After reading about regressing bees to small cell foundation, I have been checking around for sources, and so far, have not found anything besides the 4.9 from Dadant, which is fine, but I am under the impression that I need to gradually make the switch. Where are the sources for differing cell size foundation, can I get wired wax, or does it only come in plain wax sheets? I have a new hive of untended (previously kept bees, but now almost feral in attitude) that appear to be smaller than my Italians that I would like to get started next Spring on the smaller cell, but need to know the where's and hows. Thanks for any info.
I do not consider myself an expert, but I have read everything on this board that I can find. I think Dee Ludsby is the expert.
I put starter strips on some frames and pretty much ran my bees out of their homes. This was simplified by the fact that a couple of them were already queenless. I put bee escapes on the existing parts of the hive and a queen in the new part. Eventually they all ended up in the new part that only had starter strips of 4.9mm foundation. I did this simutanesously in an observation hive so I can watch what they do. The bees are building about 5.1mm cells. The generation that is hatching now is smaller and I'm giving them whole sheets of 4.9mm foundation and they are just starting to draw it out. They build an occasional off size cell to make things come out right when they don't build them quite small enough, but they keep getting smaller.
I do not know of any other source than Dadant foundation from varies beekeeping outlets. I got mine from Brushy Mountain Bee but I think it's Dadant. I don't know of any source of it wired, just plain. If anyone knows of plastic or wired I'd love to hear about it.
I also discover that the deep Peirco Frames, but not the mediums are 5.25mm which is a step down from the "normal" 5.4mm, but since my bees were willing to build smaller than that the first regression I didn't use it.
If anyone more experienced would like to pitch in on these questions pease do.
If I were you I should just shake them down onto small cell and see how they go; if they're left without comb they will draw something, and if its a mess you just pull it when you get a chance and melt it. One they have bees hatching out of smaller cells it will get easier. The problem with starter strips is that once they start pulling comb below the strip they may revert back to something near the original size. You just make a box up with frames with the new foundation, and brush or shake all the bees into it.
You then have the problem of what to do with the brood. If you have another hive, give it to that, but if you only have one its more difficult. You probably won't want to sacrifice it (I wouldn't), but if you put it back on the original colony there's a possibility they may abandon or kill the queen and move back upstairs; one of my colonies did this a few months ago. Snelgroving may provide a solution; if you're not familiar with this, it's a method of swarm control where the brood goes upstairs, and the young bees are fed steadily back to a lower broodchamber with the queen until the top broodbox is empty.
Been reading this thread here and I see that you are talking about regression and comb drawing out, etc.
This is good, however so as not to confuse or maybe even start something, I am going to start a new topic called "Housel Positioning" for regressing and aligning foundation and combs to help the bees work better with less stress.
We just changed 35,000 frames to the sequencing fine tuning our regression back to a more natural system.
As for 4.9mm availability. Right now Dadant is the main Dog source and a very good one. Brushy Mountain sells it more in bulk and more in line with bulk rates I think. Also Pat Eakle in Fresno at the Dadant plant may be able to help you out if you want to buy more then just a few sheets and need a little bulk and maybe lessor rates, but really cannot promise as I would think each case and needs are a little different.
and so far, have not found anything besides the 4.9 from Dadant
Only Dadant makes 4.9 at this time. Brushy Mountain sells dadant foundation in bulk. There is a western supplier too but can't remember who at the moment (also dadant foundation).
can I get wired wax, or does it only come in plain wax sheets?
Only wax sheets for 4.9. You must wire the frames and embed the foundations. Don't fool around with pins and such if you want combs that will hold up. I'm not sure what is going on with the plastic 4.9 at this time. Dee could you give an update on this? Will it be available? Or will politics we discussed before make it an impossibility?
but I am under the impression that I need to gradually make the switch.
I did right around 1000 frames last winter for this spring of 4.9. This isn't counting those from the year before which I tried full sheets vs. strips. Now with this experience don't bother with strips. I'll save you alot of hair pulling, cussing and such. Just wire frames. Bees seem to key in alot fast w/ full foundations. Also cuts don't on the amount of drone comb that will need to culled. To actually regress the bees you need to do an old fashion shakedown. Have you read Back to biological beekeeping under POV? If not you must read it.