Preparing for the fall – changing foundation, Part I

changing foundation

This is a bit late, but I wanted to describe our process of changing foundation yearly, which is so important to natural beekeeping.

There are obvious reasons to change foundation, such as disrupting mite breeding cycle, and getting rid of pathogenic bacterial spores and viruses that get imbedded into the comb, but there are also such things as mold and wax moths… (read my post on wax moths here).

So, without further discussion on the subject (I will try to write a post about importance of replacing all foundation yearly), here is the process in a nutshell:

Supplies: 2 deep supers, 2 bottom boards, 2 inner covers, 2 shallow or medium supers, 1 outer cover, 15-20 clean frames, a box with starter chips (I will write a post on starter chips later), a queen cage with a little candy.

Prepare one deep super, by filling it with 10 frames (starter strips inserted). Prepare 1:1syrup and 2 feeding bottles with holes, ready to install.

Step 1: Remove all the honey supers (and bees from those supers).

Step 2: Set 1 empty deep super, with bottom board, next to the hive (I set my on the ground, since I use double deep supers in the summer time).

Step 3: Slowly transfer all of the frames with brood into the empty deep super, by inspecting each frame, slightly spraying with sugar water. Make sure to cage the queen, when found! Put the queen (in her cage) in your pocket, for safety. A frame holder is a very convenient thing to use here, by the way. I built mine. Place the inner cover on the “Brood” hive, when finished.

changing foundation

Step 4: Move the old hive from its place to the side. Set the second deep super with frames in place of the old hive. Set the queen’s cage between the frames. Make sure she is not directly above the inner cover opening, so she does not drown in syrup! Place the inner cover on the top of the deep super, then place the shallow or medium super on top and, finally, set the feeding bottle in place.

Step 5: Shake the bees off the remaining (not containing brood) old foundation unto the landing board, or, as I do it, unto the inner cover/bottle. I spray them lightly with sugar water again. Since there is a little opening, the bees crawl under the bottle and go into the hive. Close the hive with the outer cover, when finished.

Step 6: Place (if using double deep super) the hive with brood next to the queen-right hive. I join the hives later (by shaking out the new bees unto the landing zone of the queen-right hive, but if you wish to make a split, you don’t have to place those hives next to each other.

Step 7: place the shallow or medium super on the top of the “brood” hive. Place feeding bottle and outer cover on the top.

Step 8: Wait for 2-3 days.

Step 9: One week from the first feeding. Queen-right hive: Check on the queen (she should have been released), foundation building progress (you should have 3-6 frames ready for the queen to lay eggs), and syrup release.

Brood rearing hive: Harvest any royal jelly before the queen cells are sealed! If you wish to make a new queen, leave 2-3 largest cells in place.

From that point, I refill the feeders every week. Slowly I build up the syrup to 1:1.5 strength. It is very important not to make the sugar syrup too thick, or it will crystalize and the bees will starve!

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