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Foundationless frames illegal in South Australia?

Hi all. We’ve recently downsized from a 70 acre property to a house on the outskirts of a small, Barossa Valley town. As a result, I’ve also had to re-jig my bees. I used to keep 5 traditional hives, but no longer have those and now have our first Flow Hive 2.

Today, we picked up our nucleus from a local beekeeper who was extremely helpful but he did say that in South Australia, it is illegal to have foundation-less frames. He also stated that there had been fines issued via PIRSA (Primary Industries and Resources South Australia), locally based on people stating they have Flow Hives on their Beekeeping Registration and Identification Code form. Basically, he said he knew of local people who had been fined after PIRSA received their forms, saw that they had a Flow Hive and then carried out an on-site inspection. He personally knew of someone who had received such a fine.

As for legislation, all I can find is -

13AA.A person shall not keep bees in a hive other than a frame-hive. Penalty:—for a first offence—$500.

(via legislation.sa.gov.au)

Which basically says you need to keep bees in a frame hive, which I would assume foundation-less is.

I’m confused, and now a little concerned! Can anyone clarify this situation for me? He said their justification for this law was that frames need to be easily removed for inspection by either the owner, or PIRSA. Foundation-less frames can make this more difficult.

@Semaphore would know answers to those questions. It sounds like someone got confused. As far as I know it is illegal to keep bees in anything that can’t be readily inspected. Therefore foundationless frames would be ok. Why would you want to use foundationless frames in the first place? I find that properly fitted wax foundation frames to be far superior to foundationless frames. If you purchase a nuc, ask the supplier what his/her preference is, & why.

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The guy who supplied you with the nuc is wrong, That story was an ‘urban myth’ about bee hives many years ago.
I’m guessing that all the states in Australia have the same legislation with maybe a variation of wording but what it says is that it is illegal to have bees in a hive that the comb can’t be inspected. There is no mention about it being illegal to have foundation-less frames, if that is the way you want to go… So what it really means is that you are fine to have a bee hive were the frames can be removed for inspection – which is as you have read.


That’s what I thought. I’ve come from traditional hives and have always used foundation but noticed Flow Hive seem to promote foundation-less both in their instructions for the construction of their hive, and via their Youtube channel.

As to why I’d try foundation-less? Well in all honesty I thought I’d give it a go just as an experiment (always learning!).

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The disadvantage of using foundation is that there is foundation manufactured in China that is a mixture of bees wax and paraffin wax, paraffin wax is much cheaper than bees wax, so the Chinese make it, not caring if it is harmful to bees or not. So beware of foundation sold on EBay that is cheap.
The advantage of using bees wax foundation is that the bees will readily take to it and make straight comb rather than wonky or bridging comb that can be an issue when you need to do an inspection when the bees have bonded several frames together. In foundation-less frames there can be a lot of wasted time and energy from the bees lost.
A sheet of foundation placed into a wired frame is how I do my bee keeping, it saves me and my bees time and effort.


hello there,
I don’t know about that story- but it doesn’t seem right. From what I understand foundationless would be fine- as the comb is in a wooden frame as Peter says. I was also under the impression that PIRSA wouldn’t just fine anyone- but give them warnings first. I would be surprised if they just came out and fined anyone. I do know that in SA it is illegal to put old combs in bait hives to catch swarms- and you are not supposed to leave any empty beekeeping equipment outside where bees have access to it. Hives like skep hives are not allowed but no one ever even tries that as far as I know.

I think foundationless can be good - but I don’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience as it can create more troubles than it is worth. I’ve been making splits and catching swarms this spring and I have used some frames that are wired- but only with a wood starter strip- and letting the bees build down through the wires. I only use these frame alongside foundation of built combs and/or up against the wall of the hive. I do that so they are built well and even. It is vital that the hive is perfectly level- even a few degrees out and you end up with combs that don’t attach correctly to the bottom bar. Generally a swarm will build fast and build almost all worker comb- so you can end up with a very nice frame. But sometimes you end up with a lot of drone cells and it’s not that great- later on I end up removing those frames.

when you are setting up a fresh colony- it all just works so well if you use 100% foundation- perfect flat combs.


Thank you all for your replies. I really appreciate it. I’ve decided to use foundation instead of experimenting with foundation-less. We chose a Flow Hive so as to be able to let our kids have the opportunity to experience bee keeping as well. I figure easy to remove frames will assist in their learning experience.

Cheers all!

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that’s exactly it- the cost of a little foundation is well worth it when you start out.

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If you use foundationless frames in SA and that includes Topbar hives you must use a starter strip or comb guide in the frame at the top.
Flow hive do provide timbercomb guides for those that choose not to use plastic or wax foundation sheets BUT the timber comb guides are not big enough to comply with the PIRSA regs.
To comply you can cut starter or comb guide strips from a plastic foundation sheet and fit it in the frame.
From memory the strip has to be at least 20 mm wide and run the full length of the frame.
You can confirm this by giving PIRSA a call and ask for Teagan Alexander …she will help you


really? That’s quite silly. I bought several hundred wood strips- they are only 1cm wide- and that’s all that’s needed. There is no need for them to be 20mm and then you lose a good centimeter of frame space- which isn’t much in a full depth but is in an ideal. I use starter strip to make foundationless ideal honey comb- and I already resent losing that 1cm from the starter strip…


Thanks for that @Snapper. I’d say that’s what the bee keeper we got our nuc from was getting at. I’ll go with wax foundation now instead of experimenting with foundationless.

I’m really wanting this hive to be an experience for our kids too, so easier to remove frames will be a big plus.


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I agree Jack but I guess it’s for added strength to prevent comb breaking when inspecting the hive?
I used the bigger plastic strips on an ideal frame for making honey comb and didn’t like the amount of area left behind when cutting out the honey comb.

Hi @Sheppy
We use foundationless frames here and they can usually be easily removed for inspections so shouldn’t pose any problems. Here is some further information on foundationless frames for your interest. As with so many aspects of beekeeping, choosing to go foundationless or not comes down to personal preference - so listen to the wise words from members of your forum community and local bee club folk and decide what works for you :slight_smile:

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This video shows what can happen when using foundationless frames if you’re not careful. Jim chastises himself pretty severely, which wasn’t really warranted. It’s an easy mistake to make.

He stated later on in another video that it was probably a mistake not to use foundation frames from the start.
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I’ve since received this information. This applies to S.A. and Tasmania. Ultimately, foundationless really isn’t meeting the requirements listed in the regulations below.

Hives must be:

  1. Specifically designed, constructed, operated and maintained so as to be bee-proof, including being:

a) Constructed of materials that are durable and secure, and which prevent bee access (other than as approved in 1 b); and

b)restricted in bee access to fixed bee access points, managed according to hive strength so as to be demonstrably defendable, and able to be made bee-proof as required; and

  1. Specifically designed, constructed, operated and maintained so as to have easily removable frames, including:

a) Being fitted with sufficient frames of the required type, or in their absence temporary bee-proof divider(s), so as to meet required element 2 b); and

b) Being restricted in the hives internal volume available for comb building to frames of the required type; with frames of foundation (i.e. frames not containing drawn comb but in which it is intended/possible that bees will draw comb) meeting required element 2 c); and

c) Frames of foundation comprising as a minimum of a continuous straight strip of foundation secured to the underside of the top bar and extending:

i) To within 10 mm of each end bar (or in their absence to points consistent with maintaining the required bee-space with the hive box inner faces); and

ii) Downwards at least 20 mm if fitted with a bottom bar (or in its absence to points consistent with maintaining the required bee-space with hive components underneath).

2c is a foundationless frame with a starter strip.
2c ii gives you the wide starter strip (20mm) and talks to just a top bar with bee space

So foundationless and too bars meet the requirements of 2c

My understanding is that the brood frames meet these conditions provided they are used with comb guides. They have been designed to comply with regulations. However, you may of course choose to use foundations if preferred and as you’ve mentioned, this will have some other advantages too. There are pros and cons to both and it really is up to you :slight_smile:

2b and 2c seem to allow for foundation-less frames if that is the way a bee keeper wants to go. Has anyone been prosecuted for having a Langstroth type of hive or a version there of, that has removable frames that have been added without foundation and has yet to have comb built out by the bees?

This is where the thread started remember. I wonder is this story is just an addition to the urban myth of bee keeping and that common sense prevails.


Hi Sheppy, You’ve talked yourself into using foundation frames. Don’t do it because of how you interpret that piece of gobbledygook. Do it because the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages. The only disadvantages being the cost as well as wiring & fitting.


Cheers! I’d always used foundation in my previous Langstroth hives. I’ll reckon stick with what I know.