Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

Even if you find one post on the subject, I've posted a lot on basic beekeeping skills like installing bees, harvesting honey, inspecting the hive, etc. so be sure to search for more once you've found a topic of interest to you. And watch the useful videos and slide shows on the sidebar. All of them have captions. Please share posts of interest via Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

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.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

Need help with an Atlanta area swarm? Visit Found a Swarm? Call a Beekeeper. ‪(404) 482-1848‬

Want to Pin this post?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Truly, Madly, Completely Foundationless Frames

As most of you know, I don't use foundation.  I have gone through quite an evolution of approaches to reach what I am doing this year.

In the very beginning I used thin surplus wax foundation because I didn't think plastic was natural and didn't want it in my hives.  Then I started following Michael Bush and cut wax strips.  I waxed them into the grooves in the frames to give the bees a starting point.  Then the next year I decided after listening to Jennifer Berry that we were all better off with NO commercial wax with its chemical composition of fluvalinate and coumaphos.  So then I started using craft sticks glued into the groove.

In December on Christmas Day I slipped on ice while hiking in N Georgia.  I didn't know it then, but I tore my posterior tibia ligament and I have been slowly, s...l....o.....w......l......y healing since then.  I still am wearing a wrap on my ankle and tennis shoes every single day.  When bee season started, standing for a long time meant a terrible burning sensation around my ankle bone.

So I have been doing lazy beekeeping.  When my frames have old comb in them that needs replacing, I remove the old comb.  But I haven't been waxing or gluing ANytHing in and the bees are making beautiful comb without my giving them any starting place.

The photos are blurry - I used my iPhone and it doesn't accommodate my shaky hands.

Old comb:

Tear out old comb (really blurry, but it falls into a box of removed comb):

In a stewpot of boiling water, immerse the frame for 30 seconds.  Obviously the whole frame won't fit into the stew pot so I put in one half and then the other.

It isn't in the water long enough to even think about warping and all the wax melts off.  Meanwhile because I do four boxes worth of frames in one stew pot, the water in the pot is laced with melted wax so the frame gets slightly coated with melted wax.  This alone may stimulate the bees to build comb.

I use a skewer or a hive tool or whatever I have to slide along the groove and effectively mess up the patterns for any crooked comb left by the bees.  In the photo below, the right side of the frame has been submerged already and the left side still has old comb on it.  

The water is boiling hot so it quickly evaporates and the frames are ready in seconds to be put back in the hive box.  

With nothing but their bare nakedness, I put the frames onto a hive and the bees build happily.  I do checkerboard as in the post just before this, and that brings the bees into the box, but obviously they don't need my time or craft sticks to know where to start to build their comb.

I am not finding that crooked comb happens often.  When it does, it's in a hive where there has been a tendency to build crooked comb and many beekeepers suggest that that tendency is a genetic anomaly - not great genetics for comb-building = crooked comb.  

And if you don't correct it, the bees continuously build crooked comb to parallel the mess they made at the beginning.  But mostly the bees build straight beautiful comb from the bare top bar and appear to be happy campers about it.


  1. biz petekleri kesip eritiyoruz.çerçeveyide ayrıca kaynamış suyun içine koyarak temizliyoruz.kolay gelsin

  2. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Thanks to your suggestion, I've been doing this for years with excellent results--the bees know what they're doing!

  3. Thanks, good suggestions. How do you extract your honey? Does foundationless work well in an extractor?

    1. I extract medium foundationless frames all of the time with no problem. You just need to make sure the comb is attached on all sides. Start slowly and then you can work up to full speed. If you want to extract foundationless deeps, I would probably pre-wire them before putting them in the hive.

  4. Great idea! I really like the boiling water to clean the frames & coat them with wax.

  5. I've been thinking about doing foundationless frames for awhile. Do you feel like these hold up when you harvest with an extractor?

  6. I don't use an extractor. I've always done crush and strain (see my video - side bar) It doesn't seem practical for a backyard beekeeper to do the extractor. I'm told that foundationless frames do fine in the extractor as long as you turn rather gently. The bees anchor honey frames on all four sides so they are no more likely to blow out than any wax foundation would.

  7. I started with foundation-less, however I am finding that although they are building straight, they are joining frames together as they are also building really wide...

    Any suggestions??

  8. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Can I start with no foundation at all just frames? the suggestions seem to be to start everyother with foundation then move them up . it seems that it would make more sense to keep it all the same from the beginning

  9. You can start without foundation. You probably need a few sheets to provide guidance for the bees in the form of strips or to put a frame full of foundation in the center of a box. Be sure to read about "ladders" in foundationless to help the bees move into the foundationless box. The most important things are that your hive be level side to side and that you check your bees often to make sure they are not building crooked comb and to catch them before the whole hive gets off base.

  10. My bees will arrive in 5 days. I want to use he foundationless frames. Should I use only one full foundation frame for the whole hive? Will it be enough to prevent it from having crooked comb? I will try to st up my hive as level as I can. Please advise. Thanks.

  11. Use one full foundation frame in each hive box. The way you prevent crooked comb is to keep an eye on the bees. When they are first drawing comb, you should check every week and pull out and correct with rubber banding any crooked comb.

  12. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Great post! Is there an easy way to switch from plastic foundation to foundationless in the brood chamber?

  13. Of course. Over the winter typically the hive moves up into the second or third box. So in the spring remove the bottom box and the brood frames from that box. Pop the plastic foundation out of the frame and glue in popsicle sticks. Put them back in the hive with one fully drawn frame somewhere near the center and Voila, you are cooking with gas.

  14. To this paragraph....>
    'In a stewpot of boiling water, immerse the frame for 30 seconds. Obviously the whole frame won't fit into the stew pot so I put in one half and then the other.'

    It would be better if the whole frame was completely immersed in the warm water in a suitable larger pot. Plus you should separate the water surface into an immersion and a lifting side.
    (The separation wall be at least 5 cm deep and 5 cm high above the surface of the warm water.) The melted wax could extract from the immersion side.
    In this case the wax could totall melded from the frames and don't
    solidify back on it in the lifting, clean side.
    In addition, the spores of some diseases do not die at 100 degrees Celsius (boiling point of water), so the wax should be removed from the frames as much as possible.
    For the healt of bees.


Pin this post


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...