Foundation or no Foundation wax is the question!

Nothing like signing in for the first time to read about my just delivered flow-hive to see your standard internet thugging/trolling here on the forums. I would have thought this to be a community of more intelligent positive-minded individuals than a Honda Civic forum. Where is that block/ignore feature?

That being said, i will treat our friend here as an exception and not the rule and look forward to learning a lot here!

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My main point is that I did not invent this idea and that it is and has been held by many proficient and experienced beekeepers.

I’ve read Huber (late 1700s) and I’ve read Honeybee Nests: Composition, Structure, Function, and Honeybees (2014) and Wax: An Experimental Natural History by Hepburn (1986) and I don’t see any changes in how bees make wax and build comb. Huber actually has more detail, but all three books were enlightening. I also have more than four decades of careful observation of my own… and hundreds of books by the old masters and many by the modern scientists.

As far as that simplistic formula of how much sugar it takes to make how much wax, Huber did the best experiment on that to date, back in the 1700s.

"Amounts of wax produced from various sugars

"A pound (453 grams) of white sugar, reduced to syrup, and clarified with the white of an egg, produced 10 gros 52 grains (1.5 ounces or 42 grams) of beeswax darker than that which bees extract from honey. An equal weight of dark brown sugar yielded 22 gros (3 ounces or 84 grams) of very white wax; a similar amount was obtained from maple sugar.

“We repeated these experiments seven times in succession, with the same bees and we always obtained wax in nearly the same proportions as above. It therefore appears demonstrated that sugar and the saccharine part of honey enable the bees that feed upon it to produce wax, a property entirely denied to the fecundating dust.”–Francis Huber, New Observations Upon Bees, Vol II Chapter II.

The next one of any significance was by Whitcomb in 1946 with free flying bees.

From Beeswax Production, Harvesting, Processing and Products, Coggshall and Morse pg 35

“Their degree of efficiency in wax production, that is how many pounds of honey or sugar syrup are required to produce one pound of wax, is not clear. It is difficult to demonstrate this experimentally because so many variables exist. The experiment most frequently cited is that by Whitcomb (1946). He fed four colonies a thin, dark, strong honey that he called unmarketable. The only fault that might be found with the test was that the bees had free flight, which was probably necessary so they could void fecal matter; it was stated that no honey flow was in progress. The production of a pound of beeswax required a mean of 8.4 pounds of honey (range 6.66 to 8.80). Whitcomb found a tendency for wax production to become more efficient as time progressed. This also emphasizes that a project intended to determine the ratio of sugar to wax, or one designed to produce wax from a cheap source of sugar, requires time for wax glands to develop and perhaps for bees to fall into the routine of both wax secretion and comb production.”

But my point is that honey production is not a mathematical formula of pounds of honey = pounds of wax. Honey production is a result of many factors of which wax production is trivial and timing is critical.

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Simply put, foundation serves the beekeeper, not the bees. I will add that when you wire your frames, if you get cross comb it makes it more difficult to fix. I don’t wire my frames and I find the combs to be perfectly stable. It’s not like you’ll be extracting from them anyway! I also recently read a study where the brood laid along the wire had a lot more iron in them. That is concerning. I’ve seen wired frames where the queen would not lay along the wire. I’ve written a whole blog post on the merits of going foundationless. http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/why-try-foundationless-beekeeping/

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Nice. Thanks for sharing.

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