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Author Topic: foundationless & drone comb  (Read 3575 times)

Offline Yarra_Valley

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foundationless & drone comb
« on: December 16, 2009, 03:09:45 am »
Hi everyone,

I've been experimenting with letting the bees draw their own comb. I'm running 8 frame Langstroths, all deeps. I usually allow 2 deeps for brood, but don't generally use excluders so however much they need for brood. I'm using starter strips made out of regular foundation, about an inch wide.

The first thing I've noticed and I'm concerned about is regardless of where I place the frame in the hive, middle of brood or outside of brood, they always draw drone comb. I understand that this is due to there not being enough drone comb in the hive to keep the bees happy in the first place? Is there a general rule of thumb as to how much drone comb they will draw in a hive? For example for an eight frame box will 6 frame of brood, how much drone comb could you expect to have?

I really want to get the hang of the foundationless thing.

Thanks guys.
Careful, my pets can smell your hives. 8)

Offline deknow

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Re: foundationless & drone comb
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2009, 10:47:06 am »
well, to quote michael bush, "it depends".

in general, the bees will want 15-20% drone cells.  under normal circumstances (for the bees), these cells are generally distributed around the outside of the broodnest (tops and bottom corners of brood frames, frames on the outside of the broodnest).

when you introduce foundationless frames to a colony with with nearly all worker sized cells (ie, from foundation), the full sheets of drone comb will look alarming...and if you remove each sheet of drone comb and "start over" with a new foundationless frame, you will get the same result...all drone cells.

bees will also build drone sized cells if they are building comb to store honey (less wax to store more honey).

but in the end, the bees will do their best to raise the number of drones they want.  removing drone brood will only be a waste of the resources invested in them....if they do not emerge, the bees will simply start over.

another related issue is drone brood in the honey supers.  comb that has had brood raised in it (and has leftover cocoons) is difficult for the bees to rework into drone comb....so, they look for comb that has not had brood raised in it and is easily worked....the honey super!  the queen will generally not cross the honey barrier to lay above if there is sufficent space to raise drones in the broodnest...but the universal use of foundation prevents this from happening...hence, the queen exluder is "needed" to keep the drone brood out of the honey super.


Offline Yarra_Valley

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Re: foundationless & drone comb
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2009, 06:21:42 am »
Thanks deknow, that's an awesome response, exactly what I wanted to know. So I guess I'll just keep on introducing new frames and let them draw out, and hopefully they have enough drone brood now.

Careful, my pets can smell your hives. 8)

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: foundationless & drone comb
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2009, 01:35:31 pm »
Looks like Dean beat me to it.  I concur on all counts.  20% is the upward limit of drone comb generally and if you move it where they would have built it (on the outside edges) and leave it, they will reach their quota and stop building drone comb.  I think the leading cause of brood in the supers is what Dean has pointed out, which is that they can rework it and they don't have enough drone brood.

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