Honeybees: nature's great builders.
Our aim is to let the bees behave as they would like with minimal interference from us. Having followed the 'Rose Hive Method' for a few years now, we are quite used to the bees building the comb that they would like to. Each box of frames includes a number that are fitted with starter strips of wax foundation rather than full sheets intended to force the bees to build worker comb. You can see both in the picture below:
We have seen the bees build both worker and drone comb. Either has been used for brood and stores and we don't mind that at all. Drones have been restricted in the past which cannot be ideal in getting virgin Queens properly mated, as you can read about elsewhere on this site. The pictures below show what the bees do from the starter strips which is undeniably beautiful isn't it?
We'll post some clearer photos of worker and drone comb in a future post, but you can just compare the smaller worker cells at the top of the frame with the larger drone cells filling the majority of the frame.
Now, after reading the fabulous Michael Bush website we are experimenting with taking this freedom for bees idea a little further. Besides allowing bees to build what they need, there are arguments to not use foundation at all. Some people are worried about the provenance of wax foundation and the chemicals from treatments etc that it may contain. The cost is also not inconsiderable. Michael Bush has quite a few suggestions about how to go 'foundationless'. The simplest is to rotate the 'wedge', (which secures the top of the foundation in the frame), by 90 degrees and fix it in the rebate. Like so:
A week or so later the bees had done this! They are wonderful creatures aren't they?
So, that's where we are at the moment. We have found that the bees will happily draw comb on starter strips and even without foundation at all with a section of wood as a guide. Some of the issues that we will look at in the future are:-
Better ways of creating a foundationless frame
How robust will they be in the spinner? We don't anticipate this being a problem as frames with starter strips haven't been a problem. Remember that Rose frames are bigger than 'super' frames so they definitely shouldn't be a problem for anyone with a National.
There are hives that don't use foundation, but can we go completely foundationless? Can the entire box be filled with foundationless frames or do frames of foundation or drawn comb need to be inserted to keep combs straight? With careful management of drawn comb, we can see how it would be possible to have all foundationless frames eventually.
I'm sure other issues will arise and we look forward to reporting on all of this in a future post.
Thanks so much for reading.