Natural Foundationless Comb (2 Weeks Old)

Thirteen days ago, we added a second brood box to one of our young honey bee hives and included four foundationless frames as an experiment in “backwards beekeeping.” Six days later, we took a quick peek at one of those foundationless frames and found this:

Today, we took another look at that same foundationless frame — and look at it now:

But that’s nothing. Check this out:

That’s pretty much a fully-drawn comb of honey — on a foundationless frame made in thirteen days by Newfoundland honey bees in our backyard. Incredible. Had I known foundationless frames would turn out this well, I would have gone foundationless from the start. Here’s another foundationless frame of honey:

Notice the comb is gradually being connected to the sides of the frame. I still wouldn’t flip the frame to inspect it, but it’s sturdy enough that I’m not worried about the comb breaking off.

This is the one foundationless frame that had barely been touched since it was installed thirteen days ago — but they’re working on it.

Another shot of the first foundationless frame.

And a close-up. UPDATE: I didn’t notice all the brood in this comb before. Can you see the little grubs curled up in the cells near the bottom half of the frame?

ANOTHER UPDATE (Jan. 04/11): Those larvae were drone larvae. Most, if not all, of the larvae laid on the foundationless frames were drones. See Foundationless Frames Can Mean Lots of Drones for more info.

We did a full inspection of Hive #1, pulling out and inspecting every frame. Here are the rest of the pics from the inspection:

This is after removing one frame from the top box. The frame feeder, installed only a few days ago, is half empty. (It can hold 7 litres of syrup but was filled with 6 litres to avoid spillage.)

The bees inside one of the “bee ladders” (a mesh tube that reaches down to the bottom of the feeder). Both ladders were full of bees. I like the frame feeder, but it doesn’t leave much room for the rest of the frames (it’s a tight fit). And of course I’m worried I squished the queen.

A close-up on some brood comb. As impressed as we are with the foundationless comb, so far we haven’t seen much brood on them, mosty honey. UPDATE (an hour later): We zoomed in closer on all the photos and found larvae on all the foundationless comb. The larvae (tiny curled up white grubs) aren’t as easy to spot against a naturally translucent background, compared to black plastic foundation.

Brood comb with mostly broken-through comb (bees that have hatched).

Mostly capped honey on a frame. The majority of the frames are well on their way to being fully-drawn. The colony in Hive #1 is thriving, as far as I can tell. I just wish we had more foundationless frames to give them. We will remove all the foundationed frames from the hive down the road, but for now they’ll have to make due with only four foundationless frames.

To be continued…

PHOTOS NOTE (SEPTEMBER 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates created more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.