I am a little confused. I want to run small cen in my brood chambers. Right now all I have currently are 2 hives. 2 deeps on each. Not on small cell. I want to convert to a small cell all med super setup. This means that even my brood chamber will be MED. Do I only put small cell foundation in the two Med that will be brood and the rest on regular foundation? I am confused . i wanted to make everything standard, but small cell foundation is sort of expensive. Could someone give me a little guidance?
As usual everything is a tradeoff. If you want things standard and have all your combs interchangable then you need to put small cell foundation everywhere. If you are willing to accept that things will not be interchangable, then you can get by with it just in the brood chamber.
Are you extracting? Are you doing comb honey? These also play into the whole decision.
Also, keep in mind that in a natural hive the bees build larger cells for storing honey and smaller cells for the center of the brood nest. From my observation these run from 4.6mm to 5.4mm in the middle of the nest with 4.85 being about the most common. Outside of that center they get larger until you have maybe some brood or just larger cells of honey. Often honey stores are in drone sized cells 6.6mm or more.
Also you need to decide if you are using an excluder. If you use an excluder it's less important that they all be small cell.
If I were using an excluder (and I try not to) and I were extracting, I would put drone foundation in supers. It's very easy to extract, takes less wax from the bees to build and is closer to what bees naturally build for honey storage.
If I were NOT using an excluder and I was rasing comb honey, I'd just put standard 5.4mm starter strips in the supers. That way they are a bit large for a small cell queen to want to lay in but the bees will build what they want anyway.
If I were not using an excluder and I was extracting, I'd be tempted to go with all small cell. That way if the queen gets up in the supers and lays, I can move it back down into the brood chamber.
It's all a tradeoff.
As for how I would convert, This spring when it's warm enough, if you can find 10 empty frames in the brood boxes, pull them and put a medium on top of the brood area. If you can find twenty, even better. You can also pull some partly full of honey to make room for the medium you are adding to the brood chamber. Now as the bees draw it and the queen lays in it (my experience is the queen seems to prefer the small cell combs, especially in the spring), you can add another medium on top of that one and as the bees move up you can try to steal the rest of the deep. If you don't get it done until next spring, it won't be the end of the world, but if the bottom deep gets full of honey, you can steal that and use it for feed, if you used chemicals on it or extract it if you didn't. You can also put an excluder on the bottom of the medium boxes to keep the queen from laying there until the rest of the brood in the deep emerges. Be sure you have some kind of upper entrace if you do, or the drones will be trapped and die on the excluder.
Michael - I am starting my beekeeping this spring with a similar setup, with the exception that the hives I will be getting will consist of only one deep on regular foundation. I also want to convert to all mediums and small cell foundation.
I am planning on extracting and also want to use an excluder. Doing the regression your way I have a couple of questions:
Question - You pull the frames out of the deep (in your other post) in order to drive the bees up int to mediums, right? You do not replace the frames you pulled from the deep with small cell, correct?
Question - Can I put 4.9 foundation in the mediums to begin with? Or does the change have to more gradual?
Also, after getting excellent help from all the guys in the chat room at night (Thank You All, I will be back). It was suggested to me to use NUCS to do splits from the two deeps when I get them by moving some brood frames from the deeps to the nucs and interspacing them with small cell frames, gradually converting all over to small cell.
Question - How can I convert to mediums if I use deep nucs to do the splits?
Am I putting what I'm trying to do right? I hope you can understand what I am trying to do.
Thanks for yours and anybody else's input on this.
>Question - You pull the frames out of the deep (in your other post) in order to drive the bees up int to mediums, right? You do not replace the frames you pulled from the deep with small cell, correct?
I probably didn't say it clearly. I meant that you are trying to pull one box of deep off. This requires finding 10 frames of either empty comb (preferable) or mostly empty comb(next best) or honey to pull out of the brood chamber. This is to crowd the bees into the new mediums. If you can't get enough frames to do this, you could just put the medium on and when the bees are drawing it well, put the queen in the medium box with an excluder above and below and either a imirie shim or a hole in the medium box for a drone exit. Once the queen is filling that, you can add another medium. You need to play it some by ear. It will depend some on what the bees are willing to do.
>Question - Can I put 4.9 foundation in the mediums to begin with? Or does the change have to more gradual?
You can put full sheets (cut down to medium) in the brood chamber from day one if you like. You can also do starter strips if you like. Considering that you will have a scrap left over from cutting the foundation down to medium depth, you may as well use it for starter strips for the first regression and save the full sheets for the second one. You could even put a partial sheet in for the first regression. A starter strip would be 3/4" to an inch and a "partial" sheet would be the scrap from cutting down the deep small cell foundation. These would be about 3" deep and would be about 2 1/2" short of filling a frame. Either could work.
>Also, after getting excellent help from all the guys in the chat room at night (Thank You All, I will be back). It was suggested to me to use NUCS to do splits from the two deeps when I get them by moving some brood frames from the deeps to the nucs and interspacing them with small cell frames, gradually converting all over to small cell.
Question - How can I convert to mediums if I use deep nucs to do the splits?
You could cut down some deep nucs or buy some medium nucs from Brushy Mt. (You can buy deeps from Western Bee Supply and cut them down cheaper). You can put a five frames of deep combs from your current hive in one of the deep nuc boxes with a medium nuc box on top with small cell foundation. If you keep a close eye, you could even put the medium frame in the middle of the deep nuc and check it every day and pull it up to the top medium nuc box as soon as it's well started or they start to draw comb on the bottom.
>Am I putting what I'm trying to do right? I hope you can understand what I am trying to do.
I think you have to play things by ear, but understand what your options are. You can crowd them into the mediums by restricing the amount of deeps. You can force the queen into the mediums by putting the queen in the mediums with an excluder(s) (one below and maybe one above) to keep her from returning to the deeps.
You can brute force by cutting the brood out of the deeps and tying them into the mediums (just like hiving a feral hive except the combs are closer to the right size). Just lay a medium on top of the deep frame and try to get all the brood and leave the honey. Cut the comb out and put it in the medium frame and either use rubber bands or string to hold the combs in the mediums. The bees will reattach the comb to the medium frames and you can proceed from there.
You can do a shakedown, where you shake all the bees off of all the combs and put the queen and bees in a hive with the excluder on the bottom (includer position) to keep them from absconding. Give the brood to another hive to take care of. If you keep shaking down your hives and giving the brood away to another hive, the "adoptive" hive will get a nice boost of population and you can keep pulling out empty combs as the brood emerges.
You can also do a shakedown and feed the brood to the chickens (if you have any).
I have pretty much done all of these at one time or another.
What would I do? I would keep in mind all of these techniques and probably do a little of all of them where I need them, but mostly I'd try to just crowd them up into the mediums by pulling the deeps out as I can and putting an excluder in to keep the queen from laying in the deeps.
If you can make the bees move up to the medium before you put in the excluder it will go smoother. If you put the queen in a medium box of bare foundation the nurse bees will all go back to the brood and raise a new queen and abandon her. But if you can crowd them into drawing the medium comb and the queen into laying in it, you can then put in the excluder and it will work fine.