Monday, April 26, 2010

Initial Cluster with or without Foundations

Here are extracts from a Warre beekeeping forum about the subject:


Andre wrote: "In a Langstroth with foundations, the bees are not allowed to cluster, since the cluster is broken up by the foundations. How does that affect the initial development of the colony?"

Warré had quite a bit to say about foundation (quotes appended below). But he seems not to have addressed the importance of clustering at this early stage of nest development. The nearest he gets is the thermal gradient brought about by slicing the cluster into seams of bees.

It is not difficult to imagine that the dynamics, including thermodynamics, in the early cluster is different between foundation and foundationless boxes, but I don't think I could say precisely how. After all, a cluster eventually manages to draw foundation right to the bottom corners of a both sides of a frame. Only later do they remove the zone bounding the bottom and sides of the frame. Jürgen Tautz says this is to make the comb freer to vibrate, but there might be other reasons too.
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David Heaf North-West Wales, UK
Warré & 'National' hives at 30 metres OMSL
Warré beekeeping English web portal:
http://warre. index.html
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From 'Beekeeping For All' ( http://warre. bfa.htm )

Page 28
Wax foundation used in the Dadant hive is expensive. The accessories that it requires are expensive. Inserting this foundation is fiddly and takes time. Foundation is thus a considerable consumer of time and money and increases the capital cost of the hive, and as a result, the honey. But outside the nectar flow, foundation brings very minimal return, it economises only a very small amount on honey, and still less on time, for the bees do not always leave the cells in the state in which they have been given to them. During the nectar flow, the only time when the comb can be drawn, foundation is more harmful than useful. The wax is othing other than the sweat of the bee. And during the nectar flow, bees sweat a ot, because they always put the most effort into their work. Foundation is thus seless at this time, and even harmful as it prevents bees from constructing their comb vertically and evenly. The frame, fitted with foundation, immediately placed in the hive, brings about a heat differentiation from its bottom to its top. It follows that the various distortions of the foundation and the steel wire supporting it esult in warping in the comb. Without foundation, the bees construct their combs ccording to their needs, with the best wax (their own) and with the normal thickness of a comb. They thus strengthen it as they extend it. This is the reason why we do not use foundation. We are satisfied with placing a starter of 5 mm of nadulterated, raw wax. And we do not consider this starter as a saving in honey, but as a means of encouraging the bees to construct their combs in the same direction in order to make it easier for the beekeeper.

Page 40
But one evening, an order for 12 swarms was cancelled. I had empty hives to put them in, but I had only enough foundation for two hives. I settled for putting starters in the others as raw wax at the top of the frames, helped greatly by my knife in putting these starters in order. And I noticed that on these starters the bees constructed their combs as quickly as those on foundation and that these combs were more regular. I thus decided to continue to use only starters of raw wax and I have never come to regret it.

Page 139
As a conclusion to some practical experiments in beekeeping, Georges de Layens wrote: 'There is a benefit, all things being otherwise equal, to let the bees do their own construction' . And in support of this statement, he cited the following paragraph from Abbé Deléphine:
'Given two hives of the same strength and two brood boxes of the same capacity, one fitted with embossed sheets and the other with empty comb from the extractor, which will be filled first? A priori, it seems that the second would be in advance of the first, the bees, in fact, having only to fill the cells with honey and seal them up. The experiments I have done with very great care have, however, given the opposite result'.

Page 139-140
On the other hand, comb built by the bees is only extended according to their needs, and it is totally covered with bees so all of it is at the same temperature. Moreover, the bees do not extend the comb without finishing it, without giving it its normal thickness. Comb is thus sturdier and better able to withstand variations in temperature if need be. Wax foundation, it is true, puts order in the hive
and obliges the bees to build in the direction of the frames. But we get the same result, and more economically, with a simple starter of half a centimetre made of raw wax.
There is more on foundation on pages 139 and 140.


Posted by: "John" moersch51
Sun Apr 25, 2010 2:08 pm

Hi David and Andre-

> It is not difficult to imagine that the dynamics, including
> in the early cluster is different between foundation and
> boxes, but I don't think I could say precisely how.

Hiving bees on foundation doesn't represent a barrier to good
clustering, in my opinion, any more than hiving them on previously-drawn
comb. A swarm or a hived package takes to fully constructed
comb like wildfire. And these combs would represent divisions in the
cluster as well.

I'm not defending the use of foundation. And I know that bees can build
comb very fast in a comb-less void. But in hiving lots of packages and
swarms on fully-drawn combs, on foundation, and in warres, I haven't
seen much difference in the vigor or the motivation of the cluster if
weather and nectar supply permit the work to proceed.

John M.

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