I have had good success using foundation supers on my colonies at the end of flow instead of adding them first when there is a good flow on. I will readily admit that the chances of the bees drawing the frames out is greatly enhanced by the early flow. But, if you have drawn comb, why not shoot for more honey and less wax and get the comb drawn only if needed.
The theory behind this practice is that bees don't really like to draw foundation particularly late in the flow. If the last supers added are foundation supers (especially at the expected end flow), the beekeeper is able to give the bees needed space but manage how they use it. If they run out of space below the foundation and need space, they will draw the comb out and fill it with honey. If they still have empty drawn cells below the foundation they will most likely completely fill those cells before moving into the foundation. This result in more fully filled supers below the foundation super.
One big advantage to this system is that on those good years when there is a non cotton summer flow and that does happen here in north Alabama from time to time, no honey is lost and drawn comb is gained.
After the flow is really over, the bees might well cut the foundation to shreds and use it elsewhere in the hive. Since medication is normally applied and all supers removed around 15 September here in north Alabama, that seldom happens.
Although near all beekeeping data sources recommend using 10 frames in production supers that contain foundation it has been my personal practice to use only 9 frames. This practice has proven to be most successful for over 10 years.
I also find that bees seem more amenable to moving up into a foundation super if the two outside frames are drawn comb. In the case of a 9 frame super, place a drawn comb frame in frame position 1 and one in frame position 9 and foundation frames between them.
For supers with all drawn comb I use only 8 frames. This result in thick, easy to uncap frames that contain more honey per super (one less bee space). Fewer frames and more honey per super leads to a more economical use of resources both man and machine.
10 frame supers are very thin and often below the surface plane of the "wood". This makes uncapping with a hot knife a real chore. A 9 frame will be thicker and much easier to "un-cap" and an 8 frame even easier.
I only use 10 frames only for comb honey and brood boxes. Some other beekeepers use 9 brood frames and have good reasons for doing so but that is not my practice.
For "chunk honey" (a chunk of comb honey with strained honey poured over it) I use medium supers for quarts and shallow for pints. This allows the comb to be cut in strips vertically and the chunk will fill each jar nicely.
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Bob Fanning 9/9/05