View Full Version : small cell observation
06-22-2005, 05:46 PM
I'm a newbie at beekeeping, but from what I've read, it seems like SC is the way to go.
I started out with a beeginner kit of 2 deeps and plastic foundation and now I'm trying to migrate to all mediums and SC.
So my forst move ws to put in a couple of frame of SC foundation into the deeps to see what happened.
Next, my plan is to introduce 1 medium box at a time of SC starter strips toward the bottom of the hive and let them draw, raise brood on it, then introduce another box. The first box have been in for a week and I took a picture I thought was interesting
notice the starter strip, which is 4.9 mm is quite nicely drawn.
Here's a deep sheet.
My earlier experiments with whole sheets weren't nearly as evenly drawn. What I thought was interesting is it looks like when they got off the strip they started drawing larger cells.
I'm getting my poop together and building a frame stand so I can take better pictures. I'm gonna get a scale in the picture so I can measure how many pixels an inch is then I can do a better inspection of the cell structure at my leisure after the inspection.
06-22-2005, 05:54 PM
Ya know, another comment
notice how on the full sheet of small cell, in the area where they are storing honey, it seems to be drawn out quite uniformly. in the area where they are laying brood the cell size is much more confused.
I understand they aren't regressed yet, just an observation
06-24-2005, 08:11 AM
I've sure seen alot of that kind of comb myself. And when I was following the typical small cell regression idea, I culled lots of it. It's a very expensive process!
Ok, here I go! :>)))
When the comb structure on your photos is compared to natural comb it's obvious something is very wrong. The comb is 'confused'. The bees obviously wanted larger worker cell size and some drone comb as well. And they made quite a mess trying to get it.
A small cell beekeeper would say the artificially large bees need regression to handle the smaller foundation size. Yet, a closer look indicates there are some other possibilities.
Those bees are quite capable of drawing out the smaller cell sizes and did so in several areas. It wasn't an inability of large bees to draw out the smaller foundation that caused the confusion. When given a choice, they chose to over-ride the foundation pattern and build something else. They didn't want small cell size comb there. Why?
Yet, under the right circumstances, those bees would draw it out. Hence, the many recommendations from small cell beekeepers about how and when to get small cell foundation drawn out. Time of the year is important. Spring is often recommended. Hive size is another. Nucs will often draw it out almost perfectly. And location is mentioned. Comb is drawn out inside the broodnest and then rotated out and up.
So, if it were just a bee size, cell size memory, and cell size thing, how could those factors noted above affect the process?
Yet, take those same bees and let them draw out comb their way. And they will build a broodnest lacking any confusion in the comb. And that comb will contain perfectly drawn out small cell size comb. It will be drawn out at the proper time and in the proper location. And it will contain lots of other cell sizes that are built just as unconfused as the small cell sized comb.
Now take fully regressed bees, Lusbees. Give them their head for comb building and they will build the same kind of comb, with the same amount of the different cell sizes as your bees do. They build beautifully unconfused large cell size worker comb. And they fill it with perfect worker brood and not drones as purported.
So, is it the bee? Is it regression? Or is timing and location that control cell size? Just what is it about that small cell foundation that confuses the bees? If it's cell size, then their natural comb, in those cell size ranges, should be just as confused. But it isn't. Why?
If it's not the bee, then why go through regression? It's a very expensive process in both money and time. That deep frame is just the beginning of your culling. In the long term, plan on a 60% cull rate if you want almost perfectly drawn out small cell comb.
And you will be culling out those artificially enlarged, large cell bees as well. Plan on a 90% loss there. If you have three hives, what are your chances any of them will survive regression?
If you have 100 hives, how long will it take to selectively breed your way back from 10 hives. And what kind of genetic bottleneck might you find yourself in 5 to 10 years later?
If you have 10000 hives, what would that do to your cash flow???
So, if it's the bee then regress. But if not, then how can a beekeeper work with his bees to get the benefits of small cell behavior. If we work with the bees, the process should be much easier, cheaper, and much faster than regression.
Who has regressed bees and knows both sides of the story.
06-24-2005, 09:14 AM
first off, I want to thank you for all the informative info you have on your website.
I write code for a living and I know it takes considerable effort.
Now, my take on all this.
I'm a rookie, first year, 1 hive.
Equipment is your standard beeginners kit. (2 deeps)
I hate the idea of pesticides in a hive, that just has to be a last resort.
Playing with these other ideas is easy and inexpensive because I don't have much gear and I'm having to buy some stuff anyway.
SO, I wanna try 2 things
small cell, natural size cell, or whatever ya wanna call it
and using all mediums for the whole hive.(parts are interchangable)
So first I got some SC foundation and made up a deep frame and stuck it in my bottom deep.
wait for something to happen
while waiting I thought how to integrated these 2 things together?
I got 3 medium boxes.
I figure I'll make up a medium box with SC foundation, wait for the bee's to draw it out and raise a generation, then insert another. This should give me basically a 3 step regression schedule.
Now wheather or not regression is necessary doesn't really matter to me because I want to insert these 3 medium boxes anyway.
So, I'm making up the first box, I've been reading your and others ideas, and I think, well don't give em a whole sheet of foundation, just a starter strip will do. Get em going straight and let them build what they want to build. They know better than I do what they need.
So, I pulled my original deep frame of SC foundation, cut it down to a medium, and use it as a bait frame in a medium box of SC starter strips.
The picture is from the starter strip next to the bait frame. I put the medium between the 2 deeps, I kinda think that was a mistake, I'm gonna move it to the bottom.
So, I figure I can do all this by end of summer.
I end up with brood chamber made of 3 mediums.
All boxes are full of comb that the bee's made the way they want, not what I made em do.
My 2 deeps are on top hopefully full of honey.
I can take em in the house, cut em down to mediums and decide if I want to give some back to bee's or keep it.
The biggest problem I see with my plan is the time of year, most folks say do this in spring.
Well, next spring I'll slip another medium box of starter strips on the bottom of the stack.
This way the old stuff keeps rising to the top where it get's harvested. Maybe just make it regular practice to do that in the spring. We have a very strong early nectar flow here. This would seem to me to be a really good idea for somebody who used pesticides, that way they'd constantly be introducing clean wax into the broodnest.
Anyway, that's my plan.
Thanks again for making all your observations available to us newbies.
Any comment on my ideas are much appreciated
Oh, I made a medium box with an observation port
another good reason for starter strips, should make for some good pictures ;)
06-24-2005, 09:43 AM
Greetings drobbins (Dave, I like that name smile.gif
Why are your frame top-bars white? Is the INSIDE of your super painted?
06-24-2005, 10:05 AM
Hey Dave (hmm, I can remember that one ;) )
if you're refering to the picture of the box with the window in it, it's just because they're new and in the bright sun.
They're just light colored pine
I've heard various ideas about painting the inside of a box, mostly having to do with moisture flow.
Mine are bare wood.
06-24-2005, 10:06 AM
lot's more pics here
06-24-2005, 10:07 AM
Neat observation window.
>Any comment on my ideas are much appreciated
Just keep that single hive going. Don't get hung up on any particular beeologies :>) And don't interfer with the bees too much. You live in an area with a longer season, but any colony is going to struggle through the first year, even under the best conditions.
And if the situation warrants, don't be afraid to treat them with some non-contaiminating chems, although they shouldn't need it during the first season. Dead bees are a real emotional drain. And you can't learn a thing from them except how bad they smell :>)
Most of all, just have fun and learn as much about them, by watching them, as you can. And share what you see with others.
Don't worry about them too much. Bees are very adaptable and can tolerate much and survive. Just look at all the stuff we beekeepers do to them and yet they thrive! :>)))
06-24-2005, 10:33 AM
"Dave" must = "photo-nut" smile.gif
Just got "my" first digital camera smile.gif , planning to take nothing but BEE photos smile.gif
Somehow, I think a hive should be UNpainted inside . . . all natural, like inside most trees smile.gif
Scot Mc Pherson
06-24-2005, 10:03 PM
The inside of a hive should not be painted. That is correct.
07-17-2005, 03:43 PM
what would you say is the best way to go from standard large cell beehives to small cell beehives. What you say about regressing makes sense to me. I don't like working against the bees.
I have 3 hives that I am going to split in a week or two and mix a 5-6 frame "NUC" with empty frames to get natural comb, hopefully with small cell. I will put empty frames into the hive I pull the split from also. I'll have to feed heavily since our flow is over. On the new hives, I'll add a super of empty frames on top (one drawn in the middle) when they get the bottom going. Is this a good way to get small cells going, or am I alittle late in the year? If so, whats the best way for someone to get their beehives to have small cells?
07-17-2005, 04:56 PM
For a 5 frame nuc, I would put in a frame of bees and a frame of honey. Then fill the rest of the nuc up with small cell foundation. Rotate the larger cell comb out and replace it with small cell foundation when the bees are established on the smaller comb.
For a single deep, I would keep the broodnest intact and surround the brood comb with small cell foundation. As small cell comb is drawn out, I would rotate it into the center of the broodcomb and rotate the larger cell brood comb, toward the outside edge.
I wouldn't draw out small cell foundation in larger hives. There's just too much foundation waste.
07-17-2005, 05:31 PM
So you wouldn't recommend trying it on empty frames for natural comb?
07-17-2005, 06:19 PM
I'm curious about your recomendation
I'm doing something similar, not making a split but just trying to convert a hive.
My early experiments with sheets of SC foundation didn't work to well
here's a pic
Pretty confused cells in the center which is the brood nest.
Next I tried starter strips and it looks a lot nicer.
This is after a week
this is after ~4 weeks
[I had to edit this to make a point, the full sheet of SC was placed in an existing box, the starter strip frame was in a medium box with 9 frames of starter strips and the "confused" frame as a bait frame after I had cut it down to a medium]
that's a superimposed scale
that works out to ~ 5.1 mm/cell
Now granted, that's not 4.9 mm, but they sure drew it out nice.
I'm doing this and trying to switch to medium boxes at the same time so my plan is to give em a box of starter strips, let em draw it and raise a generation of brood, then give em another box, then a third. Sort of a 3 step regression/switch over to all medium boxes program.
There's some more pics here
the ones at the top are pretty boring, just me going thru a hive
at the bottom are pics of some neat stuff I've been doing since this crowd of folks around here made me go BEE CRAZY!! :eek:
07-18-2005, 07:20 AM
Thanks for sharing the comb photos.
I have been reluctant to promote foundationless frames as a way to get a small cell sized broodnest core. I just don't have any experience with it.
This season, two beekeepers have offered to photograph the comb drawn out in foundationless frame hives and send me a copy. I will analyze them in the same way as I did with the various top bar hive combs.
When bees are given the space, they build a nest with a very consistent broodnest structure. I just don't know how or if the frames might interfer with that structure.
There's a vertical component to that structure. When the vertical element is restricted, the broodnest structure is truncated on the bottom. In very shallow spaces such as in soffets, etc., there's evidence that the bees tend to build just one cell size on each comb.
Just how will the bees work a standard hive filled with foundationless frames? Will they they work the whole vertical space as a single unit and build a small cell core in the bottom box? Or will they work each frame as a single unit thus restarting the process over beneath each frames top bar? Or???
It will be interesting to find out. I expect to find some surprises as nothing is as simple as it seems with the bees.
As you have seen, there's not much comparison between bees drawing out natural comb and those on foundation. There's something about foundation that interferes with the bees comb drawing behavior.
07-18-2005, 10:19 AM
Hi all great topic,
I have two weak hives that I was thinking of putting into Nucs. I was also thinking this might be a good time to introduce some SC deep foundation.
Any suggestions, recomendations etc.
07-18-2005, 12:52 PM
I don't have enough experience to be giving advice but I would think anytime you think they're gonna be building comb is a good time.
Maybe the fact they're weak makes this idea wrong, I just don't know.
07-18-2005, 11:43 PM
I am of the opinion that the best time to draw comb is during a strong flow and earlier in the year. Not saying that it can't be done on 1-1 syrup in the heat of the year, just not the best of timing.
There is also the bees need for the comb. If they are expanding and need brood they might draw it smaller. If they are drawing comb for stores they may want to draw it larger.
07-19-2005, 01:12 PM
Anytime they will probably build 4.9mm foundation smaller than 5.4mm. smile.gif So if what you have is all 5.4mm it's probably an improvment. But the best smallest comb seems to be drawn when there isn't a flow (a flow drives them to build storage comb rather than brood comb) and in the middle of the brood nest (again because that is for brood comb instead of storage) and with the frames spaced 1 1/4" (which is what they naturally space worker brood comb) rather than 1 3/8" or larger (which is what they space storage comb).
07-29-2005, 01:25 PM
Since this spring, I've experimented with many different combos of interducing SC into a hive. So far, using stackable NUCs works best. To do this, I put a 1/2" plywood partition in the middle of a deep brood chamber to split it into 2 5-frame NUCs (the SC foundation frame ends for each NUC are sanded down to about 1 1/4" to fit). When the bees have filled each NUC, I add a 2nd story deep brood chamber partitioned like the 1st so the partitions join (keeping the two swarms separated). Each NUC has a top entrance on opposite ends. (Note: seems like the bees readily expand the broodnest upwards and use the outside combs for storage). When both levels of the NUC are drawn and filled with bees, I move them to separate single deep hives and place a medium super of SC above. :cool:
07-29-2005, 05:25 PM
where are you?
sounds like you're right down the road
I'm up around Falls Lake
it sounds like we're trying to do the same SC thing
08-01-2005, 06:56 AM
I too live near Falls Lake. Sent you a private message with contact info. :cool:
08-03-2005, 08:22 PM
small cell beeks's (espically MBush)
Would this work? Could you get the fully drawn plastic comb and dip it in wax, then shake some regular, unregressed bees onto it. Would the queen lay in the smaller cells? Do they need room for drones? Or can the entire hive be this wax dipped plastic comb? Have you herd of anyone trying such a thing?
08-04-2005, 05:59 AM
Could you get the fully drawn plastic comb and dip it in wax, then shake some regular, unregressed bees onto it. Yes, Mr. Bush dips his Permacomb and gets a cell size close to 4.95mm if I remember correctly. With this method you would be able to achieve almost instant retrogression.
Would the queen lay in the smaller cells? As a matter of fact, they seem to preferr smaller cells.
Do they need room for drones? They will find a way to make drones, most often using burr comb between boxes.
Or can the entire hive be this wax dipped plastic comb? I'm assuming you just mean the brood chamber, and the answer is yes. No need to wax dip and get smaller cells for honey storage right? :D
08-04-2005, 06:58 AM
Another trick you could try, is to use 9 frames of dipped permacomb and 1 frame with a starter strip.
Apparently (I'm a rookie, so I'm quoting others) they draw that starter strip out all drone cells (10% of the brood box)
That would also make it real convienient to kill the drones (to kill varroa) by freezing.
I'd sure like to hear Michael expand a little on this dipping process.
08-04-2005, 09:42 AM
>Could you get the fully drawn plastic comb and dip it in wax, then shake some regular, unregressed bees onto it.
As Phoenix says, I do it all the time. It works great.
>Would the queen lay in the smaller cells?
As Phoenix says, they prefer them.
>Do they need room for drones?
The PermaComb is a little short and they build the drone comb on the bottoms of the combs.
>Or can the entire hive be this wax dipped plastic comb?
Yes it can.
>Have you herd of anyone trying such a thing?
>Apparently (I'm a rookie, so I'm quoting others) they draw that starter strip out all drone cells (10% of the brood box)
That would also make it real convienient to kill the drones (to kill varroa) by freezing.
If you find that necessary. I have not found it necessary as the varroa population stays under control without freezing any.
>I'd sure like to hear Michael expand a little on this dipping process.
I've expanded on it many times. Try a search. The short version is that you heat the PermaComb in a 200 degree F oven (use an oven thermometer) and dip it in melted beeswax until it's well coated (not over 212 F wax) and shake off the excess.
08-06-2005, 01:50 PM
Thanks, so the process of regresion is just to get the bees to build the smaller cells.
I noticed yesterday my bees starting to build some comb on starter strips during our dearth. I only put the frame in 5 days ago. Impressed so far. It wasn't much but still encourageing seeing I haven't started feeding them yet. I'm trying to do some splits first. If the price would drop on the plastic comb I would get some.
If these drawn plastic bees are instantly regressed, I'm guessing any splits from said colonies should build small cells fairly easily, and could be a good way to get started with small cell. Or is foundationless easy enough?
Also the plastic seems like a good way for someone to do the lacking peer reviewed research that is so often discussed on this board. No complications or buying regressed bees, just shake onto the wax dipped drawn plastic.
08-06-2005, 08:26 PM
Micheal B........ What do you use for a vessel to dip into?? How do you control the temp of the wax?
08-08-2005, 12:33 PM
>Thanks, so the process of regresion is just to get the bees to build the smaller cells.
The bees raised on smaller cells will more readily build smaller cells. It's a bit of a chicken and egg thing, but, luckily, the bees want to build smaller, they just don't quite get there the first try. If they already HAVE small comb then you end up with smaller bees who happily build smaller comb. If you already have smaller bees then they happily build the smaller comb and raise smaller bees.
>If the price would drop on the plastic comb I would get some.
You mean PermaComb? It's not foundation.
>If these drawn plastic bees are instantly regressed, I'm guessing any splits from said colonies should build small cells fairly easily
> and could be a good way to get started with small cell.
> Or is foundationless easy enough?
>Also the plastic seems like a good way for someone to do the lacking peer reviewed research that is so often discussed on this board.
>No complications or buying regressed bees, just shake onto the wax dipped drawn plastic.
That's what I think.
>Micheal B........ What do you use for a vessel to dip into??
I don't have a really good one, but I have an electric turkey roaster.
> How do you control the temp of the wax?
The turkey roaster has a double boiler on it, so the temp is never above 212 F. It also has a thermostat on it, so I can set it to about 220 F or so and keep it from boiling the water off too fast. But any double boiler will keep it below 212 F. If you live at 7200 feet (like I used to in Laramie) it will be closer to 199 F smile.gif