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Thread: Small cell ???

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Default Small cell ???

    I'm planning on starting 2 or 3 new hives next spring and I thought that I would get them going on the Mann Lake PF-120 foundations. Question is once I have them started (8 Frame and med boxes) do I need to continue with the small cell foundation for the second box or not? Do use the regular size foundation that I now have? If I use the ones I currently have they also do not have the wax drawn out on them(I had more than I needed for my first year).
    Thanks! Love this forum!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    This question comes up a lot among those eager to switch yet still possessing unused foundation.

    I recommend you use small cell in any area where the broodnest is likely to be. However, in the long run you'll want to have all your frames interchangeable so you can move them here and there when needed.

    Personally, I have melted down any large cell foundation I've come across over the years. For me, it's just not worth bothering.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    I am going to try to just use my old ones (large cell) for the honey supers. And am thinking I will probably take them foundationless. That way I've still got a use for the frames. That's my plan. Now I get to see how that works!
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  4. #4
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    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, U.S.A.
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    If your going to use small cell what advantage would there be for larger cells for the super ?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    If you are talking to me, johnb, the advantage is using equipment I already have. Plus, large cells hold more honey since they are bigger. Don't know if that translates to a larger crop, but it seems to me that it should.
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  6. #6
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    Auburn, Washington, USA
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    It is a hard question to answer, if I have small cell, do I need large cells too. Well, at a minimum, you need to have large cells in the supers for honey collections. Bees in a natural environment always have large cells for honey storage. Then you do need drone cells, because bees, in natural environment, have 15-20% drone cells. I like BWrangler's approach. He only advices to have about 1/2 of your frames in the center of each brood box to be small cell. In the winter and fall, when varroa control is very important, the queen will be laying in these cells anyway. In the later spring and summer, when she expands her laying out, she will use larger cells, but that's ok, because you want larger bees to haul all of the extra honey to the hive in the summer. A hive is a multicultural, multi-size population. A diversity in each bees size helps with it's function. If you take small cell bees swarm and add them to a new box, they will draw out large and small cells. Why, cause they need them both.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    Just be careful about mixing drawn and undrawn plastic small cell and empty foundationless in the same box. Sometimes the bees have a preference and that can result in their ignoring what they don't like. (My experience also) Within the same box you can mix the frames if they are drawn, but it is mixing the undrawn foundation types or empty frames (for foundationless) that can goof you up. Follow the "rules" and you will be fine. Someone somewhere here has a post on the way to do it.
    Last edited by Bee Bliss; 10-05-2011 at 03:17 PM. Reason: I goofed ;)

  8. #8
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    Sep 2010
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    What an excellent point. Given a choice, my bees would draw out plastic foundation before they draw out foundationless frame each and every time.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    >What an excellent point. Given a choice, my bees would draw out plastic foundation before they draw out foundationless frame each and every time.

    You are the first person I've ever heard say that.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    AramF, Have you thought about playing the lottery? Seems like things are going pretty well for you.

    What plastic are you using?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Auburn, Washington, USA
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    I had deep full of bees and I added foundationless frames on the top in a medium. They sat there and sat there and the bees would not come up. THen I replaced a few of with PF120 and those are the ones that they drew out first. So go figure. I even remember thinking at the time, with the paint sticks glued into the groves, how was I going to remove them and put in the plastic foundation into the rest of foundationless.

    Actually Mike, up untill yesterday, when BeeBliss edited his comment, I was the second. The point I am trying to say is that is when I had a mixture of different types of frames, mine went for the ones with foundation. If I had an empty hive with only foundationless, I am sure they would draw out foundationless just fine.

    My plastic founcation is Mann Lake PF120s 4.9 and their black larger cell foundation 5.1 mm. However it did take mine forever to draw out the drone frame. I think I did 3 drone freezing treatments before they finally drew out all of the frame.

    Washington has bad a terrible nectar year. Flows have been delayed, bees never got to a good start. Maybe that's why the preference for something that's already imprinted with cell sizes.

    I am a statistician. I do not play lottery. God makes sure that mathematicians never win, cause they should know better.

  12. #12
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    Auburn, Washington, USA
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    The unfortunate side effect of foundationless frames is the spanning of the comb between multiple frames. Yes, yes, I can repair them and reset them to one frames. I have done that and it works. But I really think that it is not by accident that bees curve the comb. I think they want the arch, especially in the outside frames. Maybe it is like a dog that curls up to preserve heat in the winter, they sort of enclose the nest in arched combs to keep the heat inside. So if you don't have drawn out frames between which you place a foundationless, I'd say you have 30% risk of the frame not comming out straight.

    I recently read someone's comment, maybe it was Mike's from time ago, where you need to have 3 drone combs existent in the hive when you add one foundationless and they will draw it out pefrectly with small or natural cell.

    I don't know, it seems like too much hassle to guess what bees will think given so many parameters used in their decision making. I know that plastic foundation they accept pretty well. It does not bend around when it is being drawn, so I can examine it pretty safely. It does not come preloaded with chemicals like wax foundation. It prevents comb from being spanned over multiple frames. It comes in different sizes, so I can satisfy all of my bees needs for various sized cells. Really the only drawback that I can think of is cutting out finished queen cells. Even so, you can remove the drawn out comb from the new plastic foundation easier than other types, so that you can transfer young larvae straight from the foundation into queen cups, rather than wiggling around with the chinese tool in the fully drawn comb.

    I would much prefer natural cell on foundationless, but dealing with correction while obviously annoying my bees is something I chose not to do in the future. Sorry it is a bit off topic, but hopefully not completely so.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    Actually I edited my comment because I said something in the last part about undrawn and undrawn "foundation" and it looked like I was repeating a few words (typo) and and so I edited it. I ended up rewording it to clarify a little. However, I did not state that my plastic got drawn first. (Not sure why you thought that?) I was trying to say that mixing them both together resulted in a mess......unlike last year where I had a hive and used only wood foundationless. They did better last year. This year I had undrawn small cell PF in the middle (two hives) and on the sides I put drawn foundation (some with stores and some without). I also had empty wooden frames added to the sides. If I had only know then!! The honey combs on the sides were being pulled into the empty space provided by an empty wooden frame next to it. There were other goofy things going on. My mistake. Also, I am not a he.

    Based on what I have read recently and what I experienced, I would not mix it unless the "rules" are followed. Basically, once it is drawn out, it is okay to mix. Otherwise, be careful.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    If you put a foundationless box on top of a hive with no drawn combs in it, it is quite a mission for the bees to go all the way up and start building combs from the top bars, unless it's a strong hive they will just let the box sit. When you added the plastic frames Aram, what you did was provide a "bridge" that the bees could start working on, right next to their cluster, and this took them eventually to the top of the box, and from there they started working on the foundationless frames.

    However, most brands of plastic foundation the bees do not like and will only draw if there is a good flow. This is quite aesy to test, put a box of some plastic foundation and some wax foundation, and the bees will preferentially build on the wax foundation, only building on the plastic when they have to.

    This is also why you can get a lot of burr comb built between new plastic foundation, the bees are trying to avoid the plastic.

    Having said all that, there are some people that swear by plastic foundation. Like many things bees, there can be a lot of variables that will influence an outcome. In the case of plastic foundation these variables will include the brand, how much wax coating is on it, strength of the hive, honey flow, breed of bee, and no doubt others.

    And to the 3 combs of drone comb comment, yes that is correct. A natural hive will often have around 20% drone comb. So if a hive is given 3 drone combs in their brood nest, that can largely satisfy their desire for drone comb, and encourage them to built pure worker comb on the new frames.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  15. #15
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    Jan 2011
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    Default Re: Small cell ???

    I have seen a lot of bridge comb on wax foundation too but don't want to argue about bee preference. My observation is that some hives care and some don't. When drawing the ML plastic frames, some colonies built a wild polyglot of all cell sizes possible; seeming to totally ignore the foundation. Some are good little beavers and follow the engineers blueprint. When i extracted, I removed the worst of those constructions with my hive tool and will let them try again. But by the end of the year my bees are mostly a smaller body sized version of the bees that came in my nucs. Virtually all my frames are now the 4.9 cell plastic with the nuc wooden frames in the 1 and ten position or sometimes in the 1 and 11 position as I shaved most of the frames. I want to see if the smaller cell/smalller spacing results in faster buildup. Before they start using those outside frames though, I am going to put in a follower or dummy on one side so I can work them without rolling so many bees. The tight spacing is terrible for that! I have yet to see the supposed benefits of small cell, but I can't see any real harm either. It has all been great fun though and that is what my bees are about these days.

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