I got into the whole foundationless kick mostly for aesthetic reasons, not necessarily well thought out reasons. I’m fascinated by the behaviour of honey bees, especially how they build and organize their hives when they’re given free reign to do whatever they want on foundationless frames. But had I known that the large number of honey-hungry drones produced by foundationless colonies could result in little or no honey harvest during the first year, I would have passed on the whole thing. It’s like spending a year and a half working and saving up to go on the fishing trip of a lifetime, and then not catching any fish once you get there. The season isn’t over yet and anything could happen (I’ll be overjoyed to get even a single medium super full of honey), but if I could go back and do it right the first time, I would follow the example of what works for beekeepers in Newfoundland (instead of California), and I would save the foundationless hives for another year after I’d already had some success with conventional hives.



Okay then. Lesson learned. But I still love the look of natural comb. That’s one of those aesthetic reasons I was talking about. I had to cut off a few strips of week-old comb from some frames yesterday — which is another story I don’t have time for now — but brothers and sisters, I love natural comb. If I can ever make foundationless hives work in the cold wet climate of St. John’s, Newfoundland, it’ll be great. I don’t know what it is, but when I look at natural comb, as opposed to comb built off plastic foundation, it inspires me.

That’s all I’ve got to say.

I posted more photos of the comb on our Miscellaneous Beekeeping Pics page.

4 Responses to “A Pretty Strip of Comb”

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  1. Donna says:

    Philip, will you have lots of goldenrod and aster in late summer?

  2. Phillip says:

    I don’t know about the aster, but we should have plenty of golden rod during the second honey flow. I have high hopes for the golden rod.

    I was able to take a quick peek at a honey super in one of the hives today. Looks like the bees are finally getting down to business.

  3. Donna says:

    I started using foundationless frames in my hives a couple of years ago. I insert them in the broodnest between full frames of brood. Some hives will draw them out faster than others, This spring and summer were not great for drawing comb of any kind. I do get lots of drones too which I try to move to the outside of the supers or up or down whenever possible. I did still gets lots of honey last year. I did not take any summer honey this year because the bees did need it. Our best flow here in Cape Breton tends to be the goldenrod and aster so I still have hopes for another good year. I think when starting out with foundationless or with just foundation you would not have had much honey the first year either way. Don’t give up on foundationless, I think it can work for us here in the north, it just takes longer because our seaon is shorter. I have had the advantage of having drawn comb frames for the supers, but eventually hope to have all frames with comb built by my bees.

    • Phillip says:

      “I started using foundationless frames in my hives a couple of years ago. I insert them in the broodnest between full frames of brood. Some hives will draw them out faster than others…”

      I did the same with our hives which were started up with conventional frames. The bees drew comb on the foundationless frames considerably faster than the regular frames. It’s impressive.

      “Our best flow here in Cape Breton tends to be the goldenrod and aster so I still have hopes for another good year.”

      I hope the goldenrod gives our hives a boost too. One of our hives is about 75% foundationless now. That hive still hasn’t touched its honey super. The other hive is the opposite, with only about 25% foundationless frames, all in the bottom box. That hive finally began to work in the honey super this past week. If I get much honey this year, I think that will be the hive that produces.

      “I think when starting out with foundationless or with just foundation you would not have had much honey the first year either way.”

      I can understand that hives started up in the spring from nucs wouldn’t produce that first summer. I didn’t think it applied to over-wintered hives though. Hmm…

      “I have had the advantage of having drawn comb frames for the supers, but eventually hope to have all frames with comb built by my bees.”

      The one hive we have that is building in the super now is also building on some foundationless frames in the super. Once I noticed them building in the honey super, I put foundationless frames between the regular frames, and now they’re drawing comb on them faster than on the regular frames. I’d love to see them fill up the natural comb with honey. I want to bite into the honey comb once it’s capped.

      Thanks for your feedback, Donna. You’re the first beekeeper in a climate similar to my own that I know of who has used foundationless frames. I’m glad to hear it’s not a completely lost cause.

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