Foundationless Frames And Wacky Comb Building

Foundationless Frames And Wacky Comb Building

My foundationless hive Willow, has been doing a great job building out foundationless frames and is progressing along nicely since I installed it from a package on April 14th, 2012.  A few weeks before this inspection on May 25th, 2012, I placed a second super on this hive.  I was torn about whether to under or over super this hive.  I heard from other beekeepers that over supering foundationless frames can lead to weird comb building, but this hive has a mix of wax foundation and foundationless frames so I decided to try placing the second brood box on top of the first and see what happened.  This is what I discovered.
Looks okay so far, right?  Well, in a center frame the bees had started building comb on the bottom of the frame as well as the top.
Another view of the comb on the bottom of the frame.
What’s the problem with that, you ask?  Well you can clearly see in the picture below.  The bees had built this comb in both directions making a curvy x shape and had attached it to the top of the frames on the bottom super and to the adjacent frames in the top super.  Then they filled it with honey.
When I removed the frame from the super, I tore open the honey comb.  I’m happy it was only honey in there and not brood.  In the picture below you get a sense for the waviness of the comb they built.
I had to remove this curvy comb and rearrange the frames.  I  put two frames of partially drawn foundation in the middle of the box and pushed them together where the strange comb used to be.  I hope this will discourage the girls from rebuilding it.  If this does not work, or if I was using all foundationless frames, I would try moving this super to the bottom position.
In case you are wondering why I am wearing gloves (since I usually don’t),  I had been stung several times on the hand earlier that day by Dandelion Hive and did not want to upset these bees with the alarm pheromone.

Have you had any experience with foundationless frames and wacky comb building?  How did you fix it?  Let me know in the comments below.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Picking Up The Package Bees
  2. Installing Package Bees In A Rooftop Hive Named Willow
  3. Bee Package Installation – Don’t Forget The Cork!
  4. It’s Queen Cage Removal Time!
  5. Foundationless Frames Are Working! – Willow Hive Check 4-26-12

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.

5 Comments

  1. I have had similar results with similar pictures.

    One thing that seems to be working in my honey supers is to place 3 or 4 drawn combs (in a group) in the center of the super above the main cluster of bees. Then the bees walk up the combs and begin building better on the frames to either side. Haven’t written about it because it “seems to be working”. I have about 4 different trials going on in about hives.

    Sorry bout the stings… What’s that inverted mason jar doing in the background of the last picture?!? 😉

    • You caught me! I’m feeding a package hive in that picture – Squill. Turns out they didn’t need it after all since they were honey bound (or so I thought. I’ll have a new post about that tomorrow.)

      Thanks for the great advice on the comb, I may try that if this doesn’t work.

  2. Anita,
    Our teacher told us to put any frames you are trying to get the girls to draw out between frames that are already built out and filled, i.e. capped honey or capped brood. They won’t, hopefully, want to disturb their finished comb so that should help them build out straighter.

    Let me know if you try this. I am trying this and will see what the results are.

    • That’s a great idea! I will try it on a few frames and see how it goes if they are still having problems. Thanks Mil!

    • If it is capped it may just work. I will have some pictures at honey spinning time that show what happens if you alternate between drawn comb and foundation less frames (similar to checkerboarding). it is better than what they did here but I ended up with |fatcomb|skinnycomb|fatcomb|skinnycomb|………. All the way across.

      Let us know what happens.