree with the chemical aspect of your concern over wax foundation. I am still trying to evaluate the arguments for the different foundation sizes. I read a lot about how it is beneficial to have small cell, then I will read about how someone claims to have proven there is no difference. Regardless, if you have no foundation in there whatsoever the bees will build the size cells they decide to build. So whether they are a little smaller or larger than what HUMANS think is the most perfect, it is by default “natural”. To me that is the main reason to use it.

      Thanks for reading! Everything still going OK with the hive you quit feeding?

      • Bill says:

        So far, the hive I quit feeding is doing well. They haven’t grown nearly as fast as the package hive that I fed. They aren’t drawing out the comb as quickly. So I’m not sure how things are going to look for them when winter arrives. I caught this swarm on June 2 and it still hasn’t filled the 10 foundationless frames of just the one box. The brood pattern looks good, and the population is slowly increasing. Today I went in and straightened up all their messy, crooked, cross comb (video to be posted soon).

        • Jason says:

          I have noticed that there is a number threshold that they finally reach where things are slowly progressing and then all of a sudden you look in there and you say “What the heck happened!!”. They can do amazing amounts of work in a little time. This has been the case with the group that came from the firehouse. Things were really lagging while they were making their own queen and getting started. I was in there yesterday and couldn’t believe the transformation that had occurred in that box.
          I have fed nothing this year. The vast majority have not had the lid off since being hived. I have been trying to utilize outside observations as my main management strategy. After my supers are all pulled I will be giving all the new starts a good look before winter to evaluate where they are at. No matter what I am going LetMBee, but I would still like to know as a reference. Last year I had single deep hives pull through the winter. I don’t know how, I just know they did.
          Keep me posted, and I will catch the video.

  2. Anita says:

    My foundationless is working great supering on top, after I moved 3 drawn frames from the middle box to the top box, then pushed the frames on the bottom together, adding the empty frames to the outside of the bottom box. After I switched to that method the bees did great. This is also what they taught at the foundationless workshop I attended.

    • Anita says:

      There’s a typo – I meant after I moved 3 drawn frames from the middle of the bottom box to the middle of the top box.

      • Jason says:

        I will try that next year when I am trying to get them to build. One thing is for certain. Without a way for them to WALK up to the top they don’t seem to want to build up above very much. Last year I learned this the hard way with 5 or 6 hives. They were top supered with foundationless frames. Those hives ended up having to overwinter on one deep because they just would not go up there to build. They weren’t laggards either. I firmly believe they would have filled two boxes had they either 1) had some frames up top as you have described, or 2) if I would have just put the initial box on top of an empty.

        Thanks for sharing how you are getting it done with foundationless frames and thanks for taking the time to read.

  3. Mil says:

    I read something about this on Linda’s Bees site. She mentioned that the bees need a ladder or something like that.

    • Jason says:

      When bees start a colony they go to the top of whatever cavity they are in initially and begin to build down. I think it confuses them biologically to have dead space above where they have already built. I am a believer in the idea of a ladder. Then the bees can crawl to the top as they would normally and just “EXPAND” the nest laterally by making it wider. I have seen this in several of these cutouts I have done this summer.

      I will have to check out Linda’s bees. Thanks Mil.

  4. Halley Hart says:

    I really would like to try foundationless. I have an 8 and a 10 frame hive and 2 nucs coming in a couple of weeks. Instead of giving them foundation I would like to just give them a foundationless frame with popsicle sticks/paint sticks across the tops. I am wondering if it is possible to not use wires on a deep frame…is that asking too much? I really don’t want to extract the deep frames, but rather just the supers. Just curious.

    • Jason says:

      I have quit using wires on my deep frames. The bees build on them just fine without it and especially if you aren’t planning on extracting them there is NO need for wire at all. They will be strong enough provided you are careful. Just remember if you pull the frames for an inspection. Even if comb completely fills the frame you could have an accident. So just be careful to turn the frame like a steering wheel if you desire to invert it to look for eggs/larvae in the cells instead of just flipping it up and away from you like you would a normal frame with foundation. (if you aren’t following that explanation let me know I will take another crack at it.)

      I quit putting wire in last year because I noticed that where the wires passed through the frame there would NEVER be capped brood along those lines. Many of my sidebars did not have the wire directly in the center of the frame. See Latest Experiment – Attempting to use NO wire in deep foundation-less frames.

      Actually thanks for your comment. It reminds me that I need to get back and report on that… I will be trying to extract some of those DEEP frames in a tangential extractor this fall. I will let you know how it turns out. BTW I use foundation-less frames (shallows and mediums) with no wires in my supers as well. I extracted them last year and it was fine. You just gotta be a little bit careful. 🙂

      If you use foundationless frames and are placing boxes on top of established combs (supering) you need to provide at least a couple of frames of foundation or drawn out combs in the center above your brood chamber. This provides a ladder for the bees to get to the top bars and begin building comb. For some reason they don’t get they idea to just fly up there and start building comb like we would want. If they can climb up though they will build perfectly. I didn’t know this the first year I tried it and got one heck of a mess in some supers. They built the combs all wonky. (again if you don’t follow me let me know I will demonstrate it in a video or something.)

      Thanks for reading and your comment. Remember with bees and everything else not everything always goes as planned, but you learn from everything. Good luck.

      • Larry says:

        “If you use foundationless frames and are placing boxes on top of established combs (supering) you need to provide at least a couple of frames of foundation or drawn out combs in the center above your brood chamber. This provides a ladder for the bees to get to the top bars and begin building comb. For some reason they don’t get they idea to just fly up there and start building comb like we would want.”

        Some bees will build ascending comb without “ladders”. Just give them empty frames, keep a watchful eye and if you must handle frames, handle carefully until the top is attached.

        Ascending Comb Photo

        • Jason says:

          It’s been a long time Larry. I hope things have been going OK for ya.

          I have observed my bees building ascending comb, and I think it might be a valid option for mediums. I have seen it go very wrong in deeps, but I don’t have any pictures of it because they were destoyed when I removed the frames. What happened was as the comb made it to about half way it began to lean one way or the other ultimately getting into the comb to one side. Then the bees would fuse it together and I had a mess the next time I removed it.

          Have you ever noticed a difference in the amount if time it takes for them to build ascending comb versus descending? In my limited experience with it I think it takes them longer to build up than to build down. What do you think? Also one reason I prefer to allow them to descend is that a lot of times it might be 2-4 weeks before I can make it back to a hive after I super it.

          Here is a link to a couple of pictures I have taken of both. I am never going to say I have the only way. I have heard enough of that at bee meetings. 🙂 I just report what I have observed. It is good to have some other perspectives because I might just learn something.

          Is this Indiana weather ever going to straighten out? I was wearing a short sleeve shirt yesterday morning and by the afternoon I was back to a winter coat. Today they are calling for snow furies here…

          I will be e-mailing you once things improve. I would like to compare some mortality rates from the winter. I know I have already lost a few, but that number could increase with these weather shifts. Take care man….

          • Larry says:

            Yes, ascending comb would likely be disastrous in deep frames, especially in the heat of summer. I only use mediums and some shallows above the brood nest so it is tolerable. I would agree building comb upward is slower than building comb downward. It also requires some care when separating boxes as there is typically more burr comb between the frames of the two boxes.

            “Is this Indiana weather ever going to straighten out?” I had hope a week ago but now I have increasing concerns. I am hearing reports of high local losses, some at 40%. I think one has to look all the way back to the winter of 2011-2012 to understand some of the contributing factors. The previous winter was extremely mild. The warm winter enabled very short and in many colonies even no breaks in brood rearing, good news for the mites. The spring of 2012 ramped-up quickly. As large colony populations declined in late summer and early fall the rate of mite infestations likely spiked in colonies not kept in check. Add the stresses of a summer dearth and an extended 2012-2013 winter and I think we might have a perfect storm brewing for mite vectored viruses, April will tell.

            After checking colonies last week my losses so far are still low (fingers crossed and knock-on-wood) being about 5% and limited to mid-summer overwintered nucs. However the beast of March is still clawing at the door with a vengeance. I fear there will be more losses.

          • Jason says:

            I have yet to make the rounds yet to my hives. I dislocated my shoulder two weeks ago and have 4 weeks left until I am “cleared” to do hive work per my Ortho Doc. If I can get two more weeks in prior to working hives I may just take my chances and attempt to get my hive work done. I know I will lose some hives because it has to happen. I went into winter hoping for at least 66.6667% survival or 20 hives making it through. Anything beyond that will be gravy.

            I have this gimp arm, a wife that is ready to give birth any moment, a new farm that I am making improvements on, and a house that I am tearing down in hopes of haveing one built before the end of 2013. There is plenty going on. All of the previously mentioned reasons are why I have not been posting as often as I would like to. I am worried about getting all of my work done. If it stays cold for another week or two I will actually be grateful.

            Sadly, I know that the longer Spring waits, the faster things will happen when the change finally occurs. Crazy = this time of year for a beekeeper. Thus far March is being a real bear, but last year was rough as well. We had all of that warm weather then it turned off cold for several weeks here. I think that was hard on some colonies as well.

  5. Halley Hart says:

    Thanks for the info…I really appreciate it. I will be starting with 5 frame deep nucs…I am wondering about timing. If I put the 5 frames into the 8 frame…should I just let the bees draw out the remaining 3 frames on foundation and when they fill them then start to incorporate the foundationless in the middle of brood chamber. For instance when frames 1 and 8(which means that all of the frames in between have been drawn out too) are filled should I take those and move them up(I suspect they may be filled with honey..should I harvest, store or just move up to the next box)? In the past when they have drawn out all but maybe 2 or 3 frames on the ends I would give them another box so they wouldn’t feel crowded…so how does this work if you are constantly taking out a frame or two(until that 1st deep is filled)…? Thanks for answering all my questions…I am new to this but, really would like to do this.
    Also I am glad somebody is not using wire in the deeps because mine don’t and I really don’t want to…I don’t plan on harvesting these…I really want to leave the deeps for the bees…and harvest the supers in the extractor. I also wonder if anyone does foundationless in the deeps and frames in the supers..would this be too confusing for the bees(since they are creating natural cell in deeps and then have to build on larger cell in the supers?) Thanks in advance!

    • Jason says:

      As in all things I see several ways to approach your situation. I would NOT put the foundationless in the “middle” of the brood chamber though. (and Larry if you are reading this weigh in….) Halley I am not one of the beekeepers who will tell you that there is only one way to do something. There is NOT just one right method.
      The way I see it:
      Option 1: Go ahead and put your 5 frames in the your 8 frame box and fill in the remaining slots with foundationless on the “outsides”. I am not a fan of separating the brood chamber. It could make it more difficult for them to thermo regulate the brood area. If you think about a feral hive that is they way that it will grow… outward from the initial comb or combs. This leaves you with 1 8 frame box and I would assume they will fill that rather quickly with comb and brood.

      Option 2: This option will be starting you with 2 deep 8 frame boxes. Place 4 frames from your nuc roughly in the center of the bottom box and then fill the reaming slots on the sides with foundationless frames. For this you would try to use frames of brood in the bottom box and try to select one that is either just drawn out or only has honey in it as THE FIFTH FRAME. Then place a second deep on top of the original one placing the 5TH FRAME roughly in the center then filling in the rest of the TOP box with foundationless frames. The bees will then use that FIFTH FRAME as a ladder and will build the rest of the combs in the second box.

      Option 3: THE WAY I DO MY SWARM TRAPS, but I cannot say THE ONLY WAY. When you are getting ready to hive your nuc put down your bottom board and then place your bottom box filled with 8 foundationless frames on top of it. On top of this place another deep box. In this second deep box place all 5 of the frames from your nuc roughly in the center maintaining the original order and orientation. Then fill the remaining slots with foundationless frames. I prefer this method because it does not break up the nuc from it’s original configuration and it mirrors most closely the way a hive of bees would fill a space in nature.

      There are probably other options, but I would go with one of these three of course with my preference for Option 3. Since you have more than 1 hive coming try more than one option and get back with me on how things turn out.

      Unless you get extremely lucky or live in a place with awesome honey flows I wouldn’t worry about harvesting any honey the first year. Unless you maybe just take 1 frame or something like that for a little novelty.

      I also wonder if anyone does foundationless in the deeps and frames in the supers..would this be too confusing for the bees(since they are creating natural cell in deeps and then have to build on larger cell in the supers?)
      That is actually a good question that I have never thought about. I will tell you I do it and it works. As time goes on you will observe more and more about bees. If you find bees living naturally in a structure they will have cells of varying sizes. Also bees from two different hives may do things slightly different. I am not a believer that there is 1 perfect cell size. Nature is made to have variation because the natural world is more intelligent that we give it credit for. There will always be variation because in different areas one cell size might work better. Nature may select for one cell size in Florida while a slightly larger or smaller one will be selected for in Michigan. That is why FOR THE BROOD CHAMBER, I allow them to make their own size. Since you are just starting out you will need some foundation for your honey supers. As time goes on you will get combs that the bees have made themselves. Preserve them as I have outlined in several Posts and some day you will no longer need to buy foundation at all.

      Since my operation has grown so rapidly I had to buy 120 sheets of medium foundation for all of my new supers. I place 9 frames in the supers above the brood nest 3 foundationless / 3 frames with foundation / 3 foundationless. I use a 9 frame spacer to make things uniform. I used this last year with great success.

      If I didn’t answer all of your questions let me know. I must stop because this response is getting a little windy.

      • Larry says:

        All three options are sound and viable choices. I agree with the advice to not divide the brood nest. Bees will relocate the stored honey where they want it but the brood nest should remain sacrosanct.

        When I use foundation I prefer plastic foundation over commercial wax foundation. The residual miticides found in all commercial wax foundation are more concerning to me than any perceived evils of food grade plastics. For more details see “High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health” – Mullin, et al (2010)

        • Bill says:

          Opening the brood nest and “checkerboarding” the frames is a viable way to encourage growth and give the bees more room to expand. But it does depend on the weather and the colony population. You do have to have enough nurse bees to completely cover the brood comb.

          • Jason says:

            That is another option. The reason I didn’t include it is because though I have read about it and Michael Bush recommends it I have had poor results when using DEEP frames and using that method. Perhaps it works better with mediums, but in my limited experience….. about 6 hives the bees built almost exclusively drone comb in checker-boarded foundationless frames. Also I have gotten to the point that I don’t like to separate brood frames (ever) especially in the Spring when a cold snap could cause the bees to leave brood unattended.

            Perhaps I did something wrong, but until I figure out why it happened I didn’t want to recommend the method. Those other three I have used and had good success with every time. Have you had reproducible success with that method using your all medium setup?

            In my operation I have had the best success with allowing the brood nest to expand down and out. Similar to the way that Warre described.

          • Bill says:

            (Hmm…I can’t reply to your comment Jason, so I’m putting it here. I guess there’s a limit to the number of nested replies.)

            On my 2 hives, when I pyramided up the brood I also checkerboarded them. So if I moved 2 frames of brood up I took out frames 4 & 6 (in a 10-frame box) and moved them up in the same position, replacing them with empty foundationless frames. I had no problems with chilling the brood and no problems with them building only drone brood in their place. But this was done in the summer, so no spring freezes to worry about. And there were lots of bees.

            I did notice that when I tried building the brood nest higher (3 boxes) than the queen was willing to go, they just filled those upper frames with honey after the brood hatched.

            I wonder why you had so much drone comb. Where they drone-right otherwise and just decided they wanted even more? That seems odd. If your hive isn’t drone-right they’ll start building as much drone comb as possible when given the opportunity. That’s why a lot of beekeepers who use foundation say that their bees only build drone comb if they try foundationless. It’s because they test just a couple foundationless frames in a box filled with worker foundation, and the bees, not being drone-right, start making drones.

            I will also add that when when pyramiding up into a honey super to use frames of capped honey. Otherwise they draw the comb out even thicker and it gets very messy and wild. Brood comb stays a uniform and even thickness, but honey comb can get crazy thick. Especially if you give them the room to do so.

          • Jason says:

            I believe they were drone-right… I have never culled drones. Perhaps some day I will try it again. The success I have had with seeding above the brood nest with a 3-4 drawn combs or frames with foundation pushed together with foundationless frames on either side (9 frames total in a 10 frame box) has led me to just continue doing it. When I am doing my supering in a month or so I will write a post complete with video and pictures. They don’t always do things perfectly, but it works fairly well. The most consistent hickup sometimes is that the first foundationless frame will be very narrow next to an exaggeratedly drawn out seed comb. It happens some, but not all of the time…

            As far as brood foundation I have not used any in 2 years. The reason initially was more financial than anything. 30 hives x 3 deeps x 10 frames = 900 sheets of foundation. At $1 a sheet that’s a bunch of money. At least for MY bee budget. I mean I find all of these feral hives and recheck them year after year. Those bees don’t need foundation why would my bees? It also negates the entire cell size debate on foundation. Is my cell size “natural”…. I don’t know what size it should be, but I know the bees made it the size they wanted it….

            As far as my 3 deep boxes I allow the brood chamber to move down. With the spring inspection the stack is dissembled and a new deep with 10 foundationless frames is placed at the base. Then the stack is re-assembled, then 2-3 supers are put on top of everything. I know I have read a lot about not increasing the space ahead of the bees ability to use it, but I have not had a problem…. YET. If that needs to change I will be posting about how I need to change my practice. At the end of the summer I have been extracting the ultimate (4th) deep because it is full of honey as long as the penultimate (3rd) deep is also full of honey. I experimented with it last year and didn’t talk about it much because I wanted to be sure it would work for me…. I am getting more and more sure. I am always so afraid to talk about things that I am experimenting with. Some experiments have been dismal failures and I am glad I didn’t plant the seed in anyone’s mind. 🙂

            Hey I need to post some comments on your most recent videos. I have been watching them on my i-Pad at work during lunch and for some reason it doesn’t allow me to comment. When I get some time I will catch up. You have been doing a better job of creating content than I. Keep up the good work man.

          • Bill says:

            Hmm…I’m not familiar with the iPad, but the Youtube app on my Android devices (phone & tablet) allows commenting. I’m not sure how to do it in iOS devices.

  6. Halley Hart says:

    Thanks for 3 examples…I really like Option 3 as I too don’t want to mess up the configuration…so they just naturally go down to the bottom deep with the foundationless frames..? I used to the standard way of adding a box on top and the bees moving upward. The only thing I worry about is chilling the brood…would all the space on the bottom be too much(they are coming middle of April…we had some frosts into June)? Do you use a regular or screened bottom board? I have both and have used the screened bottom board.
    Just to let you know…my 10 frame hive almost made it this year…it was a package of bees that grew like crazy, made gorgeous champagne colored honey(2 deeps and 2 supers full…I took only a few frames…I left everything deeps and 2 supers…maybe too much but other beeks in our valley(Methow Valley, eastern WA) leave 3 deeps so I thought why not), and was buzzing away in the coldest of January beginning of Feb then I saw lots of dead bees and heard nothing. My inexperience and impatience caused me to open the hive where I discovered a small cluster still alive..unfortunately it chilled them and they died(boohoo!)…let’s just say my learning curve was steep this year. One positive thing is that I have some deep frames of honey which I can give to the new hives and almost 2 full supers of honey(which I can harvest and squirrel a couple away if the bees need them later) So I could do option 2 without taking the 5th frame..couldn’t I just place a deep frame of my honey in the middle of the 2nd box right above the 1st deep? Would this lure them up? However, wouldn’t I wait until the outside frames in the 1st deep were filled?
    I do plan on going the traditional way with one of the hives and foundationless in the other. I am so new to this and not wedded to any specific way yet and I I thought foundationless would be something I would try. It seems much more natural for the bees.
    And so just to be clear you do foundationless in your brood boxes and foundation in your mediums? Thanks so much for answering all my questions. I appreciate that you are not promoting one way only. I really am trying to listen and learn to the experienced, but am also trying to not listen to all the naysayers…I am not in this to make money…just a backyard hobbyist who loves bees and honey.

    • Jason says:

      so they just naturally go down to the bottom deep with the foundationless frames..?
      Yes this is the way that I handle all of my swarm traps when I hive them now. Once they run out of room in the top deep they move down.

      The only thing I worry about is chilling the brood…would all the space on the bottom be too much(they are coming middle of April…we had some frosts into June)?
      That is one reason why I use the previous method. I figure that hot air rises and cold air will falls. I don’t know if this is valid logic or not, but the way I see it vast open spaces above the brood would tend to allow cold air to fall past the brood/cluster. HEY LARRY WHAT DO YOU THINK? After reading Warre’s book it is just what seems to make sense to me. I will not be the beekeeper that says I am right and everyone else is wrong. It just seems to make sense to me and I have had success using that method. 🙂 It has been working.

      couldn’t I just place a deep frame of my honey in the middle of the 2nd box right above the 1st deep? Would this lure them up?
      I think that is a plan that will work. If you have enough put 2-4 of them up there. You are on the right path… formulate a plan, put it into action, see what the bees do, and evaluate. THEN LET ME KNOW IF you feel I led you astray… 🙂

      And so just to be clear you do foundationless in your brood boxes and foundation in your mediums?
      I use foundationless in my honey supers too, but I expanded so much last year that I did not have enough medium frames with drawn comb to have enough “ladders” for THIS YEARS honey supers. Therefore I will be using foundation this year 3 in each medium super between 6 foundationless frames for a total of 9 in each super. When I am putting on supers I will do a blog post complete with pictures. Ultimately I would like to get away from foundation all together. If everything goes well this year I am hoping to have enough drawn comb on foundationless frames that I can never order foundation again.

      I have learned from beekeeping that there are a lot of “experts”. I don’t know how anyone can keep bees for very long and feel as though they are or ever will be an “expert”. I am humbled far too often by my bees. My goal is not to get make this my living, but to at least have a hobby that can support itself. Beyond that I just love watching them do what they do and have done for 100 million years. All beekeepers instead of just being married to one way or the other need to experiment in their own apiaries then share there results. So if you find something amazing in your journey PASS IT ALONG!!!

      I hope I answered all your questions if I didn’t let me know. If you don’t understand anything likewise, if you haven’t noticed I never tire of “talkin’ bees”

      • Larry says:

        One of my favorite beekeeping quotes comes from “The Queen Must Die, And Other Affairs of Bees and Man” by William Longgood.

        “In beekeeping, as in most endeavors, there are many ways to accomplish the same tasks and many interpretations of the same facts or data, just as many roads lead to the same destination, although it is equally true that different individuals following the same road can arrive at different destinations.”

      • Larry says:

        I have learned from beekeeping that there are a lot of “experts”. I don’t know how anyone can keep bees for very long and feel as though they are or ever will be an “expert”.

        It is interesting how well the Gartner Hype Cycle fits beekeeping. It seems Gartner’s “Peak of Inflated Expectations” comes at about the second year of beekeeping when colonies appear healthy and honey harvests are plentiful. Life is good and beekeeping is easy! Many beekeeping books and blogs are created by “experts” under the influence of the peak of inflated expectations! As colonies begin to crash and reality sets in a beekeeper enters Gartner’s “Trough of Disillusionment”. Many beekeepers quit at this time. Those that stick with beekeeping begin what Gartner labels the “Slope of Enlightenment” and eventually the “Plateau of Productivity”.

        These are not my original thoughts, I credit Gartner, Inc. for the plotting the cycle and Randy Oliver for suggesting the beekeeping analogy.

  7. Halley Hart says:

    Thanks…I see your point about hot air rising. Also, you are a busy man, Jason…I am impressed that you even have the time to answer/write a blog! I am still deciding but the empty deep below with all foundationless frames sounds might tempting…it just seems that it would be nice to have them fill that bottom box and then I can work with transitioning the 2nd deep of the foundation frames. I’ll let you know what I decide and how it works. Good luck with all your projects(human, bees and farm/house).

  8. Halley Hart says:

    I never got to that 2nd year “high” as my first hive died the 1st year. Instead of sitting in the Trough of Disillusionment I have decided to plod along up the Slope of Enlightenment(even though most of the time I feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the mountain side). 😉

    • Bill says:

      I think I started my first year on somewhat of a peak of inflated expectations. I’ll avoid the term “ignorance” because I don’t think it was that. More like “beginners blindness.” But that’s not really a bad thing. I think everyone should start with that. But the more I learn the more I realized how little I know and how many other equally correct but different ways there are of doing the same thing. So even though I had a hive die my first year I don’t feel like I hit the trough of disillusionment and made a smooth transition into the slope of enlightenment.

  9. Halley Hart says:

    Hi there, Halley here, I posted a week or so ago and have one more question related to spacing of foundationless frames. I have been reading Mike Bush’s book and one of the questions is about spacing of foundationless frames in the brood boxes. I set up my hives last night(one 8 frame and one 10 frame). I am going to start with foundationless frames in the 8 frame. I am going to try what was suggested on this blog…putting all the foundationless frames in the bottom hive box and inserting the 5 nuc frames with a few foundationless in 2nd hive box. Have any of you put in one extra frame like Mike Bush has suggested here in this?(there is certainly room…just wondered if anyone else has done this). Apparently, it keeps the brood closer/warmer and the bees seem to like it better plus it encourages smaller cells more quickly. Thanks for any and all suggestions/comments. Here is the excerpt from Mike’s book : “This question seems to come up a lot. The question is usually something like “should I put 9 or 10 frames in my supers?” or “should I put 9 or 10 frames in my brood boxes?”

    My answer for the brood boxes is that I put 11 in. At least in a ten frame box. I shave the ends down in order to do this and I do it because it’s the spacing the bees use if you let them. But 10 will do. They should be tightly together in the center, and not spaced out evenly. They are already further apart than the bees would prefer and spacing them any further usually results in burr comb or even an extra comb in between the frames. The theory of doing 9 in the brood box is that there will be more cluster space, less swarming and less rolling of bees. The reality, in my experience, is that it requires more bees to keep the brood warm, the surface of the combs is more irregular and this causes more rolling of the bees when removing frames. This irregularity is due to the fact that honey storage comb can vary in thickness but brood comb is always the same thickness. The results are that where they have honey and you have 9 frames, they have extra room to fill and they fill it with honey. If they have brood then it is not as fat as the honey. I tried 9 frames in the brood nest and was not impressed. I now have eight frame boxes and I have 9 frames in them (which requires shaving the end bars down). At 11 in a ten-frame box you get very flat consistent comb and you get smaller cell size more easily.

    My answer for the supers is that ONCE THEY ARE DRAWN you can put 9 or even 8 in the ten frame supers with good effect as the combs will just be thicker. But when it’s bare foundation, the bees will often mess up the comb if you space it more than ten. Ten frames of bare foundation should always be tightly together in the middle of either a super or a brood box in order to prevent the bees from attempting to build a comb between the foundations instead of on them. With eight frame boxes you can do seven drawn combs or even six.”

    • Bill says:

      Hi Halley,
      I have noticed that my feral bees have wanted to draw comb that was spaced a little closer together than the 1-3/8″ standard frame spacing. Occasionally they would try to draw 2 combs on one frame. So 1-1/4″ frames would have been a good option for them. So this is a change I would like to make in my hives. Unfortunately, it’s also something I’m hesitant to do and here’s why:

      1) To cut down standard frames you can either shave 1/16″ off both sides of the upright bars, or just 1/8″ from one side. Cutting both sides seems like a pain, but the better option. Cutting one side would be easier but then locks in the orientation of the frames. If you need to turn one around in the box (for whatever reason), you can’t without changing the beespacing.

      2) I already have many frames with drawn out comb that I can’t shave down, and I’m trying to keep all my equipment standardized and interchangeable. If I start modifying frames then I’ll have 2 different sizes and it’s going to take a while to rotate everything out. And I think having frames of different spacing could cause problems with the beespace in the hive.

      3) The upright bars have a gaps between them of 1/4″ at the bottoms. This spacing prevents propolising and burr comb. Cutting the frames down would reduce this gap to 1/8″, which might cause the bees to propolise them up even more. There’s already enough propolise at the contact points, I don’t need or want any more.

      So until the day I start making my own frames I think I’m going to be sticking with the 1-3/8″ frames and just adjust and manipulate the combs as necessary.

      • Halley Hart says:

        Do you put in an extra frame anyway or just use the standard number of frames(8 or 10) since you don’t shave the ends? I get my bees tomorrow and won’t get the chance to do this so I am wondering if I should just keep the 8 or put in the 9th frame without shaving? What would happen if I put the 9th frame in without shaving the ends? A catastrophe? What if I pushed all the 8 frames together and left the extra space on the ends…to much space on the ends? Thanks, Halley

        • Bill says:

          I use 10 frame boxes, so I only put the 10 frames in, no extras. There is room on the outsides of the frames, this is a good thing. You don’t want to jam in the frames or you can’t get them back out. The extra “slack” gives you room to be able to remove the first frame without rolling bees or tearing up comb. Just make sure the frames are centered in the box and pushed close together to maintain proper bee space. Check out my latest video on what happened when I “violated beespace” by giving them too much room. You’ll also be able to see what the end spacing looks like in my boxes when I have all 10 frames in.

        • Jason says:

          In a lot of my 10 frame boxes there is too much room on the ends. There is not enough room for 11 frames, but there is clearly too much room. I push the frames together and center them. Then get burr comb built up on the ends of each box. This was one of my initial reasons for deciding against removing frames from brood chambers to check them……

      • Jason says:

        I agree. If you are going to go to all the work to shave each frame…. Just make em.

    • Larry says:

      I have used 1 1/4″ inch spacing by shaving done Mann Lake PF120 small cell frames to fit 9 frames in 8-frame brood boxes. It works fine.

      I don’t buy nucs so I can’t comment on the 5 frame install.

      • Halley Hart says:

        How did you shave them…what did you shave them with? My bees are coming tomorrow and I am not sure I can do this in time.

      • Jason says:

        Larry you have all the neat stuff. Did you make some kind of jig for doing all of the shaving? I would do it if I thought I could without it being tedious.

        I am seeing sighs of bee life….. Finally!!

        • Larry says:

          No special jig, just a block plane. You only have to take off a 1/16 on each side.

          I have about half a dozen small cell colonies. I keep them separate from my other colonies.

          Keeping small cell bees (4.9 mm) for several years I have observed no distinct advantage due to cell size; likewise I have observed no distinct disadvantage due to cell size.

    • Jason says:

      Have any of you put in one extra frame like Mike Bush has suggested here in this?

      No I haven’t had time to mess with it yet. Fortunately my current equipment is keeping bees alive so I am rolling with it. I use 9 frames in my honey supers and 10 frames in my brood boxes. This plan is working and it doesn’t require any extra time on my part.

      I have read about it and plan to experiment with it some day. I understand the theory, but we will see how things work out when I try. My upper entrances were based off of the ones I saw on Mr. Bush’s sight. If he says it works it is at least worth trying, because he has pretty good ideas.

      If I missed a question let me know. SORRY that your bees came before I got back with you.

  10. Halley Hart says:

    I installed our 2 nucs yesterday(after a very interesting experience…some bees escaped out of the nuc just as I was loading the car, the smoker didn’t work, one of the queen cages fell to the bottom of the hive, one of the frames in the 10 frame refused to go in..making for angry bees…but only one sting!) one in the standard 10 frame and in the 8 frame..which I am trying the foundationless. I decided to just start with one deep in the 8 frame…I was too worried about all that space below the 2nd deep box/chilling the brood and I guess I’m glad because we woke up to snow this morning!!… I put in a deep frame of honey, the 5 nuc frames and 2 foundationless on the ends and gave them some sugar water. Someone suggested that I try this configuration: Honey frame, outside nuc frame, foundationless, 3 brood frames and another outside nuc frame. What do you think? I really didn’t want to mess with the nuc frames, but then the foundationless will be in the middle of some foundation frames. I can reconfigure this when I go back in to check on the queen and retrieve the cage. Or do you think the 2 foundationless are okay where they are(one is right next to a frame with foundation and the other is next to the wall). I used dowels as comb guides(suggestion on another board) seems they are more sturdy than popsicle sticks. And then if they fill the 2 foundationless..when to add the second box?..when they fill them or before(like if one is filled) and then do I move those up to the second box..with the rest of the foundationless? Thanks, Halley

    • Jason says:

      As far as the space below I “believe” that is much worse that vacant space above the brood chamber than below it.

      In that 8 frame nuc I would put another box underneath it before they complete frames 1 and 8. It won’t take them long if the weather breaks soon.

      If it were me I would put your foundationless frames on the OUTSIDES. Even beyond that honey. My thinking on this is that it is normal for a hive to build out and down. They will also sometimes build some crazy stuff so a lot of different configurations might work. As far as every feral hive I find they expand out and down. I would probably always keep brood central, then pollen, then honey then foundationless on the ends. I wouldn’t make any changes to the way you have put those frames in your box. You know what you did…. If it works do it again. If it doesn’t don’t.

      In the second box I would nadir a box full of foundationless frames underneath the first one. Others would put a box on top with foundation in it. There are several different methods, the second method is the most common.

      When I hive a swarm trap I put the contents of the trap in one box with another box of foundationless frames under neath it. Then I leave them alone for the most part. I let them overwinter the first year in 2 deeps to see if they are any good. Then the next spring I nadir a third box of foundationless frames under the previous two making all of the hives 3 deepers.

      Once we get on a schedule with the baby I will be posting on my plans for this year. My overwintering percentage is getting closer to 90% all of the time. With everything going on I still haven’t visited several of my hives to see if they even overwintered. I will be talking about stuff.

      If I missed a question let me know. I am answering this on very little sleep.

    • Larry says:

      Halley Hart says: “I installed our 2 nucs yesterday … one of the queen cages fell to the bottom of the hive …”

      Is it typical in your area for nucs to have caged queens?

      • Halley Hart says:

        This is my first year buying nucs(I bought a package last year)….The guy who supplies them for a number of beekeepers in the area has been doing so for a couple of years yes caged queens are typical.

  11. Halley Hart says:

    Thanks, I will change the frameless to the 1 and 8 position(right now they are in 7 and 8 position) when I go back in to retrieve the Queen cage later in the week. And adding the 2nd box under just sounds easier than constantly inserting new frames. My only concern is losing the Queen if I live up the one box..but, I guess that is a chance I’ll have to take. Congrats to you(and I can’t believe you even have the time to answer this..really appreciate it)…is this baby your first?

  12. Larry says:

    Here are links to some early photos of my “small cell” Warré project. The photos were taken on day 10. The package was installed in a single Warré hive box with eight frames. The wooden frames are handmade with foundation sections cut from Mann Lake PF-105 4.9mm plastic frames to fit a standard Warré hive. It was a bit of work but I have had some Warré hives for the past five years and I like their size and shape for wintering.

    At day 10 the bees are currently building comb on their 6th frame and have consumed just over two quarts of 1:2 light sugar syrup during a good spring (dandelion) nectar flow. In due time I will begin to introduce the double deep foundationless frames shown in the photos at the following links.

    The complete hive, including smaller versions of the above photos, can be seen at

  13. Halley Hart says:

    Hi there…I corresponded with you awhile back in March/April about trying out foundationless. So I started by putting a foundationless frame on each end of an 8 frame deep(after installing a 5 frame nuc on April 6th). I then put another deep with all foundationless under it. I checked it yesterday and here is what I found…I think they are doing a beautiful job:!/photo.php?fbid=10151610121347148&set=pcb.10151610127422148&type=1&theater
    This a picture of one of the end frames…they were just starting on the other end frame..caught them festooning. Also I checked the bottom box and they had just started drawing out the middle frame in the bottom box. It has been very warm for 2 weeks(80’s) and now we are in for a cool down(50-60’s/35 at night..eek!…rain). They have been bringing in lots of pollen/nectar. I do have extra frames of honey from last year…should I insert just to get them thru this cooler/wetter stretch(of up to a week or so) ..or give them some sugar help build the wax faster? Thanks and congrats on your new son!

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