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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
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Monday, April 06, 2009

The best laid plans of bee and me....

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I have been using foundationless frames for a while. The idea of the foundationless frame is to let the bee choose what size cell to build. Michael Bush, one of my beekeeping heroes, is a big promoter of this concept of giving the bees the opportunity to build their own cell size. (If you follow the link, be sure to scroll down to read all the quotes about giving the bees the opportunity to build their own comb, from Rev. Langstroth to Richard Taylor)

Often when they are storing honey, they build very large wax cells. When they are raising brood in a frame, they build smaller cells than the commercial foundation. It seems democratic, organic, and caring to allow the bees the freedom to decide.

However, sometimes they run rampant with their creativity. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, the beekeeper has a problem, just as a beekeeper has a problem when the bees build strange comb on foundation, as they sometimes do. I try to always have at least one sheet of full foundation in each super or a fully drawn out comb in each super. I believe it's Don at Dixie Bee Supply who says that crazy comb building is a sign of a bad queen. I can't find that quote on Beemaster, though, so don't hold me to it.

When I was in my hives over the weekend, I discovered this interesting comb. The bees had only the small line of cells at the top of the frame as a starter. They apparently couldn't make up their minds about how to fill this frame with comb. The comb at the left was attached to the frame next to it (I clearly ripped it when I removed the frame).



Toward the right you'll see a two layer comb arrangement. The larger piece has capped honey in it.






In order to clear this up, I substituted a new frame in this space in the hive and brought this one inside to eat the honey, cut the wax off for melting or showing to children when I give talks, and to make the frame ready to reuse. If a hive has a lot of crazy comb, rather than just one frame, the solution is to cut out the crazy comb and to rubber band it into the frame as it should be. Then return the frame to the hive and they'll make it right.
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5 comments:

  1. After hearing Jennifer Berry from UGA speak about what we may be bringing into hives when using wax foundation, I'm planning to have all foundationless frames in my new honey supers. I'm trying to keep my hives as organic as my garden. Good to see what might happen.

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  2. How interesting Linda! Happy Easter!

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  3. After hearing Jennifer Berry from UGA speak about what we are bringing into our hives with commercial wax foundation, I'm planning on foundationless frames in all my new honey supers. I'm trying to keep my bees as organic as my garden. Thanks for letting me see what could happen.

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  4. Hi Linda

    Very informative. Thanks. I don't really understand the bit about cutting out the crazy comb and rubber band it. Please can you show it some other time?

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  5. I love your blog and photos Linda. I've been considering doing foundationless frames as well - small cell bees. You mentioned culling some of the crazy comb but do you find you have to cull more of the comb because it's drone comb that the workers build instead of worker sized comb? I know Dee and Michael Bush chat about it a lot on their newsgroup.

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