April 22, 2017 – Drawn Comb or Foundation?

I received a question this past week from a new beekeeper asking if he should buy drawn comb to begin his beekeeping adventure, or if he should just drop the bees on foundation?

I have heard and read many stories of how new beekeepers drop their new bee colony onto all fresh foundation and come back a few days later to find that their expensive investment has disappeared, absconded, gone with the wind. This is not to say it doesn’t work, only that risk is increased using this method.

I use drawn comb to start my bees on, and I advise new beekeepers to do the same for at least their brood boxes. Having drawn comb available to the new package, will prompt the queen to begin laying quickly. When there is eggs and brood in a hive it gives the bees something to work for, and they will make it a home.  Your package of bees will already be dealing with it’s fair share of stresses, and one of the largest concern with package bees is they sometimes dwindle quickly. By providing your new bees with comb, you eliminate the waiting period for the queen to start laying while the hive attempts to build comb. I strongly suggest buying a local hive or nuc instead of a package if you are just starting out. Building comb when there is not a honey flow on is not an easy task for the bees, it takes 8 lbs of honey for the hive to draw out one frame of comb.

Top: Very old Brood Frame which needs to be culled Bottom: Fresh comb built last season which has never been laid in

As mentioned in last weeks post, it is a good idea to have a plan in place to rotate out old equipment. In the past few years, I have been running 10 frames in my honey supers and each super was given 4 new frames for the bees to fill out, this was both to introduce new frames into my operation and also because I did not have enough drawn comb. This year I will be switching to 9 frames in each honey super, I will put 2 new frames in each super. I am also adding 2 new frames to the second brood box on each colony. Mark your frames with the year to track them. If you switch out 2 frames per year, your operation will have very few frames older than 5 years.

My second brood boxes have 2 frames of foundation each which the bees will fill out fairly quickly.

I appreciate questions which will allow me to fill space and educate in weeks like this last one, where there is not much excitement to blog about. Any questions you have feel free to message us on Facebook, or email us and I will do my best to help you get the answers you seek.

Not much has happened on the farm over the past week, just checking on the hives to make sure they have enough feed and pollen. Added another half pound of pollen substitute to most of the hives, that should get them through the cold forecast for the next 5 days, which will keep them from foraging on the natural pollen the trees are providing.

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