Foundationless Beekeeping Doesn’t Always Work

Foundationless Beekeeping Doesn’t Always Work

I had time to inspect our hives today for the first time in about three or four weeks. It’s the first time in June we’ve had some half decent weather on the weekend. Anyway…

There is no chance of either of our colonies swarming, or building into a honey super any time soon. Not by a long shot. I inspected our hives today and both are weak. The combination of about 40 days of drizzle and cold and thousands of drones from the foundationless frames eating up all the hives’ resources has weakened the colonies.

One hive is overloaded with drones and drone comb, a little bit of worker brood, some pollen and virtually zero honey stores.

The other hive has more worker brood and more honey, but we found several frames with waxed foundation that have barely been touched.

These bees are starving.

I’m going to feed them constantly for the next week or so. They are nowhere close to filling up the two deeps of the brood chamber. I had foundationless medium supers on both hives for the past month and saw no signs that they were interested in building on the medium frames. So I removed them.

I also removed four frames of drone brood from the hive that’s overloaded with drones and replaced them with fully drawn foundation or basic waxed foundation. I put the drone comb in a box above a bee escape. The plan is to gradually remove all the foundationless frames. I’ll say more about this at another time, but I think my experiment in backwards beekeeping is coming to an end, at least for the time being.

Perhaps I should combine the hives into one strong hive. Maybe re-queening the hives would help. I’m not sure. But the excessive number of drones on the foundationless frames using up all colonies’ resources and the near total lack of pollen and nectar intake for the past month or so has been the perfect storm that’s knocked the colonies down so low that they’re just surviving, not thriving. Both colonies were doing better back in April. (The weather was more bee-friendly then too.) I don’t think I’ll be harvesting much honey this year.

And I’m pretty much convinced now that foundationless is not the way to go for beekeeping in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Living and learning here, folks.

See Knocking It Down to One Foundationless Hive for more information.

3 thoughts on “Foundationless Beekeeping Doesn’t Always Work

  1. Sorry to hear about your challenges. Have you asked around on forums for ideas? I can’t say I have eny experience in a climate as mild/cold as yours, but our spring and early summer was marked with a lot of rain as well. Under the recommendation of others I have kept up feeding almost constantly until only just recently.

    I wouldn’t give up on the foundationless frames just yet. If the bees have a steady stream of food coming in it will drive them to build comb. Also, if you haven’t already, you can rotate some frames that are full or well working into the box that isn’t. For example, taking two frames from the outer edge of the bottom box and swapping them for two inner frames in the upper box. Doing this with frames with brood is a good idea. Hope things improve for you.

  2. Phil,

    Feed, Feed, Feed. I topped up two frame feeders yesterday. I went back today and I put another 22 cups of 1:1 in. The bees were starting to beard on my honey comb below the board on the frame, but nothing on the foundation. What ever it is the bees prefer foundationless over foundation to start on. They are storing it somewhere so at some point they have to build some comb. Thate being said I have a frame of partially drawn from last year and I cannot get them to draw the rest of it out.

    Crazy man.

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