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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
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    1,213

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    I've used commercially made frames of the normal 1 3/8 inch center to center type and have several of them in use now. I also have made my own frames on a 31 mm (about 1.25 inch) center to center design. This was based on an article in the January 1977 Gleanings by Charles Koover. The narrow frames can be fitted 11 to a brood chamber as compared to the standard 10 per.

    I'm curious if anyone else has used narrow frames and if so what results you obtained. Note that I have a pretty detailed writeup of the results that I will post if this topic seems worth the trouble.

    Given the amount of interest in small cell foundation, it makes sense that the slightly smaller bees would perhaps be better fitted to a narrower gap between brood frames. Note that narrow gauge frames have no benefit in supers.

    Fusion

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Salem, Oregon
    Posts
    457

    Post

    Hi Fusion,

    Michael Bush is using SC bees and he shaves off abit on each frame to get 11 frames in the brood box.

    As you point out, it doesn't do any good in the honey supers. I was talking with an experienced bee keeper yesterday and he told me to use 9 frames in the honey supers, but only when I have drawn comb to put in the supers. I can't remember the reasoning. Also to use the spacing tool and not the metal spacers, or if using the metal spacers, never nail them into the super as the next time you need that super you might need to put 10 frames in and then you're stuck.

    Pugs

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Casper, WY
    Posts
    526

    Post

    Hi Fusion,

    Frame spacing is often discussed among the top bar hive beekeepers. I have used 1 3/8" and 1 1/4" in my top bar hives. For me, the 1 1/4" spacing works best in the broodnest area. In the honey storage area combs take on a much wider spacing and vary in orientation.

    I have taken a few pictures of bees reducing the spacing between frames in my small cell hives. You can see the photos at:

    http://wind.prohosting.com/tbhguy/bee/space.htm

    I am very interested in your observations. What did you find?

    Regards
    Dennis

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,384

    Post

    >I also have made my own frames on a 31 mm (about 1.25 inch) center to center design...I'm curious if anyone else has used narrow frames and if so what results you obtained.

    I have. My observation is that the bees draw smaller cells when the spacing is smaller. Also, if I let them do their own thing they will end up building combs in the brood area spaced about 1.25" (once they have regressed themselves by doing their own thing) and much wider in the honey storage area, usually at least 1.5" in the honey storage area. Sometimes as much as 2".

    >Given the amount of interest in small cell foundation, it makes sense that the slightly smaller bees would perhaps be better fitted to a narrower gap between brood frames.

    Yes, they are.

    >Note that narrow gauge frames have no benefit in supers.

    No they don't.

    I don't have all of mine on narrow spacing, but as I make new frames I'm working on getting them down to that size.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,384

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    I suppose I should say that the narrow frames are mostly foundationless frames or blank starter strips. They do not have foundation in them. I just put a few together with small cell foundation to see what they do with that, but mostly I've been wanting to see what the bees want. With 1.25" spacing and foundationless frames, the center of the brood nest is 4.6mm to 4.7mm.

    With 1.375" (1 3/8") spacing and foundationless frames, the center of the brood nest is about 4.8mm to 4.9mm.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    North Alabama, SW Kentucky
    Posts
    1,914

    Post

    How could one "shave down" frames keeping the center centered after the frames are put together and foundationed? I've shaved the endbars down on a tablesaw before being assembled.
    WayaCoyote
    WayaCoyote

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Salem, Oregon
    Posts
    457

    Post

    Hi Wayacoyote,

    I'm most likely using the wrong terms. Shave 1/16 inch off of each side of the end piece on the frame and you've reduced it to 1 1/4 inch wide. A hand plane would work.

    I've never done it, but it doesn't seem impossible or difficult. Annoyingly time consuming perhaps.

    You're right it would be much easier to do it before the frames are built though. I'm not sure how Michael has done it. I just remember him saying he has done this in the past.

    Pugs

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,384

    Post

    I've made a template that I set on the end bar and mark it. Then I plane it down. But I'm considering doing them on a table saw. What makes you think you can't run a completed frame's end bars through a table saw?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    3,401

    Post

    The reason for using 9 (or even 8) frames per
    honey super is that the bees will draw the
    comb out further, making uncapping all the
    easier, as none of the comb will be capped
    "below" the level of the wood. One can't
    draw foundation out to comb in a 9-frame
    configuration, one must fit 10 (or 11, if
    you have trimmed your frames) into a super,
    and slide them together so that all space
    is left at the outer edges.

    Once the comb is drawn, it can then be deployed
    in a 9-frame configuration without the bees
    making any "wild comb" between the frames.

    I like the stroller spacers for this, as they
    have a removable set of "fingers", so one can
    pop off the fingers, leaving a metal slide for
    10-frame use, or pop on the fingers to do 9
    (or 8) frame deployments. Sure they cost
    money, but you get what you pay for in the
    form of "idiot proof" spacing every time, and
    no frames that come back to the honey house
    in need of major surgery prior to extraction.

    Beware running many frames through a table saw
    without first checking the actual width -
    different vendors have slightly different
    widths, and even the same vendor can sell
    frames made by others without mentioning it,
    messing up your assumed "centerline" by enough
    to mess up the results.

    I tried 11 frames, and I have to say I did not
    see any big difference. With mediums, it is
    easier to just slap on another brood chamber
    if you want to increase the brood area.
    I try to keep my components "100% stock", as
    modifications, if not done to 100% of one's
    inventory, have a way of becoming a pain.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Salem, Oregon
    Posts
    457

    Post

    Thanks Fischer, your reasoning to start with drawn comb was the same. I had just forgotten. Maybe now I'll remember.

    Pugs

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,384

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    My only reason for 11 frames, really, is to get them to draw smaller cells and to match the spacing that they naturally do on my top bar hives in the brood nest. If you're not going to small cell, I don't think it's worth the effort. Even IF you're going to small cell you can easily (on the second regression) get them to build 4.9mm on 1 3/8" spacing, so maybe it's not worth it. On the other hand many people struggle to get them to draw small enough cells and this is one more encouragement. An extra frame of brood per box is also a bonus. I run some of these in the 8 frame boxes from Brushy Mt. and 9 frames fit nicely in them with 1 1/4" spacing. That means with 8 frame boxes I'm only losing one frame of brood in the brood chamber.

    Of course I space them out in the supers for extracted honey to make them eaiser to uncap.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,213

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    There have been several articles published over the years advocating variants of the standard measurements of a frame. The January 1995 Bee Culture article titled Bee Space discussed using narrow gauge frames and referenced an article in the January 1977 issue. I first subscribed to Gleanings in Bee Culture in 1977. The article by Charles Koover plus financial restrictions inspired me to manufacture equipment, including narrow gauge frames. I went through three frame designs before I settled on the correct modifications. I have approximately 20 hive bodies using the narrow frames and have used them for 18 years. I also have used standard frames extensively for comparison. Here are my conclusions regarding narrow gauge frames.

    Narrow gauge frames tend to bow and warp more easily during construction. This is because all the measurements for frame joints have to be reduced. The frame must be carefully cut to precise dimensions and assembled to hang straight and free. I glue and nail all frames to achieve this goal.

    A comb which is even slightly bowed is unacceptable. The frames must be wired to obtain perfectly straight combs. Combs built in unwired frames will result in one side being deep and the other shallow. The bees will only raise brood in the deep side. Pins and other methods do not support the foundation adequately to prevent this bowing. Plastic core foundations tend to bow too much over time.

    Drone cells cannot be permitted because they will usually be at the frame's top or bottom edge. When a comb is removed from the hive body, bees will be crushed potentially killing the queen and causing excessive stinging because of the alarm pheromone released by the crushed bees. I renew the combs after about 5 years of use by cutting out the old comb and putting in new foundation. I use slatted rack bottom boards to reduce comb chewing and removal in the critical areas of the frame. The result is solid worker cell size combs which are easy to handle.

    Narrow gauge frames with 11 frames per super for honey production are useless because uncapping is almost impossible. I use and prefer 9 frames in a honey super. The narrow gauge frames can be spaced to give this density. The advantage obtained with nine narrow gauge frames in a super is that uncapping is easier because there are almost no low spots in the comb surface.

    The structure of the winter cluster is different on narrow guage frames. There is room for only two layers of bees between the combs as compared with three layers in standard frames. A winter cluster on narrow frames is therefore slightly larger for a given number of bees than in standard frames. This is expecially important in the early spring when brood rearing begins because the cluster covers more comb surface. This allows brood rearing to expand earlier.

    Eleven narrow frames full of honey weigh less than ten standard frames full because of the bee space around the 11th frame. The combination of expanded winter cluster and lower hive body weight may result in a colony that starves out in the early spring unless two or more hive bodies are used for wintering. This provides cluster crossover space and enough honey for successful wintering.

    Spring buildup with narrow gauge frames is only slightly improved in my area because of weather conditions. The first pollen from willow is in mid February. The main flow starts about April 20th and peaks from the first to the twentieth of May. This means I have 9 weeks for spring buildup from the first incoming pollen to the start of the main nectar flow. With such a long buildup period, swarming is a significant problem whether using narrow or standard frames

    The primary advantage under these conditions is that two deep hive bodies can contain the brood of the most prolific queen. I have had up to 18 frames of brood, larvae, and eggs from an exceptional queen. The two outside frames in the hive body were full of pollen and honey and all 9 inner frames were at least 70 percent full of brood. With standard frames, this amount of brood would partially occupy 3 hive bodies, but with narrow gauge frames, only two hive bodies are required.

    One significant advantage is that when made to the correct dimensions, bridge and brace comb is almost nonexistent. Please note that some bee strains are excessive at building bridge and brace comb. The narrow gauge frames will reduce, but not eliminate this tendency in these strains.

    Would I recommend a wholesale change to narrow gauge frames? No, but only because bees on them are less forgiving of human errors. They have slight advantages over standard frames in daily operation.

    The standard hive body with standard frames has been proven in over 100 years of beekeeping. The only impetus that would cause us to change the size hive and frame we use today would be a dramatic change in the way we keep bees. Examples of such dramatic changes could be found in the operations of migratory beekeepers using pallet systems. They could use a square hive more effectively than the rectangular ones we use today. Also, if queens are bred to be more prolific with resultant higher honey production, the standard hive body and frame will show serious limitations. Varroa is a current issue that has the potential to induce changes in hive construction.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    211

    Post

    Fusion_power,
    Just to add to Jim's posting re:honey frame spacing.Here are a couple of shots that may be of interest.This spacer I made up many years back out of heavy ABS plastic.In a commercial opperation it sure saves time and aids in uncapping as Jim covered.By using 8 frames you gain two bee spaces of honey therefore increasing the potential yield per box.I know of a commercial beekeeper who only uses 7 in his honey boxes.Take a look at an example of 8 spacing during supering up yesterday North of Auckland New Zealand.Note the box at rear with 8 frames waiting to be added and the spacer just visible in top right corner.This hive should have been supered earlier.

    http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/russel.../ph//my_photos

    Bob.
    BOB

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Ypsilanti, Michigan
    Posts
    38

    Post

    Bob,

    Yahoo wouldn't allow access to the pictures in the link you posted. Error reads: "Restricted Access . Sorry! You cannot access this account, as you are not the owner."

    I'd love to see the pictures

    Misty

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    211

    Post

    MistyZ,
    My error,Please take another look,will work now.
    BOB

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