Foundationless = all drones?

In my german beekeeping forum, the admin brought up an issue with falsified wax foundation. Some supplier(s) put paraffin or other stuff in to elongate it. I posted the link to @Michael_Bush 's article on foundationless beekeeping. I was turned down with the statement, that the bees would build all drone comb without foundation and the drone issue was not mentioned in the article. I couldn’t find anything on that topic either, but I did go foundationless this year and found that they don’t build drone comb only. I found some frames with half drone and half worker cells, the drone cells are now being filled with honey for winter. And I found several all worker combs. Yes, they are not that neat and tidy as foundation comb, they sometimes start building from two or three points and the joints of the wax “tongues” are somehow crooked, but who cares? That’s the problem of german Ordnungssinn (conception of tidyness). :wink: Of course, since this is my first bee year, my little experience and therefore my statements are not worthwile, so maybe you could add this topic in your FAQs, Michael, or if it is already mentioned somewhere, help me find it?

G’day Angela, what you experienced with foundationless frames is fairly typical. The bees will fill some frames with all worker comb & so on, as you found. A lot of new beekeepers find wiring frames & properly attaching foundation a bit daunting. However, it is really worth the effort for a new beekeeper to learn how to do it. If you use all wax foundation that is properly fitted to the wires of the frames, you will reap the benefits. A stronger worker colony will always outperform a weaker worker colony.


This is why you need to buy your foundation from reputable suppliers. Paraffin mixing (also heard of soy wax being used) is quite common in cheaper foundation from China etc. and this is why you should purchase from local suppliers you can trust (if you have them available!)

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I read that bees actually prefer drone comb for honey storage, will have to remember where now. And part of the joy for me is how amazing the natural combs are, the ‘non conformity’. I don’t have 100’s of hives, not concerned with the economics of time & money, so let them build what they will, I can always tidy it up a bit so that I can do what I need to to keep them healthy.

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Hi Kirsten, I’m not sure about bees preferring drone comb for honey storage. That’s probably a myth. The thing about using worker comb throughout is you can move honey frames into the brood & vice versa whenever you like. I’m doing this all the time. Today I inspected my huge swarm that turned up 2 weeks ago, I found the queen, she’s laying like a beauty. She looks soooo much different to how she looked 2 weeks ago, or even last week for that matter. The bees have built out every frame.

On the topic of bees storing honey: I saw all this today in that swarm hive. In the brood frames, the bees store honey in the worker combs above the brood. If the bees choose to, they’ll move honey out of cells so the queen can lay eggs in. That’s what they’re doing right now. When the weather cools down, the bees will constrict the brood & put honey in the cells that were previously used for brood.

When people say that bees prefer drone comb to store honey in, I don’t really buy it.

I’ll ttyl, bye

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Thanks guys, but that was not my point. I’m not moving honey frames into the brood box since I only use flow frames in my supers. I buy my foundation in a local store, who buys it from a supplier I don’t know. I only use it to make starter strips and let my bees build on.
But what I wanted in this Thread was Michael Bush’s opinion on the drone issue.

I don’t think you will find anyone who says it will create ‘all drone comb’, it’s not that black and white. I can only think this was a miscommunication. My experience has been that foundationless frames definitely have more drone comb than using foundation, at times significantly more which is why I choose to use foundation (among other reasons) .

My experience with foundationless has been the bees will draw based on need and this is regardless of foundationless or not:
For instance, I captured a swarm and placed them into a hive with foundationless only: The result was they built all worker comb because the last thing they needed was drones. They needed workers to get the hive to the point of reproduction mode.
Once the hive grew into a full and thriving hive, drone comb began to appear around the edges and outer frames because it was time to reproduce.y


I’m not as famous as Michael Bush but I can give you my opinion which you will find in any decent beekeeping book. Bees like drones and if times are good and forage is plentiful they will make 20/25% of their brood drone. This is normal.


Of course they won’t only build drone. If this was true then bees would be extinct. They build the number that the species requires and no more. Here are some articles on the positive effect of drones:

This study says they also help heat brood:
This one says the colony is more productive with adequate drones and drone comb:
This one says that there was no significant loss of production in colonies with more drones and drone comb:


“…in the presence of male bees, the organism of workers works more effectively, i.e. it utilizes in a better way the components contained in food. It must be stressed that next to the high survival rate in the worker bees consuming carbohydrate food, there occurred also a better development of the pharyngeal glands where protein is particularly necessary. The presence of drones had also a positive effect on the content of total protein and crude
fat in the bodies of worker bees consuming sugar candy.”* This study may change the minds of some beekeepers concerning the value of drones in a colony; their removal may not be as benign as once thought. “
Sanford, M.T. 2002, “Apimondia in South Africa,” Bee Culture, Vol. 130 (seven installments: January, February, March, May, July, August, September).

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Hi Red n all,

I started 3 (three) new hives in new boxes I built n assembled last winter. From experiences from my youth I started out with wax foundation n was talking into using some wax coated frames too. Your right … Starting from scratch my “girls” knew they needed n only drew out worker sized cells. Later on in the summer (I’d have to look at my notes when) I started seeing some extensions off the very bottom of a few frame I discovered were drone sized cells. Later on in the Sumer the ladies did do a mix of few cells among the thousands of worker specific sized broom n honey storage cells on a few frames. That was a change from the more uniform order earlier in the season.

Yes, the girls will n do change stuff around for there own needs. It’s not as pretty but what the Heck !! I’m guess the bees might not like that way I do house keeping either :smile:.

My dear wife I’m sure would perfect our house a bit neater … But as her MD progresses I’ve have to take over the housekeeping n cooking. My ways are not hers but I do my best to find middle ground since I still try to keep out business going too. The bees are a great deversion for me as I can no longer go hiking n backpacking… No sweat … Beekeeping does gives something to both enjoy here at home … And maybe helps Vera’s mind off my different style n arrangement of our kitchen n other few places outside she tended too. . As always in our 49 years plus of marriage we try to enjoy a few things together (like beekeeping)… She’s the only one around n alive that remembers my love of bees as we dated in my teen years.

Ta ta,


Another benefit of not using wax foundation is that depending on where you live & where your supplies are made, you avoid adding more contaminants to your bees’ home environment. The pesticides & herbicides they’re exposed to in their foraging environment combine with the miticide & pesticide residues in commercially produced wax foundation to produce damage to bee cognition in the form of memory and directional learning.


Cheers to you & Vera, Gerald :heart:

You know Jerry, I admire what you have done. Taking up beekeeping after all those years. Taking care of your family and soul-mate (Vera). Now, she trusts your beekeeping experience enough to sit right next to you with bees not very far away. It seems only a couple of months ago when she wanted to stay in the house a mile away from the bees. You are truly a worker of minor miracles, keep it up, and let others be encouraged that family can overcome their fear of bees if the family is also treated gently and respectfully.

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Sorry bad link, here’s the right one:

Thanks a lot! I have taken the liberty to post your links in mentioned forum, of course as a correct quote with your name above it!
In Germany, it’s being taught and advised that drones are useless consumers of valuable resources and have to be limited to the least amount possible. Drone brood is also used to fight varroa by cutting them out as soon as most of a drone frame is capped. This reduces varroa numbers since they prefer drone brood due to their larger cells and longer development time. The normal private beekeeper keeps hearing that only purebred drones are worthwile and the common household drones will produce only bad stingers if they mate with a queen. So homebred queens are bad and only queens bought from a breeder are good. Call it brainwashing… I prefer making my own experiences and referring to people like Michael instead of following old dogmas. So again, thank you for your input! I didn’t have the time to read it all thoroughly, but I certainly will soon!

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I don’t see any evidence that my bees are more productive with more drones or drone comb. All I see is a greater risk of SHB infestation. If drones help to heat brood, why do they get kicked out of hives before winter?

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I believe drone culling wastes more resources because the bees will just use more resources to replace them. The biggest spike in mites happens when the drones are being booted out anyway.

I wouldn’t advocate drone culling unless I was using that frame of brood to boost a weaker hive or if I was going to retire that frame from brood duties & place it above the QX for honey production. There’s no point in having drones hatch out above a queen excluder.

In the case of the weaker colony, the bees will more than likely cull the drone larvae/pupae out anyway.

The key to having less drones in the brood is using foundation, preferably wax. With wax foundation, the bees will always find somewhere to build small areas of drone comb. There’s no need to cull those.

With less large areas of drone comb in the brood which equals less drones the brood, you greatly reduce the risk of SHB damage.