I am a real beekeeper now!

May 31, 2009

bee and rose clear 

assistantMy intrepid assistant (my 13 year old son who is not phased by the bees at all) and I had some work to do Saturday.  I’ve been learning  about various approaches to beekeeping and my own approach has been evolving toward  natural, organic beekeeping.  I, and many others, believe that left to their own devices, bees know better how to manage a hive than people do.  One small step I’m taking is transitioning my frames to foundationless.



In this picture from when we were first installing the bees you see frames with foundation.  The black plastic rectangles are the frames and the foundation is the solid black in the center of each frame.  queen cage installation The foundation is imprinted with hexagons and the bees will build comb to match those hexagons.  The only problem is the hexagons aren’t the size the bees would naturally build.  You can buy foundation that is a more natural size, but that was just too expensive at this point in my new hobby.  An alternative is to let the bees build their own comb; overtime the cell sizes will get smaller and smaller until they are the size bees used to build. [Why the bigger cell sizes?  Because people thought bigger cells would yield bigger bees which would yield more honey.  It does yield bigger bees, but not more honey.]

Of course I couldn’t just pop out the old foundation – in the material I have it is DSCF6242 molded to the frame.  I practiced with one frame and was able to cut the plastic out with a jigsaw.  I did installed that one foundationless frame 9 days ago to see how the bees would take to it.  This is what it looked like yesterday. They were perfectly happy to make comb without the foundation.


Cutting out all the plastic foundation was going to be onerous. You can buy wooden frames less than 70 cents each, which I did.  It’s grown-up kid’s real life construction set construction kit.

If you just leave the foundation out I’m told the bees are likely to build comb up from the bottom, and then it may not be very straight (straight is nice so you can remove the frame for inspection and harvesting honey).  If you put something as a comb guide at the top – something like craft sticks – then the bees should make the comb from the top down. A little glue, a little wood, some staples for extra support and you’re done. 

Back to the hives.  It was time to switch in as many foundationless frames for plastic frames as we could.  DSCF6244gloveless






Here is where I became a real beekeeper.  I was working without gloves because the gloves make it hard for me to pick up and replace the frames.  The bees are remarkably docile.  I pulled out frames, brushed off bees (with a brush, not my hands) tore apart comb they had built in between and underneath frames.  They buzzed but they did not sting.  Except when one was getting pinched as I put in a frame.  My first bee sting from my own bees.  [We have a winner! Maryann picked May 30th in the bee sting pool and will be receiving a jar of our first honey later this summer.]

I got stung on the tip of my right thumb.  Yes, it hurt, but I did have to show my son the stinger before I scraped it off.  The bee loses it’s stinger and part of it’s rear end when it stings – so the bee is toast.  In addition, I didn’t die or go away so the sting was for naught.  Poor bee.

But, all in all, the bees are going gangbusters and doing what they are suppose to be doing at this point – making bees.  Here’s a frame of bees and brood and honey that’s textbook perfect.  In the corners and along the top is capped honey, all the other part is capped brood (bees-to-be) and places for eggs.  classic pattern And they did it without reading a book.



  1. Wow! It’s amazing how much they’ve done in such a short amount of time. Love the photo at the top. So sorry to hear about the sting, but…yay for the honey! Maybe now I should go buy a PowerBall ticket. 😉

  2. right on wendy! very cool! i just got into both my hives yesterday morning after going foundationless in the new brood box i gave the pink hive two weeks ago. was pleased that they had filled in the frames very nicely. i didn’t muck around too much with them. just pulled out a couple of frames and then gave them their first honey super. the yellow hive ( from last year) were ready for their second honey super, so all is well in beeland here!lol very proud of you and your helper and it was a great, informative post! big bee hugs:)

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