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How to Go Foundationless


If I want to go foundationless how do i get started? I assume you cant set up an entire brood box with foundationless frames and add bees. They have nowhere to “bee” for the lack of another way of saying it. So do you put in some frames with foundation and some foundationless and pull the foundation frames as the bees create the needed comb on the foundationless frame? Does any of this make any sense at all!! Thanks Dale


Of course you can. In fact in the Flow hive package installation video, I think @Michael_Bush does exactly that. :smile:

More information on his web site here:

The only risk with going completely foundationless from the start is that your bees may get creative and build bridge comb or even diagonally. That is not so likely if you use the comb guides in the Flow kit, or one of many other other methods for guiding the builders, but it does still happen. It just means that until your frames are mostly drawn, you need to go into the hive on a regular basis so that you can reshape it into the frames while it is still soft.


I alternate starter strip frames with foundation. That way the bees build straight and you don’t have to be constantly in the colony to straighten things out. You can work the foundation frames out the following year


Hi all…Klutzy here. I just came in from my foundationless 8-frame hive after a blunder I hope to never repeat. I replenished their feed & should’ve stopped there, but got it into my head I should check for eggs too. It happened so suddenly that I wasn’t sure what I did wrong at first, but now that I’ve calmed down a bit I think I realize why the biggest, loveliest hunk of brand new comb the size of an oven mitt crashed to the floor of the hive, just as I had the frame lifted barely an inch up.

  1. I should have left the bees to build it until it was attached to one side & the bottom
  2. It might’ve been connected at one side to the outcropping of comb left by my hanging queen cage that I thought was best even tho against other good advice like MB’s, because it was 36F on pkg day & 3 days after (worried Q would be too cold at bottom of hive if directly released)

I scooped it out as gently as I could & was too horrified to stop & look for the queen. I know people rubber band these mishaps back together, but I just wanted to leave well enough alone for today.

There’s a decent amount of nectar stored & some pollen in different colors. But - no eggs -

This package was hived 8 days ago, guess that is too soon for eggs :flushed:


WOW. Now that is interesting. So. The bees, for a period of time, are just living in an empty box? Do they hand on the sides of the box? Do they ball up until they have enough comb to hang out on. I am intrigued?


If it is warm enough, they hang in festoons (U-shaped curtains/drapes of bees) and make comb. If not, they cluster like a swarm on a branch. When bees make a home in a hollow tree, they do the same thing. It is all amazing to us, but they have been doing it successfully for 10’s of millions of years! :smile:


When you feel brave enough, i would definitely rubber band it and give it back to them. Oven mitt is quite a big piece of comb that they have invested in. :wink:


Thanks for the boost Dawn, I think you’re right. I have to do it. I can’t stop having that sinking feeling every time I imagine all that work just disappearing on them!


Then they are lucky to have you as their beekeeper. :blush: You care about them. Some beekeepers out there don’t really care.

Chances are, no harm done. Just in case the worst happened, and you don’t see larvae in another week or two, you may want to order a queen for delivery ASAP. I wouldn’t jump to it though, just take time to calm down and get your confidence back. You might want to watch some videos on handling foundationless frames, if you haven’t already. They can be very tricky. Just a thought, ignore it if you have done so already, my thought is that you were just unlucky - maybe some brace comb, or a poor attachment to the top bar of the frame. Anyhow, bees recover from this kind of thing all the time in nature, and you are feeding them, so they have a boost already. Cut yourself a break and get back into it when you can. :wink:


Found these nice pics


My attempt to piece together largest chunks of broken comb using rubber band method.
And, leftover chunks too small to put back

Please advise on whether this wobbly ‘fix’ is worth it, or will just make more wobbly results…

Also, if I want to give the nectar that has collected in the cereal-sized bowl with the small pieces of comb back to the bees, how is best?


Thanks Dawn, your encouragement really helps :blush:
I think I’ll try to look for the queen when - and if - (see my pic of comb repair attempt) I put the rubber banded frame of broken comb in today. Planning to just take out empty frames & maybe try to slide those with comb built, just a tiny bit and NOT lift them.

Fortunately my teacher will be able to give me a new queen if she is gone. He is knowledgable but only on orthodox beekeeping methods & doesn’t do foundationless, so I’m especially grateful for this forum & your advice!


You must have very small oven mitts! :smile: I would probably render (melt down) that wax - I think they might get quite creative with that bit. It was a good exercise to try it out, though.


Render myself useful somehow :yum: