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Thread: Small Cell Hive

  1. #1
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    Default Small Cell Hive

    Well there’s so much conflicting info about small cell the only way is to try it myself. SC foundation is now available in my country so I’ve bought some. When it arrived & I looked at it I can truly say I have never seen such small cells even in wild hives, and couldn’t even envisage my bees working with it properly. So the issue is getting LC bees to draw the SC foundation.

    Not quite sure how to go about this so I’ve made a very weak nuc with a carniolan crossed to Italian queen. The theory is there are so few bees they will not have the “manpower” to re-work the foundation and will just pull it how it is, at 4.9 mm. I’m hoping that will work anyway. Set it up yesterday & took some pics today, they have pulled a few cells and thus far anyway, and are sticking with the foundation size. There is one frame of LC in the nuc with food stores, once they have a bit stowed in the new combs I’ll remove it. Next issue I guess will be to see if the queen will lay in the SC combs.






    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    I'm guessing that having something shipped from the U.S. to Auckland costs +/- a gazillion dollars... but if you wanted to splurge and buy just 5 or 10 frames of Honey Super Cell you can buy individual frames at Lapps:

    http://lappsbeesupplycenter.com/inde...s/Page1353.htm

    Your theory of using a weak hive to draw out the 4.9 is interesting but I wouldn't have the patience for that...


    Have you considered setting up one or two more "weak" hives to get some wax drawn and then combine them?
    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    No I hadn't thought of that, MIGHT do it I'll see how these ones go. I may add a few bees to it every so often also but only till there are hatching SC bees.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    The trick is getting some comb drawn well and then getting brood produced in it to make more well drawn comb. Regressing takes time and rarely goes the way you want it to.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    I'll be watching this thread eagerly OldTimer.

    I'm committing a small apiary (4 hives) next year to regression as part of an integrated system. It'll be a long term trial and I'll be investing in some small cell foundation to kick them off, so it will be very interesting to see how yours go with it.

    I have about a dozen hives that have drawn at least a box of natural brood comb this year, but I haven't had the time to get out and measure the results. For now I'm happy that it is nice quality comb. It's wasn't easy on them with the atrocious spring we had, and I would have to say it set them back a bit, but the bulk of that setback was the rotten spring - they didn't manage to get enough stores built up before the dearth in November, and since we don't feed by default we had some hungry girls by the start of December flow.

    Incidentally, i haven't looked into the HSC costs in detail, but I have talked recently to Mann Lake. the PF series are around US $100-120ish (from memory) for a box of 30, but the shipping costs or rather air freight are diabolical. Looks like anywhere between $150 and $450 US to get it here. Not realistic for our business at this stage, though I have family going over next spring, so maybe I can get some back then.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Yes freight's the killer. But in anycase for me, I've never been a fan of plastic there should always be a more natural way.

    Anyhow had another look at the hive today, things coming along nicely!





    The bees have pulled some more foundation. I was worried the queen would not be able to lay eggs in these small cells, but, EGGS!!!





    Here is the queen, when I saw her on the cells I did think it might be hard on her to lay in them.





    But then she laid an egg right in front of me, looked effortless. Her abdomen did not go in very far though I think she must stretch out the tip to elongate it a bit.

    The bees have pulled all the foundation they can cover, so I've thrown in about a heaped handful of young bees from another hive to keep things moving along.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Looking good. I do see some odd shaped and sized cells in the wider shots, but that's normal at this stage. The fact that you are getting good patches is encouraging. The bees that hatch from there will be better equipped to build good small cell comb.

    You're in the middle of summer right now right?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Yes wherever they can, the bees are enlarging the cells. But at this stage this would be well under 5% of total cells. Haven't actually counted but probably more like 1 or 2 %. So I just need to get a cycle of brood through and I'll be well on the way, at that stage I'll decide wether to fully replace all frames with new SC foundation or may try scratching the larger cells & see if they can be encouraged to build smaller. Once the brood is sealed I'll be scratching the ones in larger cells so they won't hatch so I can move to fully regressed bees as fast as possible. Anyway I'll put up more pics as we go so everyone can see how it pans out.

    Yes we are at, or just past, peak summer here now, there is still a good couple of months for comb building and brood raising so I'm hoping there will JUST be time to get this hive moulded into a winterable SC hive. Then next spring the older LC bees all ought to be gone and I can start trying out some of the things I want to know about SC bees.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    In my experience, it's not the bees, it's the comb. I have had all different bees in my hives and the only constant is the sc comb. Dennis Murrell experienced the same as well. Not sure I can lure him into this discussion.
    Regards, Barry

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Yes freight's the killer. But in anycase for me, I've never been a fan of plastic there should always be a more natural way.
    Ditto, absolutely. It would only be worthwhile for us as a transition tool if all the warnings I've read about LC bees not reliably drawing SC comb for some time were born out. hence keen to see how your girls get on with it.

    And it looks like they're off to a lovely start.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Well the bees were heavily favouring the one LC comb in the hive, and cleaning honey out of it so the queen could lay in it. This meant hardly any bees on the other combs, so yesterday I removed the comb as they had moved some stores to the SC combs.

    But today they got robbed, they have NOTHING left. I can't feed that will only encourage the robbers, so I've reduced the entrance to one bee size. There is a flow on and bees from the hive are occasionally coming home with pollen on their legs, so not much to do other than leave them & see if they can make it. I'll check them daily and if they are unable to support themselves I'll have to move it and then feed.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive




    Well some capped brood at last!

    However things have not gone as smoothly as I had hoped. First, the hive was very weak and got robbed. The robbers just took over and came and left at will, even sucking larvae dry, hence the patchy brood pattern.

    The hive was not going to survive, so to save it, I transfered it out of the nuc box and into a standard hive, and swapped it's place with a smallish single decker hive. This got it away from the robbers and the returning feild bees from the other hive have given it a boost. It is now functioning normally.

    BUT, the combs, which had been drawn quite nicely, now there is a bigger bee population the bees are re-working them, combining some into bigger cells. Because with the set back from the robbing, it now looks like this is not going to make a winterable, totally SC hive by winter. So, to get more SC bees quickly, I've put 4 frames of SC foundation into another hive, for the queen to lay in. Just before they hatch, I'll add them to this hive.

    Then, it looks like the hive will be a mishmash of both SC and LC, so once there's a fair population of SC bees, I'll get them to start again on new foundation.

    Question for you small cellers out there, what proportion of small cell bees do I need in the hive before it will draw all nice SC combs, without enlarging any of the cells?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Honestly, there's no guarantee that you will get 100% small cell. Small cell foundation is treated as if it weren't there in my experience. If they're not in the mood to build brood comb, they won't. Got to get them at the right time or in the right mood.

    I think you're going to have to feed them pretty consistently if you want them to gain weight and survive the winter. They look pretty good though, for what it's worth.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    I have friends that swear by small cell foundation. As a commercial beekeeper, I will not convert and do not want it. What I saw was not only did my friends breed a very small bee but the very pest that my friends were trying to control, the Varroa mite, just downsized also. Why do I want five small bees trying to do the foraging work or the house work of three large bees??? It just seems an ineffecient use of bee resources. The analogy is a cessna plane trying to do the work of a cargo plane. Sorry I am not a fan of small cell foundation. If I want to work with smaller bees that live on small cell, then I will just wait a couple more years and I will be up to my eyeballs in them--AHBEES... TK

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Why are you posting? Did anyone ask your opinion on small cell? And since you don't use small cell, did anyone ask your opinion at all? Read the thread.

    I know this will get deleted because it's off topic, but I hope it hits home to the new guy before it does. Have some respect for the forum.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Well for me I'm interested in ALL opinions, and thank Ted for his contribution.

    To me, I'm doing an experiment, still got an open mind as to the outcome, hoping to hear peoples experiences and opinions on all sides, that's how we'll all learn. We're all into bees so we're all on the same team, we can share knowledge, and keep it friendly.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    I stand by my post. This is a thread about an experiment, not the positive/negative opinions of small cell.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    When I started moving to small cell, I simply obtained some 4.9mm foundation. Some was plastic, some was 100% beeswax. I had no real issues. The bees drew the foundation into small cell combs. Michael Bush mentioned that since most of my then current combs were Pierco one piece frame/foundation (5.2mm), that they were already less than large cell (5.4mm). So, in effect, my bees were already partly regressed.

    Now I use Mann Lake PF120's and foundationless frames with comb guides and horizontal wires. I also use only medium depth frames. Sometimes they build some drone comb, sometimes a mixture of cell sizes, but usually combs are primarily all small cell. What amazes me the most is how often they will start the combs on the wires.

    I certainly hope that small cell provides you with good results.

    I began using small cell, because it seemed like an interesting thing to do. Those tiny cells are just incredible.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Yes I've just done a foundationless hive with 3 horizontal wires per frame. It's quite amazing how the bees have built down through the wires exactly, I'm sure they must do it on purpose. It's so accurate it's just like I embedded foundation, other than cell size and alignment.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    >The analogy is a cessna plane trying to do the work of a cargo plane.

    You have made a lot of assumptions. This is one. Actually it's like a cessna engine either way, but you either put it in the cargo plane or you put it in the cessna... which works better? What little research I've seen on the subject, the small cell bees were more productive. In my personal experience, I see no real difference.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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