Improved Honeybee Health through Foundation Modification

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:


  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: prevention
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, employment opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    Honeybees are critical to sustaining agriculture and food. Bees pollinate 80% of crops, and honeybee pollination is worth over $20 billion in the U.S. Honeybee population is declining for a number of reasons, including overuse of old foundation that contains pesticides, fungus and mold. With over twenty years combined beekeeping experience, our group has witnessed first-hand the demise of honeybees due to diseases. Our research will change the method which bees build their honeycomb/foundation. Foundation is the structure where bees build, lay eggs (brood) and fill with honey. Our method (Tycksen-after my dad) uses a 2” wax “starter” foundation placed into a frame, allowing bees to build their own honeycomb. Bees naturally build comb top to bottom in sizes they need (smaller for workers, larger for drones) which eliminates space for mites to lay eggs. The 2” guide tells bees “where” to begin building. The frame, with wire reinforcements throughout, holds the weight of the honey; making commercial honey extraction possible. Building new honeycomb naturally will create a healthier environment, and bees will not be re-using foundation that contains fungus, mold or pesticides. Comparing the Langstroth and Tycksen foundation methods, hives of Italian and Carniola bees will be used; placing bees at three locations. At each location, five hives will utilize the traditional Langstroth and five the Tycksen method. All bees and equipment will be new; from one supplier. Hives will be weighed at the beginning of the research, in the fall of the first and second year, and will be checked on a monthly basis to examine brood, bee numbers and hive health. Hive weight is an easy measure to determine how the colony is doing. The heavier the hive, the more honey and bees. An extensive log and pictures will be kept at each stage of hive development.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research encompasses a change in the method for which honeybees build their honeycomb/foundation. Since beehive development takes time, this will be a two-year project.

    1) Purchase, from one commercial bee provider, 30 3# packages of Italian honeybees. Currently the best strains for honey production and disease tolerance. Immediately

    2) Purchase 60 “complete” 10-frame Langstroth style hives and 60 hive bodies with standard waxed foundation/frames. One-half of purchased foundations will be cut to include only a 2” guide at the top of each frame. Wire guides will remain to stabilize and strengthen the frames for honey extraction. Immediately

    3) Ten two-high hives of each bee variety will be placed in three different locations. Five of the hives will utilize the Tycksen method of 2” starter foundation guides, allowing bees to build their own comb from the top down and to the needed size. Five hives will use the traditional Langstroth foundation. Ten hives of bees in each location will help eliminate most outside variables. Immediately

    4) Natural methods of mite control will be used. Previous SARE-funded beekeeper research indicates powder sugar is effective for mite control. All hives will be dusted with powder sugar twice a year; spring and fall.

    5) Hives checked monthly through October to examine bee numbers, brood and colony health. Hives will be weighed at the beginning of project, in the fall of the first and second year. An extensive log and pictures will be kept at each stage of hive development. Ongoing

    6) Data and information shared with other beekeepers through educational workshops, PowerPoint presentations, webpage, YouTube videos and blogs. Ongoing

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.