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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    5,999

    Default Natural Cell Hive

    Since joining Beesource I've followed the natural cell / small cell debate.

    Because of all the conflicting opinions, I've decided to do it myself & see if it can keep a hive treatment free, as some claim.

    A disclaimer, i am NOT endorsing small cell / natural comb as a mite control mechanism. I'm just going to run a hive & see what happens, plus update the thread with developments so others can follow.

    As I've never done this before I'm hoping for input from "small cellers", to guide me along the way.


    Where I am up to now, is I've selected a weakish single decker, with a small varroa infestation, and a young carniolan crossed queen, to be the hive. The dot on the queen is not a date code, just the pen color I had at the time. I've also removed most of the brood. I'm hoping this configuration will get them building worker cells straight off as well as drone cells.



    This is the hive, there are 3 empty frames put in, marked with nc (natural cell). I've done it this way to keep the combs straight. The plan so far, is that as these combs get built I'll swap out other frames, till the whole hive is natural cell. Then, I'm aware that these cells will only be first regression, so when a new generation of bees is available I'll be cutting the comb out of these frames to allow 2nd regression.
    Trust my thinking on that is sound, but any input welcome.




    This pic is a frame I put in 2 days ago. Going wireless was just a bit "too much" for me, so the frames are wired. I also hung a strip of foundation 1/3rd inch wide from the groove in the top bar, to get them started in the right place. The queen is also visible walking on the top bar. There is some worker cells and some drone cells. There is also some variation in size between both worker and drone cells.

    As new developments happen, I'll update with pics.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 01-04-2011 at 04:55 PM. Reason: fix picture size
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,462

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    From now on, any photos you include must meet the size requirements.
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=225753

    What season are you in there in New Zealand?

    Your method so far is not recommended by anyone that I'm aware of. Trying to gradually work a hive over to SC will end in a mess. SC and natural cell are not the same thing. I have SC experience but no natural cell experience. Your title suggest NC, but you refer to SC within your post.
    Regards, Barry

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Orange, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    382

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    I am confused...

    I thought small cell is considered natural cell size of 4.9. Correct me if I am wrong.

    I know when first starting with foundationless or natural cell the bees seem to make a lot of drone or honey cells first then they convert to a smaller cell. When I first started with foundationless it confused me, thinking it was drone cells, then I was corrected and it was pointed out to be honey cells. The bees did fill in a majority of the larger cell with honey and no brood. They eventually made smaller cell sizes however I did not measure it to see if it was 4.9 to 4.95 cell size, but it was noticable side by side.

    I should have added..the wire will more than likely end up with zig zagging comb. I would have waited since they build the center first. To add the wire once they have the foundation a lower in the frame. In my opinion, biggest difference in you pictures and top bar hives are the extra side and bottom on the frame.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    4,098

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    You might consider using small cell foundation. As long as you are working on brood comb that will never see an extractor the wires are just to help YOU ease into it I guess. Looks good though.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Bergen, Norway
    Posts
    248

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Natural cell is not magic. Ii will probably be a nice experiment and you will probably learn something.

    It's mainly about the genetics, and even then a single hive is a bit like a coin-toss.:-)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Orange, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    382

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Well I will give my honest opinion like I always do.

    Natural cell size (4.9ish) has been the bread and butter of feral bees. We as humans have made cell size bigger to produce, "bigger, better, stronger" bee. Now with modifying their natural lifesytle (which is there for a purpose) we have to deal with the consquences, which is up for debate.

    In my opinion, natural vs non-natural is up to the beek. I always say dont knock it until you try it. I even noticed on website sales warning on buying small cell which in my opinion should be called natural cell, that its made for the experianced beek. Does that tell me something? If it is good for bees in the wild and they have lived for millions of years that way, why fix it if it isnt broke?

    Just my opinion, but I have to be honest, I do have plastic frames and foundations, I have regular ole wax foundations. I have started like the above pictures naturally drawn comb in all of my hives, not a few to test, but there is at least 3 frames in each hive deep. I will be converting to the "small cell" this year and foundationless in my brood chambers.

    Its not enough we change where the bees live, but we change how they live too. At some point it has to give. Unlike other animals we try to domesticate, we can not the bee, but we continue to try.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    4,898

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Your experiment is doomed to failure with a bottom board of that color.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Lexington, South Carolina
    Posts
    261

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    odfrank,

    I have several hives that color and the girls love them.

    Brooklyn

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Orange, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    382

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    LOL

    I didnt even notice that color, my girls (daughters) would love it!

    This year is my 4 year olds first time helping me beekeeping.

    It sure does make it stand out!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Knox County, Ohio
    Posts
    2,694

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    I have had the best success getting bees to draw out complete frames with mostly worker brood by putting the empty frame in between two frames of brood during the early spring broodnest expansion. Later int he year they seemed to want to draw a lot more larger cells for honey storage or drone brood.

    You want there to be enough bees to fill the gap between broodcombs when you put a foundationless frame in. If you open the broodnest too far, you run the chance of chilling the brood.

    I prefer giving foundationless frames to rapidly expanding small hives or nucs. I wouldn't be trying to get a weak hive to draw new combs. (I might get a strong nuc to draw out foundaitonless combs, and then give those combs to a weak hive.)

    If you are trying to get small cells, usually only the very core of the broodnest is that small. You will want to introduce frames one by one into the core to get the smallest cells.

    The farther you get from the equator, the larger animals get. This works with bees also. Cell size gets bigger too. Keep that in mind if you can't get smaller than 5.0 in the very core of the broodnest.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,213

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    >I thought small cell is considered natural cell size of 4.9. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Natural is whatever they build. The first try, large cell bees tend to draw about 5.1mm to 5.2mm. If you take that comb away and let the bees who were raised on the 5.1mm build comb it tends more toward 4.9mm. But the size is also determined by the time of year, the latitude, the altitude, and the genetics. In other words, it depends. But seldom do they draw 4.9mm on the first try. Some small cell people insist you have to use HSC or drawn 4.9mm or at least a few turnovers of 4.9mm wax to get them down to 4.9mm. I've had pretty good luck without all that, but results vary.

    > They eventually made smaller cell sizes however I did not measure it to see if it was 4.9 to 4.95 cell size, but it was noticable side by side.

    It's a good idea to go through the hive once it's established and measure the cells, mark it on the top bar and cull out the largest combs as you find them full. Try to end up with about 4.9mm in the core of the brood nest. Once they are back to natural size, I wouldn't worry about it anymore.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by odfrank View Post
    Your experiment is doomed to failure with a bottom board of that color.
    Ha! Yes I have had a bit of stick about that.
    It's actually that I can get mis-tinted paint at a cheap as price. The bees don't laugh at it so who cares!

    And thanks everybody for the advice, good posts all, and exactly what I was hoping for.

    Just one thing Barry, if at some point the mites do get an upper hand, I will be treating. I didn't really want this thread in the biological area so that a full & free discussion would be permitted in the event of treatment. However if you want it here well no worries, perhaps we can move later if need be, if treatment does happen. ( I hope not, but just in case!).
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Barry Ė Good point, I should have said. Our seasons here are the exact opposite of the US, it is mid summer here. And the NC / SC thing, well Iíll try not to use the wrong term although as per Christopher and M Bush, Iím hoping that once fully regressed the nc WILL be sc, or Iíll be disappointed.

    David- we donít have sc foundation in my country. Itís 5.5 mm cell or nothing, so Iíd love to try smaller foundation but it will just have to be nc. Anyhow according to much of what Iíve read the end result will be the same.

    Countryboy-thanks for the heads up. You are correct of course, a strong hive with brood will build comb faster, but Iím looking for WORKER comb faster. Anyhow, time will tell. Also, interesting comments about the affect of position in the hive.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,462

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Barry Ė Good point, I should have said. Our seasons here are the exact opposite of the US, it is mid summer here.
    Mid summer isn't the best time for this. I'd do it in the spring.
    Regards, Barry

  15. #15
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Other than what Countryboy already said, that I agree with, why?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,462

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Springtime is when bees are focused on raising brood. Summer is honey makin' time. This goes hand in hand with comb building.
    Regards, Barry

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Knox County, Ohio
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    2,694

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    You are correct of course, a strong hive with brood will build comb faster, but Iím looking for WORKER comb faster.

    Then why not throw a strong swarm into an entire box of foundationless frames? They will draw a bunch of worker comb and try to get the colony established before they start worrying about diverting resources to drone production.

  18. #18
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Oh thanks Barry, now I've started though I'll just continue.

    CB, true enough, although swarm season is pretty much done here now. Also if you put a swarm in a box of empty frames, couldn't it get messy?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Knox County, Ohio
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    2,694

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    Do you have a comb guide in your frames?

    If you use completely empty frames with no comb guide, then yes, it could get messy in a hurry. As long as I had good comb guides, I haven't had a problem with cross combing. Every great once in a while I would see the bees try to curve the comb at the ends and start to jump a frame, but I would cut the comb end and push it back in place in the one frame.

    Personally, I'd trim the frames down to 1 1/4 wide, and use wedge top frames, turning the wedge 90 degrees so it hangs down, and then tacking it back in.

    If you are not using any form of comb guide, then you are correct that you want the empty frame between two frames of brood. The bees will use the drawn comb on each side as their comb guide.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Knox County, Ohio
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    2,694

    Default Re: Natural Cell Hive

    As long as you have a decent flow going, you could always try Richard Taylor's shook swarm. Shake all the bees out of one box and onto empty frames.

    This would be very similar to Lusby's shake down method of regression, where you shake the bees off drawn comb and down onto new 4.9 foundation. It is my understanding that this was very stressful on the bees though. Adding foundationless frames slowly is supposed to be less stressful on the bees.

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