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Thread: 4.9 mm cells

  1. #1
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    Question

    I was wondering if a novice should try this foundation to try to help slow down the verroa mites? If there is more work to be done, and it should be left to a more experienced beekeeper, I will wait until I get more time under my belt.
    Thanks,
    Oscar

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  2. #2
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    First let's clarify the concept. Bees naturally build small cells (4.85mm or so) but if you buy a package they have been raised in 5.4mm cells are are too large to draw 4.9mm foundation to 4.9mm cells size. Since they can't climb inside to work the cell they won't build it that small. If left to their own these larger bees would build 5.1mm or so cells and raise smaller bees who would, if left to their own, build 4.9mm or so cells and raise smaller bees who would, if left to their own, build 4.84mm cells or so. In other words you are simply going back to what they would do.

    If you put them on 4.9mm foundation they would build about 5.1mm for the first generation. The problem with the next generation is there is already a nice brood nest with 5.1mm cells and the queen will keep laying in them.

    I think how much it's worth doing for newcomer depends on where you are starting from. If you are starting with package bees, it will not hurt to put 4.9 foundation in. They may not draw it perfectly but they will draw it to about 5.1. If you simply cull the old brood comb and replace with 4.9 from time to time you will eventually get 4.9mm bees and foundation. I would not count on 5.1mm cells drawn on 4.9mm foundation to slow down mites. There is no significant difference until you reach 4.9mm.

    I'm at a first regression about 5.1mm cells and have a major mite infestation right now.

    If you already have bees living in a hive on 5.4mm, it is trickyer to get them to regress. I am fairly experienced (I've been raising bees since the early 70's) and it has been tricky for me to get the bees to do what I want them to.

    On the other hand, what if you just keep buying 4.9mm foundation and putting it in every chance you get? If you cull old brood comb (when it get's more than 10% drone or it's really dark) and put in 4.9mm foundation. If you use 4.9mm foundation for your supers and use the drawn comb to fill in your brood chamber when you're culling or it's honey bound. (anytime you have a lot of combs of all honey in the brood chamber). Then eventually you would end up on 4.9mm I think. And all you've done is just buy 4.9mm foundation and use it as you should be using any foundation.

    I haven't tried this approach. I did a shakedown instead, because I'm impatient.

    I would not depend on small cells for mite protection until you are fully regressed and on actual 4.9mm cells (not the 5.1mm or so the first regression will build). And, I think I'm still going to do the FGMO fogging at least in the spring and fall even then.

  3. #3
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    Exclamation

    Hi Oscar and Michael -

    Michael wrote:
    "what if you just keep buying 4.9mm foundation and putting it in every chance you get? If you cull old brood comb (when it get's more than 10% drone or it's really dark) and put in 4.9mm foundation."

    You would never cease buying 4.9 foundation! From my experience using 4.9 foundation, bees will only draw it true (all 4.9 cells) at very selected windows of time. In the early spring when brooding is just starting up is the only time my bees in my location (Chicago area) will draw it right. Forget it once the brood size has grown. I can also get it drawn when I catch a swarm from my own bees and put them on foundation, but even then just for a little bit. I've observed that once the bees get a central core of small cells made, they move to making larger sized cells. I am thinking that we may not need to have ten frames of 4.9 in every box for the bees to handle mites. I see the bees keying into the smallest cells both at the biginning and ending of the brood rearing. Also the same time when the mites would be the worst.

    I would suggest you approach the 4.9 conversion by doing shakedowns where you domp all your bees into a box with just 4.9 foundation and feed them while using a queen excluder under the hive body so the queen can't leave. This should give you the fastest results.

    BTW Michael, I like your post on the Bee Forum regarding Scientific Study.

    Regards,
    Barry

  4. #4
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    Post

    I guess I figure if you only use 4.9mm foundation all the time, you will get mostly smaller cells and I don't know of any reason not to use it. True, they will only draw it well when they are trying to build brood comb, but you will still end up with smaller bees, which is necessary to get them regressed. Let's try it from this point of view:

    What is the end result difference between using 4.9mm foundation all the time and using 5.4mm foundation all the time?

    In the case of the 4.9mm foundation I will get some (at least) and possible mostly small bees who will be more willing to draw 4.9mm foundation to 4.9mm.

    In the case of 5.4mm foundation I will get all large bees who will be more difficult to regress. What are the advantages? Easier to extract, but then drone comb is easier to extract and I often use it in supers. That's still not a reason to use 5.4mm foundation.

    Am I missing something? I haven't tried this, so, of course, I can only speculate. I am only doing the shakedowns.

  5. #5
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    Question

    Thanks for the replies, but I am a little confused now. My bees are not package bees, in fact they are just old hives that have been around for about 10 yrs, and I finally started doing something with them. Their original hives were full of cross comb, and rotted. I put them in new hives, and have replaced most of the old black cross comb. Now their new foundation was the bigger size, and I was just wanting to get them back to where they need to be so that I can continue not using chemicals. I figure if they haven't had any chemicals for 10 yrs, no since in using it now if I can keep from it.

    So, should I use the 4.9 mm cells? If I do, can I put it in a deep brood chamber on the top of the old one in the spring and get them to build on it, or should I just put a couple of frames in the bottom brood chamber?

    Thanks

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  6. #6
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    Post

    If you really want to regress down to 4.9 mm cell size then I would place 10 frames of 4.9 mm foundation in a hive body, then shake your hive frames into the new hive body. I have done this to a complete 2 story hive and added a top feeder for 3 weeks with good results then the following year do it again until you reach 4.9 drawn. It took me 2 years to get down to 5.0 mm. I also use FGMO to keep down the mites.
    Clint

    ------------------
    Clinton Bemrose
    just South of Lansing Michigan

  7. #7
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    First of all, let me say I'm just now experimenting with 4.9mm foundation and find that the bees will surprise you and I may not be taking into account everything. Someone with more experience in this is probably a better source. I would like to hear from more experienced people on my questions of what if you just bought and used 4.9mm foundation all the time? What would be the downside (besides that it would not extract quite as easily)?

    >BARRY
    >Michael wrote:
    "what if you just keep buying 4.9mm foundation and putting it in every chance you get? If you cull old brood comb (when it get's more than 10% drone or it's really dark) and put in 4.9mm foundation."

    >You would never cease buying 4.9 foundation!

    I never cease buying foundation anyway, so why not buy 4.9mm?

    >From my experience using 4.9 foundation, bees will only draw it true (all 4.9 cells) at very selected windows of time. In the early spring when brooding is just starting up is the only time my bees in my location (Chicago area) will draw it right. Forget it once the brood size has grown. I can also get it drawn when I catch a swarm from my own bees and put them on foundation, but even then just for a little bit. I've observed that once the bees get a central core of small cells made, they move to making larger sized cells. I am thinking that we may not need to have ten frames of 4.9 in every box for the bees to handle mites. I see the bees keying into the smallest cells both at the biginning and ending of the brood rearing. Also the same time when the mites would be the worst.

    And that's my point. What do I have to lose by always putting 4.9mm foundation in? I have to buy foundation anyway.


    >BTW Michael, I like your post on the Bee Forum regarding Scientific Study.

    Thank you.


    MOPOSCAR (Oscar?)

    >Thanks for the replies, but I am a little confused now. My bees are not package bees, in fact they are just old hives that have been around for about 10 yrs, and I finally started doing something with them. Now their new foundation was the bigger size, and I was just wanting to get them back to where they need to be so that I can continue not using chemicals. I figure if they haven't had any chemicals for 10 yrs, no since in using it now if I can keep from it.

    >So, should I use the 4.9 mm cells? If I do, can I put it in a deep brood chamber on the top of the old one in the spring and get them to build on it, or should I just put a couple of frames in the bottom brood chamber?

    I think you're saying the new foundation you put in looks like bigger cells than the old black brood you took out?

    If so, your bees might be willing to draw 4.9mm, at least for the brood area. I would think this would be an improvment over the large cell foundation.

    I just don't see anything to lose in the proposition, even if they don't draw it perfectly, but perhaps I'm missing something that a more experienced person can clarify.

  8. #8
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    Post

    Thanks for all the replies everyone. Well, I may give it a try and do some experimenting. I have one really strong hive that I hate to mess up, so I may leave them alone, but the other hive is relatively weak, and if they make it through the winter, I may try it on them. Also, there are some bees in my brother's house that will be smaller, so I may try to start them out on the 4.9, if I can get a nuc started with some...after the weak hive makes the foundation in the spring.

    One of the reasons I was asking is b/c I didn't know if I should try it, but if it won't hurt, I will buy some of that foundation.

    Once again...thanks.

    Oscar

  9. #9
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    Again, someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems if you use the 4.9mm one of three things will happen. Either the bees will build it 4.9mm (or some of it). Or they will ignore the 4.9mm embossing and build whatever they want. Or they won't draw it out at all, in which case you can replace it with larger. I don't see a big down side to any of these. Especially if you already have some smaller bees I would think they would draw it.

  10. #10
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    Post

    Hi Michael -

    I see you want your questions answered! Sorry for the wait, been too busy.

    > it seems if you use the 4.9mm one of three things will happen. Either the bees will
    > build it 4.9mm (or some of it). Or they will ignore the 4.9mm embossing and build
    > whatever they want. Or they won't draw it out at all

    We are talking about a hive of bees that are currently on, or from, 5.4mm cell size. It appears that bees will 'basically' build the same cell size they were raised on if they are allowed to do so. Of course, if we were able to let them do their own thing over a period of 20 or 30 years, the assumption is they would gradually go smaller. If we simply take a hive of bees on 5.4 cell size and start inserting a frame or two of 4.9 foundation into it, the bees will tend to disregard the cell imprint and build their 5.4 on to it. There just isn't enough pressure for them to do otherwise when there is still so much larger comb making up their nest. Unless we create a situation where the bees are 'forced' to draw smaller cells, like when we do a shakedown, they are content to build what they are use to.

    I see it as a waste to do the frame at a time method you mention if we can say with pretty good assurance that they will not stick to the cell size imprint, but build bigger cells in spite of it. The other thing to keep in mind is that when they do this, it isn't the same as if they had built comb on a piece of 5.4 foundation. There will be a lot of transition cells and it will look pretty bad. Why spend the money on 4.9 foundation, only to have to cull it all out and buy more? Doing a shakedown will at least get you more uniform comb of a smaller size, maybe not 4.9 at first, but a good step towards that.

    I don't know if the 4.9 foundation is any more expensive than the 5.4 but for me, I want to minimize the amount of time I have to work the bees to get them to small cell size.

    If my TBH goes well this summer, I may forget foundation all together and let my SC bees build the size cells they want to in their order and placement.

    Regards,
    Barry

  11. #11
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    So what do you do with the comb that isn't quite 4.9 mm in size, but that is on 4.9 mm foundation? i.e. when you do the second shakedown, you still have some drawn comb that is not quite 4.9 mm. Do you use this comb for honey, or do you throw it away? Am I right in assuming that you do the second shakedown on 4.9 mm foundation, but there is still no drawn comb (basically doing what you did the previous season, but these bees are smaller)?
    Thanks

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  12. #12
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    Hi,

    So, should I use the 4.9 mm cells? If I do, can I put it in a deep brood chamber on the top of the old one in the spring and get them to build on it, or should I just put a couple of frames in the bottom brood chamber?

    reply:

    Sorry guys been busy doing the christmas shopping and getting some work done on the house. First of all to get bees to draw 4.9 cells you will almost never get it done in the honey supers on large cell bees it must be done in the brood chambers. Don't put a box on top the bees will most certainly NOT draw good 4.9. Putting frames in the brood chamber is the better of the two appraoches. But it is the slow way of doing it and will possibly be the most expensive and time consuming route. Best to do a shakedown and give the brood to one of the other hives.

    Clay


  13. #13
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    Hi Micheal,

    I never cease buying foundation anyway, so why not buy 4.9mm?

    reply:

    Nothing wrong with that. 4.9 is your foundation size of choice. All that matter is how you manage what the bees do with the combs. The best drawn combs to the center brooding areas the worst to the outsides. Then as more foundation is added the good to the centers and the rest out and up, eventually getting the transition and odd ball combs into the supers for extraction. From there I cull (melt them) and rework into foundation so the bees can keep working on better and better drawn combs. Just keep pyrimiding up.

    And that's my point. What do I have to lose by always putting 4.9mm foundation in? I have to buy foundation anyway.

    reply:

    As long as you are aware that the comb sizing changes throughout the season regardless of the cell pattern theres no problem. And you move the larger cell sizes to non-brooding areas not too much problem.

    Clay


  14. #14
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    Hi,

    So what do you do with the comb that isn't quite 4.9 mm in size, but that is on 4.9 mm foundation? i.e. when you do the second shakedown, you still have some drawn comb that is not quite 4.9 mm. Do you use this comb for honey, or do you throw it away? Am I right in assuming that you do the second shakedown on 4.9 mm foundation, but there is still no drawn comb (basically doing what you did the previous season, but these bees are smaller)?

    reply:

    You are asking what to do with the inbetween sizings? Well the first season pack the broodnest with the smallest celled combs as much as possible. Removing the largest by manipulating them into the supers and extract them. Then cull these extracted frames and harvest this clean wax(we can go into this more if you like). As most don't mill foundation I would save the wax and trade to brushy mountain, dadant, other(???) for more 4.9 foundation to offset the cost or regression. Or sell to someone looking for clean wax. The frames are then remounted with 4.9 foundation and worked back into the hives either by another shakedown or progressively adding frames depending what cell size the bees achieve on the first regression. I was lucky all my hives were on 5.2 cell sizing when I began so I was able to hit cell sizings of 4.98 to 5.15 the first round. Most at 5.05 to 5.08mm. With the core of the colonies at these sizings I was then able to add 4,9 progressively. But here we are assuming starting off with 5.4 sizing so I wouldn't go progressively until the bees were 5.1 or less and having a good amount of this sizing in the brood chambers with at the very minimum of two brood cycles. Please don't throw out your combs or frames! So as you say If the bees are in the 5.15 to 5.3 range do another shake down on year two but with the newly sized down bees. If as above then go progressive. Work with the bees, and pay very close attention to season and flows and watch the blooming as they all have an effect on what type of cells the bees will try to draw.

    regards,

    Clay



  15. #15
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    >So what do you do with the comb that isn't quite 4.9 mm in size, but that is on 4.9 mm foundation?

    My plan was to resuse it when doing a first regression on another swarm of 5.4mm bees.

    Save them the trouble of building 5.1mm cells.

  16. #16
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    Post

    Since we are back to the subject, would grafting queens from the regressed cell generations to come, maybe 2nd, help in this process?


    ------------------
    Dale Richards
    Dal-Col Apiaries
    Drums, PA

  17. #17
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    Michael said: My plan was to resuse it when doing a first regression on another swarm of 5.4mm bees.

    Save them the trouble of building 5.1mm cells.


    I was going to do the same thing. I actualy have 3 boxes of starter strips made up. I was going to call the 1st R1, then the next generation R2, and finally R3, then start them on 4.9 comb. Never tried it before, but that was my plan. Then I thought I could regress future hives with those 3 boxes. Like I said, that was my plan.


    ------------------
    Dale Richards
    Dal-Col Apiaries
    Drums, PA

  18. #18
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    Exclamation

    >> And that's my point. What do I have to lose by always putting 4.9mm
    >> foundation in? I have to buy foundation anyway.

    reply:

    > As long as you are aware that the comb sizing changes throughout the
    > season regardless of the cell pattern theres no problem. And you move
    > the larger cell sizes to non-brooding areas not too much problem.
    >
    > Clay

    This is one of those things that throw a wrench into the idea of a hive totally full of uniform cells all being 4.9mm. I decided not to mention this and get into it in my last reply, but Clay has touched on it now, so I'll dive in.

    The experience of some who are using 4.9 foundation has been somewhat different than what has been written by Dee in her experience. I know at least one other person besides myself who could not get good sheets of 4.9 foundation drawn well, even when done at the "appropriate" time. My experience has been, when the bees determine they have enough small cells in the hive, they will stop building them and go bigger. No amount of tricking them will work. So there is a very narrow window of time when the bees are tuned in to drawing the small stuff.

    Now this brings up another issue. If the bees decide on their own to stop making the small and go bigger, why should we fight them and keep trying to get them to build more small cell than what they have? I have a mixture of cell sizes in my hives, yet they are doing well. I now have the small cells in the hives which were missing all these years when all the cells were 5.4. We should not go blindly into this process and assume everyone has to do it exactly the same way the Lusby's have done it, for it to work. There is no proof that this is the case. All we know is what has worked for them in their location with their bees. I think it is more complex than just turning out the 4.9 mill and shooting that foundation through the hive till all the frames have good 4.9 comb. My bees are telling me this is not what they want.

    Feral bees tell me that this is not what they want either. The cut-out I did this last fall had various cell sizes, as small as 4.9mm in the central brood comb, 5.1mm just outside these core areas, and up to 6.5mm for the honey combs. The bees are smart enough to know what cells are used for what function and the pattern I see in my hives is one where the queen uses the smallest cells available to lay in both spring and fall.

    To each their own, but I've given up trying to get all perfect 4.9 cell size in my hives. As long as there is a good section of SC in the hive, I will let the bees manage themselves and how they use it. So far so good.

    Regards,
    Barry

  19. #19
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    I had similar plans to what you had, to try blank starters and let them build and position how they want as a experiment to see what they do.

    It seems, though, if you're going to use foundation, why not use 4.9mm? As Dee points out it's closer to what we founded modern beekeeping on and it's closer to what the bees build for brood and that is the point of foundation, to give them a pattern for brood.

    If they don't build it all like I want, but they lay in the small cells, it may still work. Of course this whole "big bee" theory got started because someone, back when the foundation was 4.84 or so, observed that some bees were larger and by observation discovered that they came from larger cells. So there were always, what were refered to as "subcastes" (as opposed to castes). Bees that were larger but were not queens and not drones. If this is natural maybe it doesn't pay to fight it.

    I Had also planned on labeling the combs R1, R2 etc. That way I can still try to get them smaller and reuse the first regression on new packages and swarms that are large bees.

    Back to the poor confused beginners though, why not just use 4.9mm foundation all the time as if it was normal? As long as you're not depending on it solely for your mite control, I think it would still be better than the 5.4mm. If you ever wanted to fully regress you'll already have the first regression done, and over time as you cull out brood comb they will regress more.

    Thank you everyone for sharing your advice and experience on this.

  20. #20
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    Hi Barry,

    This is one of those things that throw a wrench into the idea of a hive totally full of uniform cells all being 4.9mm. I decided not to mention this and get into it in my last reply, but Clay has touched on it now, so I'll dive in.

    reply:

    I figured it needed saying Barry. Because I get the feeling that some beginners to regression will try shaking down on the honeyflow which is the traditional way of getting combs drawn. This would be a mistake. Any later than fruit bloom and success will go down hill from there. I try to guess 1 week before the first dandelion appears. This is the brooding period in the spring when the hives are on the build up. This is the BEST time to get cells drawn. After this and the flow hits it gets trickier.

    The experience of some who are using 4.9 foundation has been somewhat different than what has been written by Dee in her experience. I know at least one other person besides myself who could not get good sheets of 4.9 foundation drawn well

    reply:

    Barry, I think this may be due to the difference in season and flows. I think they type of flow one has in there area will play a big part here. Thats why I mentioned about watching the bloom and what is going on.

    My experience has been, when the bees determine they have enough small cells in the hive, they will stop building them and go bigger.

    reply:

    Barry, I don't think that they determine they have enough small cells. I think the brooding season plays out. The gates of the flow open and this triggers the bees into drawing honey storage cells. I think it is all related to seasonal triggers. I have a period of time between summer and fall flow. The bees at this time are recptive to drawing small cells again. This is just before the time when fall swarming occurs. It is a smaller version that mimics the spring build up.

    So there is a very narrow window of time when the bees are tuned in to drawing the small stuff.

    reply:

    I have an idea that may work using two frame nucs that are on the build up during the honey flow that could draw small cell combs. But they will need to be depleted of population (milk out frames) to keep them in a state of building.

    Now this brings up another issue. If the bees decide on their own to stop making the small and go bigger, why should we fight them and keep trying to get them to build more small cell than what they have?

    reply:

    We don't fight them. But we still use 4.9 foundation in the supers even if they draw it wrong as I wouldn't want to have two different sizes and room must be provided for honey storage. This is the time to do the work part for the beekeeper. All the combs should be measured at this time establishing the smallest in the core of the broodnest (4.9 sizing) to the outside place the 5.0 to 5.1 sizings in honey pollen areas. The drone sizing and odd ball combs that are irradicate go into the supers, even if they contain brood. It found it was important to get them positioned properly before they get honey plugged and you can't determine cell size. Then the supers are harvested at appropriate time. These combs are then culled. Don't use them for other hives. They are honey/drones storage combs very irratic not at all good for brooding, melt and process. The combs for other colony start up are the 5.0 to 5.1 combs on the sides of the brood nest for next season. Filling in the the donator colony with new 4.9 foundation during the spring build up to gain even more small cell combs and you keep pyrimiding up with these combs. The process repeats.........

    We should not go blindly into this process and assume everyone has to do it exactly the same way the Lusby's have done it, for it to work. There is no proof that this is the case.

    reply:

    I agree Barry. But! I wouldn't stray to far from the parent model. With that said I don't do all like the Lusby's as my season and there dictates that it just isn't going to happen exactly the same. You need to be able to roll with what the bees do. It climate will have a way the bees will handle thing not to mention the type of bee. Yet they are all bees, and just work them up.

    I think it is more complex than just turning out the 4.9 mill and shooting that foundation through the hive till all the frames have good 4.9 comb. My bees are telling me this is not what they want.

    reply:

    Indeed. This isn't how it happens. It is a process and must be taken step by step. No forcing will work. But this doesn't mean one should use other sized foundations either. Just keep track of the sizing as drawn and move the sizings to appropriate places.

    The bees are smart enough to know what cells are used for what function and the pattern I see in my hives is one where the queen uses the smallest cells available to lay in both spring and fall.

    reply:

    Yes Barry. That is why I say to move the smallest cells to the brooding areas and the larger up and out. As one accumulates more and more 4.9 combs just keep expanding the broodnest. To me having decent 4.9 in the brood chamber is a must for (the beekeeper). So as to maintain flexiblity to manuver and manipulate the combs around. Barry have you noticed the window for drawing 4.9 getting bigger each season (week longer or so)? I suspect that as one keep expanding the broodnest the bees will lock in better and better, but time will tell.

    To each their own, but I've given up trying to get all perfect 4.9 cell size in my hives. As long as there is a good section of SC in the hive, I will let the bees manage themselves and how they use it. So far so good.

    reply:

    Patience Barry. This is livestock. There will never be perfect cells. Just continue to allow the bees to expand and work the new 4.9 combs in each season. In the spring take the core of 4.9 combs and put all in the bottom box. Take the larger and put in a super and a new box of 4.9 foundations (baited) drawing the bees up, the best to the center. So in essence each box from the ground up is all small cell. You just keep steping up each season. Thats my plan anyways.

    regards,

    Clay



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