Help new bees-switching to foundationless

I recently picked up two hives from another beekeeper. 1was 2 brood boxes, 1 was only1 brood box. Both full of fully drawn comb on all frames. This beekeeper has different philosophies than I do and I want to go more natural with foundationless and treatment free.
The frames that are currently in the Box are a mix of plastic and wood frames. I added an empty foundationless brood box on the single box hive it has been there for three days and they have not drawn any comb on it. I do have comb guides on them but they are not waxed. Why are they not drawing comb and if they’re not used to foundationless will I even be able to switch them to foundationless. Although I have read almost every document I can find about bees before I got my bees I have no experience so I need your guyses guidance I can’t even figure out the difference between brood comb honeycomb drone comb etc. All the books I read and videos I watched you made it seem so simple but I’m a bit confused.

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Your bees will naturally draw comb on the foundationless frames. It would only be a myth that your bees are used to foundation frames. The bees will fill the foundationless frames when the conditions are favorable for the colony to expand into it.

HOWEVER, I would stick with foundation frames. It keeps everything in order. It makes inspections that much easier, plus you get better looking straight comb which makes finding the queen easier.


I should have mentioned I am a big fan of Michael bush. Also you never know what might be contaminating the foundation wax. I would be open to that provided that I could find foundation wax from treatment free bees. Although getting honey and making money and all that stuff is great but if I am not putting the bees first then I am contributing to the problem. They have done well without me for years and years and years and human intervention I believe combined with the use of pesticides is the problem so I really want to go as natural as possible.

When you say “this beekeeper has different philosophies than I do”. You probably need to keep & work your bees for a few years so that your beekeeping practices evolve before making a statement like that. You never know, after a few years, your philosophies may be similar, if not the same.

In relation to telling the difference between honeycomb, worker & drone comb. May I suggest you post some photos of your comb on here. We will be able to point out the difference for you. Pick a frame that contains small cell brood as well as large cell brood.

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You are absolutely correct about that I have already discovered that I’m starting to bend my own rules but I don’t want to I really do want to stay as natural as possible.

I will get pictures on here in the next few days when I inspect my hives again which is due tomorrow or the next day.

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@JeffH has given you sound advise, he has many years of practical experience. As you are just starting out as a bee keeper I suggest you follow what bee keepers in your area do and with a year or two behind you then by all means experiment with your hives.
The reality is that your bees will need your help to thrive and without is they will die, disease will kill them so using chemicals is the only option using them carefully and when needed.
Join a local bee group and the same as on this forum you will get sound and proven help. Welcome to bee keeping and the forum.

Yeah that is what I am hearing but I keep wondering how michael bush is doing it successfully.

Michael Bush has lots of experience so as you are a beginner I would go for ‘normal practice’ for a year or two then adapt to a different plan if you wish.

You will need to understand that diseases and issues like veroa mites, AFB, wax moth and SHB to exist, these can not be ignored or you might finish up with bee boxes and no bees or worse.

True. I think my struggle is that bees are like my own children and I want to do what is best for them and don’t want to be responsible for doing something wrong.

That’ll be good Speedy.

In relation to Michael Bush. His website is full of information to help you if you choose to go down that path. There is even a facility to leave a gratuity if you wish.

I know you want to do right by your bees, however invariably you’ll make mistakes whereby your bees will suffer. We all do that, it’s par for course. It’s how we learn.

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It is better to start out with spring bees. You do not have to deal with winter loss. How are your winters? I tried treatment free for few years and lost 70%. Now I treat. My problem when I started was I wanted to inspect every other day. One inch wax starter strips work well. You could checker board a few empty frames in and they might draw comb. Everything is easier in the spring. Enjoy your new hobby

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Thank you for the encouragement. Yes I have his book and spend a lot of time on his website. I probably have around 150 books, reports, studies etc related to bees. It’s the experience I am lacking.

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Hello Speedway,
We too are fans of Michael Bush and naturally drawn comb. It is especially great for cut-comb honey.

It looks like you are here in WAshington state, so the reason your bees are not drawing out new comb is that they are getting ready for winter, and we have been experiencing a dearth.

I would wait until next spring to put on the second brood box and then intersperse the empty frames with already drawn frames to keep them from forming cross comb. You can always rotate the older frames out as the bees expand. It also helps to have drawn frames interspersed through the honey medium to keep everything in order.

These two posts by Hilary Kearney are full of good advice and info:

Cheers :purple_heart::honeybee:


Very nice to see someone else in Washington on here. Thank you for the insight. I was under the impression that there would be a fall flow and that there would be a bit of a build-up prior to that. Does that not happen in Washington? I’m not doing completely foundationless because I’ve ordered the flow2 hive. So obviously that one will be different than the rest of my hives.


When I started out i went foundationless- and then I ran into some difficulties. I agree with others saying that when you start out using foundation is a good idea: especially for your brood boxes. At the least consider using a mix of foundation and foundationless- checkerboarding them. The difficulty with 100% foundation-less is that the bees build out of shape combs- which require more care and effort to inspect.

The goal of keeping bees in a langstroth hive is to have even flat combs that can be lifted in and out of the hive easily. This is especially important when you are a novice- as having to deal with cross combs can be challenging.

When you place a foundationless comb besdie two with foundation the foundation combs help to guide the bees to build the foundationless one perfectly. So if you do use foundatioless try and place them between foundation combs- or combs that are already drawn out well.

To cycle out the plastic combs - you can start to move them to the outer edges of your brood box- so that they fill with honey and can be removed and harvested. take you time to slowly remove all the combs you don’t want. It may take a year or more to entirely cycle them out. It is a good idea to cycle out old combs over time anyway.

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Thank you for the advice I heard that and read that as well so there must be a lot of sense to that. I think I will just replace the two outside frames and as they draw them straight then I will replace the ones next to them and so on and hopefully will have pretty straight comb. Since I don’t have any drawn-out comb on medium frames I might have to alternate as you say for the honey super at least in the beginning.

When I posted my first message on here I was so not prepared to have so much support I really appreciate it.

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I too have read tons and watched videos. It’s helped with the basics of beekeeping and understanding the role of the bees within the hive. It’s also guided me on how to maneuver through the hive easily for inspections and what to look for as far as threats go. But with all that book knowledge I put one of each frame in the hive. One natural foundationless and one with foundation and the bees never worked the foundationless frame I assembled for a year. I took the empty frame out and replaced it with a frame with foundation and in one week they built it up. I even tried spraying syrup on it, put a wax strip on it and nothing. If only the bees read the same articles I did! The lesson I learned is be flexible, each hive is different in responding to the things we try. Others (scientists, the Uber experienced) have peered out before me and share their successes and failures. My goals are healthy hives, what ever makes them thrive and survive. Many Sellers of Foundation frames will tell you if the wax incentive frames are from unmedicated wax. Good luck!

Wow. That is crazy it’s funny how so many people have different experiences and opinions based on those experiences.
We have one person saying that bees don’t get used to building on foundationless and now we have a story of bees they wouldn’t build on foundationless for an entire year.

Michael Bush says that they build out natural comb faster than on Foundation so I really believe that every Hive must be different so being flexible is a must which is going to be a lesson for me because I’m very stubborn and impatient so the bees are becoming therapy for me.


Yup I used the high quality frames which came with a hive I bought. The bees like what they like. However, there are pros and cons to the foundationless frames. Watch it on YouTube.

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Is there a particular video you recommend on YouTube about pros and cons of foundationless? Of course I could probably just search for it and watch all of them because that’s the type of thing I do.

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