How to Make Foundationless Frames

I tried to follow some internet directions on how to start foundationless frames, but they seemed sort of messy and complicated. And yesterday I discovered a pretty good and very quick system and completely clean process that I’ll share here.

Here’s an empty deep frame with a split top…there’s a little groove in the top (the frame in the photograph is actually resting on it’s top) into which the wax foundation usually slips, and that’s where we’re going to install a guide of wax that will give the bees some direction. It tells them where to begin and which way to build their comb.

I have some unused beeswax foundation (the kind with the wire running through it). I bought the foundation before I decided that going foundationless made more sense for me and my bees. It works perfectly for this process. I simply break or tear the foundation along the wire…it breaks naturally there. Then, I lay the strip along the groove in the top of the frame.

I cover the length of the frame with the strips of foundation. Then I place my hand on the wax to soften it a bit.

Once the wax is pliable (and this works much better if it’s done in a warm room), I press a series of popsicle sticks through the wax and into the groove.

The popsicle sticks provide a frame around which the wax will wrap.

I wrap the wax up and around the popsicle sticks. The warmth from my hands softens the wax perfectly and makes it pliable. I mold it and shape it as I go.

That’s all there is to it! I now have a nice little start of wax from which the bees will hang their own comb. This process involves zero mess and requires no additional tools (other than the hive tool I use to chop off a little bit of that last popsicle stick so it’ll fit).

This takes me about 3 minutes per frame…no wax melting, no wax painting, no syringes or application tools. Just a little bit of pre-formed foundation, some popsicle sticks, and the warmth from your own hands will do it.

And I guess I’ll use these tiny leftover popsicle sticks in my smoker. Yep. This is as much about recycling and simplifying as it is about anything, right?

Preparing the Ways

Yesterday I began the process of converting to foundationless frames. I’m going to let the bees do their thing without purchased, pre-formed beeswax. Why? Well, there are good reasons, none of which I will go into here—I think these past few posts have been sort of boring because there’s just too much detail.

To prepare my new frames, I used melted wax to attach popsicle sticks to the bottom of the frames. Hopefully, the bees will use these as a guide with which to build their comb.

I made sort of a mess of things, though. They sell special wax-applying gizmos, but I don’t want no stinkin’ gizmos. I melted my wax in a glass measuring thingy that I’d placed in a pan of boiling water. Problem is, spits of wax splattered the stove and the countertops, and Deb’s freaky freaky about keeping those things spotless. It took me forever to clean it off. I can see already that I’m gonna have to buy a little hotplate and do all this work in the basement at my workbench.

Here are the globby frames. My bees have to be very patient with me.

popsicle sticks on foundationless frames
popsicle sticks on foundationless frames

Also, I mowed a nice, wide path to the bee yard. Poison Ivy in the path had become an issue. Every time I took someone to see the bees I had to ask, “How are you with Poison Ivy?” Invariably everyone stood there like a frozen sissy. So, I mowed the sissies a swath.

new path to the bee yard