How do you start a Hive from a Package with Foundationless Frames?

I am likely to receive my Package of Bees next week to install into my new Flow Hive. The package contains just the bees & Queen. I am however finding it quite difficult to find information or videos on installing a package with foundationless frames.

Is it possible to start a foundationless hive without a brood comb guide? A lot of the videos I have found recommend this, however I have none as I am a newbie.

I guess where I am confused is when I install my package bees, where do you put the Queen? Does she stay in queen cage until she eats through the candy, or does the queen have removed upon installation? (Providing the bees have accepted her as theirs)

Any help you can provide would be great! :slight_smile:

This is my frame, with tongue installed as a guide:

Hi Adam, I would recommend that you at least use foundation wax on a frame or two and gradually introduce foundationless via starter strips, you will need to keep an eye on them to prevent any cross comb. Leave the queen to be removed by the bees through the candy, this could take a few days.


Hi Adam,

First the disclosure. I’m a newbee so my experience is limited.

I notice you are from Sydunny so you will be enjoying the warmth of the Summer climate. Some of us here on the far north NSW coast bought package bees a few months ago. Ours came from Hornsby.

I installed my package in an 8 frame box with alternating starter strips and foundation. The bees drew comb on both the starter strips and the foundation. The only real advantage of using foundation is that it provides your bees with an excellent comb building guide so they are more likely to build straight comb. I found my bees were really into comb building for the first week or so.

I gave my bees a litre of 1:1 sugar syrup to get them going. The DPI recommends no more than one litre every three days. I’m still supplementing my bees at this rate because I want them to build up numbers as quickly as possible.

If you don’t have any full foundation then you may want to inspect your colony after a few days to check the combs are straight. While comb is soft it is quite easy to gently manipulate and keep it in line with the frame. You’re going to need to inspect it anyway so you can check the queen has been released. There are plenty of you tube videos about where to place the queen in her cage so she will be released safely.

Good luck and enjoy your bees.


Hi Adam,

As @Rodderick says, personally I would put foundation in one or two frames. However, you certainly don’t “need” to do this. Michael Bush has a nice summary of how to do it on his web site:

He does emphasize not over-feeding the package, but I would like to add that feeding them right from the start is very important. This is because they need to build a lot of comb rapidly, and they need food to do this. As they have no stores, they are relying on nectar and syrup. I would feed them until most of the frames have drawn comb on them - this may be a couple of months, depending on your bees, the climate and nectar flow.

To get the ball rolling, here is how I would install the package with foundation-less frames:

  1. Put the plastic sheet into the screened bottom board, unless the weather is very hot (80F+). New bees don’t need a draft to challenge their heat generation.
  2. Take the Flow super off the hive and stow it in the garage.
  3. Put a few drops of lemongrass oil on each frame top bar. Remove the middle 3 or 4 frames from the brood box, and set on one side. Lemongrass mimics Queen pheromone, and encourages bees to accept a new box, reducing the risk of absconding.
  4. Remove the feeder from the package, and the queen cage. Set on one side (put the queen in the shade, close to the hive, but not in it yet.
  5. Dump the bees into the hive, emptying out as many as you can. Gently put the middle frames back into the hive, being careful not to squish or roll bees. Put the inner cover and roof on. I like to duct tape a square of #8 hardware cloth over the top of the hole in the inner cover - more on this below. Leave the queen out for now (still in the shade). If the bees are very grumpy when you put the queen in with them, there is a risk that they may ball her (attack and suffocate her), so you are giving them a chance to get over their disorientation first, and the lemongrass oil should persuade them to stay put for a while.
  6. Go away for an hour or two, let the bees settle down and get over their initial grumpiness.
  7. This is my preference, but a lot of people do this differently. Take the cork out of the end of the queen cage. Put the cage (holes up) in the hive entrance and use a hive tool to push it far back into the hive close to the centre, but well in from the entrance. This gives bees access to the queen, and they will release her usually later the same day by chewing through the candy.
  8. Set up feed - I like to use an inverted pail of 1:1 sugar syrup on top of the inner cover, positioned over that piece of hardware cloth. The cloth keeps the bees in when I refill the pail. You can also use a big mason jar with 1mm holes in the lid - just invert it over the hardware mesh.
  9. Put an empty deep (or your empty Flow super) on top of the inner cover, then put the roof on.
  10. Go away for 2 days.
  11. Lift the roof, check the syrup. If empty, refill, if not, walk away again. Check every couple of days to make sure they don’t run out of syrup. No need to open the hive yet.
  12. One week after installation, do an inspection. Remove the inner cover. As bees generally fill a hive from the middle, I check the middle frames first, but you can do it in any order. Check that they are building straight comb on the frames - if not, remove any creative bits, making sure not to squish the queen. Check all frames - they seem particularly fond of building bridge comb at the outer frames, so don’t leave those out. When satisfied, close up the hive.
  13. Repeat the food check and weekly inspections until all frames have nice straight comb.
  14. Congratulate yourself on a successful installation!

Hope this helps a bit. There is really no mystery, you just have to understand bee behavior a bit, and you will do fine.



Thanks Rodderick. When you say starter strips, do you mean the wax ones like this:

Or do you mean the ones in my picture from my first post? (wood insert)

1 Like

Excellent, thank you for your info!

Great info, thanks so much Dawn!

@Adam Yes those are starter strips. That is what I use.

Since the Flow super is all plastic anyway you may as well order 8 deep frames with Rite-Cell plastic foundation for the brood nest area. Once those are drawn you can start slipping in foundationless frames between them and storing the drawn plastic frames you’ve removed for the new hive where you will house the inevitable swarm capture.

I forgot a couple of important things… :smile:

After putting the queen cage in the hive, I put an entrance reducer in the hive entrance, using the small (~2cm wide) entrance. A package of bees is usually around 3 pounds or 1.5 kg, which is about 9,000 to 12,000 bees. A healthy, established hive will have 30,000 to 60,000 bees. So there are not as many bees to defend the new home - reducing the entrance makes that job easier. After a couple of days, if there is a lot of activity around the entrance, I increase it to the wider setting (~10cm).

Assuming you are in Australia, you are now mid-summer. You might expect your nectar flow to gradually reduce for the rest of the year, unless you have local special sources or crops. I would not expect to use your flow frames this year on package bees, but ask your local beekeepers their opinions. In my experience, it is better to nurture a weak hive (i.e. package bees) late in the season, rather than expecting a lot of them.

All the best!


Turning the wedge round works as well for me.

Hi Rodderick, thanks so much for all your feedback. I have done a bit more research and just wanted to know if I do a combination of Foundationless and foundation frames for my brood box does it matter what order they are in the box starting out?

And do you think 4 foundationless & 4 foundation frames would be best or should I have more foundation frames then foundationless?

Alternating empty and foundation frames has always worked with swarms for me. No experience with package bees though but must be similar?

1 Like

I agree, Dee. I am not totally convinced by that guy’s claim in the video on the other thread addressing this issue:
The video is also at

I think bees get creative with comb whenever they feel like it, foundation/comb guides/starter strips or not. It is part of the charm, challenge and fascination of beekeeping! :smile:


Thank you SO much for that. I have just gotten all my hive parts, and put together everything except the roof, waiting for Tung oil/D-limonene to treat the exterior, then I will see how long it takes to get the Bees (there’s a waiting period here in Texas between ordering and fulfillment, @ 6 months). I still have studying to do on the best time to start/establish the colony, but I know I will have to feed them though this winter, IF I get them by then (pretty sure, anyway). Again, thank you.

You are very welcome! :blush:

If you join a local bee club, you may find that members are willing to help you get a swarm, or give you frames of bees from their hives long before that. I wish you all the best!