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Disaster Strikes (melodramatic eh)

Disaster on many fronts.
I chose to do a walk away split on 24th August, Midday, on a nice sunny (with some thin cloud) day. 20deg c .
The hive consisted of two brood box’s. One a regular Lang the other a busso modified Lang to take frames X ways. Did not know which box had the Queen.

The top box a regular 8 frame Lang had 4 capped frames of honey the inner 4 had a mix capped brood, eggs, larve, pollen and honey. This box was taken some 100 m away and left closed for one and half days and opened with bushes. This was the stronger of the hives and has prospered. Yesterday I put another brood box on the bottom because they were running out of room. All good here.

Before I start… no I didn’t have a camera today, wish I did but it was supposed to be all straight forward look and close.

The bottom box of the split, was left where it was and I figured that it would reap the benefit of returning foraging bees. At the time of the split I looked at the frames quickly as it was starting to cool down. There were 12 frames X wise. The first 3 frames from each side had about 90% capped honey and built out out comb. I then looked at the middle two frames and had fully capped brood,eggs and a little honey but they were chockers full. Saw no queen cells or queen. I did not look at the last 4 frames as it looked like they had everything to go.
The first indication that this maybe the queenless hive was they were unsettled and didn’t want me around. Two weeks later they had settled and I figured the Queen had been made and was about to emerge on maiden flight.

Today I decided to go in and investigate and what i found was not good. Mainly because there had been a dwindling of bee numbers over past week and last day or so just one or two bees going and coming. There were three fully capped frames of honey at the back(so they are not starving) and a frame beside that half capped honey. Then (reading from the back) frames 5 and 6 were empty but combed. Then the weird and disastrous bit. Those frames I did not look have come back to bite me big time. The bees seemed somehow to have built from the top of frame7 to the bottom of frame 8 and from the top of frame 8 to the bottom of frame 9 and from the top of frame 9 to bottom of frame 10. It was like not exactly that, but the comb was layered between 3 frames all joined together. Frame 10,11, and 12 were just empty comb.
There were bees, not many and all the X over comb which had a bit of honey and and empty brood cells. I did the best I could with the comb which obviously came apart when I removed them. I did best I could to stick the frames back with just one comb per frame but it is still all messy and I could only comfortably put back 9 of the frames without squishing the last survivors.

My intention now is to recombine the hives back as one although there is only a few handfuls or so. No shb here so no worries there and I will use the newspaper between them.

It begs the question though about my x frame experiment. They are really nice to handle and take no effort, even when full of honey. Why did they chose to build comb the way they did. Interesting, I took out every frame except 2 at the end of March and took the honey and put back the brood. There was still plenty of food around for them and they had refilled most by Mid April.
I am not going to give up on the small frames just yet and will put formed comb, probably plastic, and see if they do better with that. Edit: See I do listen Jeff but tried the foundation less first.

Maybe try different split next time as well.

Having read the same story many times across a number of forums it really
does beat me why the practice of introducing numerous wholly foundationless frames to a colony, any colony, persists.
Sure, go without foundation where that suits the outcome asked of the bees. But do so gradually, and supply frames with a guide, a bare minimum being a waxed line following the centre of the topbar length.
Having only just completed some tests with variances of foundationless
I have read about not once did the bees crosscomb. Using a guide works.

I probably sound like a broken record, however the tried & proved method of properly fixing wax foundation to wooden frames, in my view gives the best outcome. It almost falls withing the concept of the KIS (Keep It Simple) method.


With regard to the foundation less frames. Yes I am a bit of a slow to learn sometimes. Wife calls it Pigheaded. I say “I would like to try” :upside_down_face:


So then it is not “Disaster” at all, more of “Constructed Error”.
Fine if one is out to prove that which does not work. However
the narrative in these pages and within many others only serves
to shadow the advice of those who do know in ambuguity.

The time to play with variants comes after accumlated
knowledge, not before. I would like to think there is the why
Stu/Ceder set the basis for the Flow how they did - keep it simple
and go with what is known to work, easily.
Maybe the product should have included wired and waxed FD brood
frames, somehow.

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I agree Bill, that Flow should be sending out wired & wax brood frames, however I would anticipate problems getting wax through customs. Then there’s the issue of properly fitting wax foundation. This video we made & uploaded shows what happens if wax isn’t fitted properly & is the reason why I try to always say “properly fitted wax foundation”. I think it’s the first thing a new beekeeper should learn & master.

I showed this to some people contemplating becoming new beekeepers. They said “does this mean we have to get this kind of gear”. I replied “yes, well if golf is someones hobby, you have to have a lot of gear”. With the wife being in her mid 70’s & hubby in his mid 80’s & basically crippled, I think I talked them out of the idea without trying to.

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Not at all bagging “foundationless” as I am sure we both know
of advantage in using that form in particular scenarios, I simply
put you Jeff have touched on why it is so popular amongst the
unknowing. That lack of complication in startup (aka) “easy”.

Yet the horse has bolted on that sound advice being ignored and so
BKs are left with the task of nudging the few who admit problems,
and may listen. More often than not though the sensitive take
umbrage and so the typing is wasted effort.

I know about the importation limits of wax. For exported material, and West Aussie product, the instructions for assembly could include “must” where “should” and “could” are used in reference to building the brood frames.

And, yes, I have often been asked "you’ll see to the frames and install them, yes?


Hello Jeff,

I just watched you little video on correct embedding- great!

It’s relevant to me maybe- as I don’t have an electrical embedder and have been using that little tool that looks a bit like a small pizza cutter. It’s basically a little wheel with a groove in it that you run over the wire with a board underneath. Sometimes I have been heating it in boiling water other times just softening the wax in the sun. But it isn’t perfect at getting the wire fully embedded at all spots and all times. I have sometimes dropped melted wax at a few points along the way to get a better result… I just put two frames into a hive last week- now I am going to inspect that hive to make sure that the foundation is still sitting straight. That hive was super packed with bees so hopefully they built them out before they could deform much…

I have been a bit worried about using an electrical embdder that I would go too far and melt right through the wax cutting the sheets into strips? does this happen much? I am guessing with practice you get good at it and don’t have any issues like that?

Also I haven’t seen an embedder like yours before- I thought usually you add the two electrodes to the wires on the ends of the frames and do all the wires at once?


Back in the day it was only ever an electric embedder, set for the job.
Today, reverting back to the methods I used in “beginner mode” I use
your pizza wheel (embedding tool), homemade from a hard drive disk holder. I also use Superglue[tm] prolifically in fixing foundation to bar grooves and spots along wires. All my foundation frames are only Xwired.


Hi Jack, I found the 12v embedding tool through Quality Beekeeping Supplies site. That’s the first supplier that I checked. The 12v embedding tool is by far the best way to do it. You need the board like you have. The embedding tool has 4 prongs that you hold down with a little bit of weight. When you press the switch, the current passes through the two outside prongs. You DO have to be careful. Like you say “with practice, you get good at it”.

The two middle prongs are needed to hold the wire down & secure. Once you depress the switch, you need to hold it there for a few seconds until the wax cools, then you need to wiggle the embeder off so that the wire stays put.

Just an observation I recently made was that the bees will readily draw beautiful comb on poorly fitted foundation in the honey super. However they are much more fussy in the brood box. They will mess it up like in my video if there is too much wire exposed.

What I found was, after they do a beautiful job in the honey super, then we gently extract the honey, we are left with a beautiful almost perfect fully drawn frame to place into the brood. The bees will clean up the honey, then the queen will get stuck into laying in it.

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I’ve found a checkerboard of foundationless and foundation is ok and helps give straight comb. Granted I’ve only played with this approach in a half-height but it worked without fail. I had a mix of foundation, foundationless, and half-foundation (essentially using the was foundation as a very big starter rather than filling the frame).


Well, fitting foundation sounds a lot more hassle than correcting bulges the bees may build when left building their own foundation. That only happens when you have 3 or 4 empty frames on the outside anyway, if at all.
Checkerboarding as Snowflakehoney mentioned is totally perfect any time.
The problems with foundationless frames people are describing can only stem from not checking in time and manipulating frame positions to warrant the bees build straight foundation.
As a commercial beekeeper with 50+ hives I might go for foundation, like Jeff, but as a hobby beekeeper I am quite enjoying watching the bees do their thing so perfectly well.


@Semaphore, havnt you sorted your profile yet Jack!
I use a 12V car charger and hold the +&- clamps, one to each nail fixing the wire. It takes about 8 seconds for mine and you can see the wire slowly melt into the wax, easy peasy, I used a bit of scrap wax foundation to test and burn through to gauge the time required originally, I used the cut strips as starter strips so none wasted. Some chargers will only work if there is already voltage in the battery so make sure the clamps spark when you touch them together if you choose this path.
I follow most of Jeffs advice, although I will not eat bee lavae, and prefer foundation except when cut comb is on the menu.

@busso, shame about your experiment. Might pop in for a coffee next month while I’m down that way.


I’ll message you my phone number and email.

Fitting foundation only sounds a lot more hassle to someone who hasn’t tried it or is intimidated by the prospect of learning how to do it. Believe me, I tried foundationless well before flow was launched. I came to the conclusion that foundation was WAY ahead of foundationless. Whether it be one hive or 50 hives. The hassles associated with me using foundationless frames led me to one day saying to myself “from now on, no more foundationless frames in the brood”. It’s fine to use foundationless frames above the QX between two frames of fully or mostly fully capped honey, to be used as cut comb.

I use foundationless frames in my observation hive so that I can show folks the bees building.

I would only use foundationless frames in the brood as a temporary measure if I was out of foundation frames.

PS. take a frame of fully drawn worker comb & stand it along side a frame of 2/3’s worker, 1/3 drone, large gaps in the bottom corners, there is no comparison. Not to mention the risk of SHB damage, if that applies. I know that applies to both of us.

I’m not sure if you are in the same drought as me, I’m not getting the normal spring buildup I usually get. During those times there’s no time to keep correcting the combs.

Hi Jeff, yes, drought it is here too. Not a drop since June. The bees build up ok I think, but it’s my very first spring with bees, so can’t compare. Are you saying they build up more when there is no drought? I smell a lot of honey around the hives though, amazing to think there is usually more. What about pollen? I see different colored pollen coming in and there’s a lot of new brood.
Sciencemaster showed me how he fits wires, I don’t mind the fitting, just like foundationless better. I too usually follow your advice, just not always. Honestly, those bees build straight and very little drone cells. Once built, all is good. The foundation they build is like gold to me. My Italians built 8 empty frames out completely, attached them to bottom and sides, and filled them with their goods in the last 4 weeks. Of course I don’t need to spin my honey out with flow supers.
Busso mustn’t have checked up on his bees’ efforts in time.
I know a couple of beekeepers who prefer foundation because they get intimidated by correcting comb in an active hive.
Love our differences.

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Hi Weber, the bees do a lot more when there’s no drought.

As you say, you’re going into your first spring. Our differences may not be so evident had you kept bees through several seasons. It takes several seasons for us all to figure out what works best for us & what doesn’t.

We shouldn’t judge a technique on just one hive. It needs to be on several hives over several seasons. Then there is the dreaded SHB we have to keep in the back of our minds at all times.


…an’ then some.

Usually this is where “environmental factors” get run up the flagpole, along with “beekeeping is local”.
In no doubt foundationless in broodchambers makes for quicker comb establishment but whether that comb is superior to foundation based comb in perpetuity in a “set and forget” style management is highly questionable.
An argument best left to those with years of experience. IMHO


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Hi Bill, after more thought on the subject. I was thinking along similar lines to the “set & forget” technique. Folks forget that if they allow the bees to build lots of drone comb during spring, & then leave it there for the rest of the season, the bees wont be able to produce workers in that drone comb later in the season, at a time when more workers are needed. When the bees stop producing drones, that frame of mostly drone comb sits in the brood box basically doing nothing. Just making up the numbers.

Some will put, Jeff, the bees will tear down unused drone comb to rebuild.
Not in my experience as usually such gets backfilled, not a good thing in terms of brood real estate.
But only just starting out playing with wholly foundationless for my TBLH (topbar lang frame style hive) I am aware of threads elsewhere which talk about the centre line spacing of foundationless being important in stopping bridge comb being built, long term. So obviously it happens in “set and forget” foundationless, plus I have seen video of fellas cutting away huge portions of bridging comb at the lower extremes of frames, often layered with viable brood.
It will take me a couple of years to sort which is best (~19mm/27mm/35mm bar width) but the fact the bees are so willing
to go cross-combing has to reflect there is a problem using the standard foundationless frame in broodchambers, long term.
And just to illustrate the depth of erroneous beliefs on the topic…?.. I attach
an example I uploaded, to which one individual implied I was lying as “my frames do not look like that”… turns out his frames are wrapped in both
burr and bridge comb, have been for years and so is a “normal” for him.
He might rethink his bee management from here on in :-^

The new (clean) bars are all my TBLH frames being drawn and/or drawn out.