Bjorn Apiaries

Drawing Natural (Foundationless) Comb


Any reference to "natural" comb is in regards to foundationless comb building. While we feel any "guides" or patterns offered to the bees to follow results in less than "natural" comb, it is essential for the bees to draw comb usable and uniform for beekeeping practices and management.


Some Casual Observations and Testing:

What is the best way to draw foundationless comb?

We have found that using medium frames produces the best comb. The bees keep the comb straighter in medium as compared to deep frames.

Where in the hive do bees draw the best foundationless comb?

Anytime you can feed empty frames into the middle of the brood chamber, between two capped brood frames, you will get very good comb drawn. This comes from the bees desire to fill in the brood chamber very quickly for clustering heat and other factors. This however can be detrimental early in the season when night temperatures are still cold.


Where will bees draw new natural comb the fastest?

We love to draw foundationless comb in our 5 frame nuc units. With only 5 frames in width, the bees make straight comb almost on every comb. We have found that placing a 10 frame box of foundationless frames, by the time all 10 frames are drawn, more variation and curves are produced. Once they start drawing comb off center on one frame, it is exaggerated with each additional comb built. We think the bees also take advantage of the confined area of a nuc box, benefiting from the heat dynamics, to build comb much faster in smaller box sizes.



If adding a box, what is the best location to add? 

We have also taken strong 5 frame nucs and placed a 5 frame boxes above, and below, the fully drawn middle box. (we would now have 3-five frame stacked boxes.) We had thought that the bees may prefer the box below the established brood chamber to continue drawing comb, expanding the brood chamber. This was done during a flow with ample resources. But in every case, the bees filled the box above the brood chamber first, (if given a choice).

How do you get good quality honey comb without the possibility of brood being raised in the comb? (Without using a queen excluder)

Bees drawing new comb during a strong flow, above a strong one or two story nuc, will produce some of the best comb honey ever seen. This is the stuff that will win ribbons at the county fair.


Many beekeepers produce comb honey on full size colonies with great results. What we are mentioning here are some alternatives and options for a backyard beekeeper with a few hives. And using stacked nuc boxes is one management system that is very flexible and productive for many specialized beekeeping tasks.