On making foundations and/or comb guide strips for comb honey.

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by heinleinfan, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. heinleinfan

    heinleinfan New Member

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    I got to thinking the other day, why am I buying foundations if I now have a steady supply of beeswax?

    I get that the process takes time, and the time spent on making them vs. buying them isn't practical on either a large or small scale. I'm not always a practical person. I can buy a skirt at JCPenny for 30 minutes of my time and a few bucks...but I rather enjoy sewing one with 2 hours of my time and quite a few more bucks for a lovely fabric, because I made it myself, you know? So, forget the impracticality of it, and let's say I just want to do it because I just wanna.

    I went digging around online looking for info and every single bit of info I could find eventually led to having to press that honeycomb pattern into the foundation or making them individually in molds that have the pattern.

    I don't get why the bees, who've been building the incredibly precise and sturdy hexagonal honeycomb for 10,000 years at whatever cell size they want, need that little honeycomb pattern milled onto a starter strip or a foundation at a size we humans think is right.

    Do they just not like a...blank surface to build on, so they'll just completely ignore a blank foundation? Will they really just go drone-brood-sized crazy if left without that guide? If that were the case, then it wouldn't be possible at all to top bar keep or go foundationless in a Lang, so that can't be the case, can it? Is it just because they'll build faster with a guide? If so, then why have I read some trustworthy sources saying bees drew foundationless faster or just as fast? And what exactly did Langstroth do before there were fancy presses and molds to mass produce foundations with the pattern on them?

    Why the pattern milling? Does anyone know? I have, heh, a bee in a my bonnet about this now.



    And, has anyone ever tried making their own foundations or guide strips for comb honey...because I think I just might. Not as my only foundation/comb guide option, but maybe a few, and see what happens.


    FOR SCIENCE!
     
  2. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Mostly, wax and plastic foundation are pre-made with worker sized cells, to encourage the raising of workers over drones. Bees don't really 'need' manmade foundation.
    People sometimes cut wax foundation into strips and fasten them in as comb guides, when they want the bees to build their own comb without full foundation. A comb guide's only purpose is to encourage the bees to draw leaves of comb straight down in unconnected adjacent frames, to make it easy for us to remove or manipulate frames at will.
    As long as bees have a slight ridge, they like to use it to start the comb off of. This can be an inverted frame wedge, a top bar shaped with an angle along the bottom, lines of popsicle sticks, fancy wax foundation strips.....the bees don't care.
    If you put plain non-embossed flat sheet of wax in as a foundation, the bees will chew it up and use it wherever/however they decide, to build their OWN comb as they please. They will make their own 'surface' as they build, rather than building on a flat blank surface.
     

  3. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    I saw a video a few months back of foundation being home made by dipping a board in melted wax. when it set up it was cut off the board in a sheet. No impression. No idea how well it worked though.

    Due to lack of foundation this summer I had to put several empty frames in my hive. The bees only built comb on a few of them but every bit of it was drone comb. The only place where they built drone comb on foundation was where they chewed holes through it and rebuilt. Not looking good for my bees to go foundationless.
     
  4. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Without "guidance", bees will prefer to build drone sized cells for storage beacuse it is more ecnomical in the use of bee's wax. (They've got the calculations all figured out) Worker cells will be built only when they want it specifically for worker brood rearing.
    So...if you don't care about re-using your combs, or only want them for honey storage, there's really no reasoon to give them embossed foundation.
    But, if you want interchangeability of storage combs and brood combs, the only way to be sure you'll get solid sheets of worker brood cells is by "telling" them what size you want.
     
  5. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    "And, has anyone ever tried making their own foundations or guide strips for comb honey...because I think I just might. Not as my only foundation/comb guide option, but maybe a few, and see what happens."

    heinlanfan, i would like to add to omie's post and ef's post. for years i have been placing empty frames in medium supers to produce comb honey. i don't use any type of starter strips. what i did do was melt a bead of beeswax into the top and bottom of the frame where the foundation fits into, otherwise they propolize it, or fill with wax themselves. these frames are placed one or two at a time, between drawn frames in a super of a strong colony, with a strong nectar flow going. the girls draw beautiful straight comb with drone sized cells. makes for some wonderful, large slices of comb honey. if there is a place on the frame that is not quite 'perfect', (cells not filled/capped) it can be used as chunk honey.
     
  6. wadehump

    wadehump New Member

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    If you start a swarm or package bees on foundationless frames they will draw worker size cells untill they have what they need to raise workers then they will draw drone size for drones and honey storage. When you add foundationless frames to an established hive they will draw drone size for hoeny storage and to raise drones .