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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Remsen, NY, USA
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    367

    Default Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    Rather than hijack others threads about small cell comb, I was hoping someone could shed some light on something I've been wondering about.

    With repeated brood cycles, wouldn't those larger cells eventually shrink to small cells with each successive layer of cocoons anyway?

    Before mites were a problem, I understood we were to change out old brood comb because these smaller cells weren't as well accepted by the queen.

    Thanks for any attempts to update my old lessons.

    Thanks, Steve

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    Pictures of comb cross sections show that the bees chew out most of the cacoons on the walls, but less so in the bottoms of the cell.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,119

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    >With repeated brood cycles, wouldn't those larger cells eventually shrink to small cells with each successive layer of cocoons anyway?

    Yes. After 20 years they will be small cell.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    I'm using the lazy method- Every time I add a new frame (or make new splits that require new frames, or just rotate out very old frames)... I'm giving the bees new deep frames that are foundationless, with popsicle sticks across the top and some fishing line in a simple X across the middle. I usually put the new foundationless frames in between already fully drawn brood frames. They then always draw the new comb straight.

    In going from 2 to 5 colonies this year by splitting, I figure a little more than half of my 75 deep brood frames are already either natural or small cell at this point. Each year that percentage will increase. Granted this is the lazy way to do it, but it seems to be working ok for me. My bees seem fine with it, they don't hesitate on any of the frames.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
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    5,079

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    I typically add two frames of foundation to each 10 frame box every year. Two years ago, on a really good hive, I added an entire box of foundation to a hive at the second position from the bottom. It was drawn and filled and I got about two deeps of honey from that hive. Lately as I've amassed small cell comb, I'll withdraw poorly drawn frames or those with huge amounts of drone comb and melt them in a big stainless steel box I bought from the local restaurant supply company. Or, I use the younger of them in the boxes above the third deep and space them 9 to a box. This doesn't stop the bees from setting up the broodnest up there, naturally.

    Since starting with packages on small cell foundation 8.5 years ago, that's all I've done to regress. Now, I get perfectly drawn 4.9mm comb most of the time in the spring. Also purchasing some small cell nucs has helped.

    I change out the old comb because wax attracts and holds lipophilic pollutants in the same way the fat in your body does. It holds and sequesters toxic materials like heavy metals. Furthermore, wax comb is not meant to be a permanent fixture in a natural hive. Part of the cycle of the use of a cavity in the wild is periodic vacation by the original bees and destruction by wax moths. Then the hive is populated by a new swarm who cleans it out and starts over. In my view, clean wax is one of the major factors for a full and healthy microbial population in the hive and the full and natural expression of hygienic behavior.

    To re-address the original question, I found what I was looking for this morning. http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/smalboldcomb.html

    It seems to me that if a queen rejects a cell it will more likely be because it has become too shallow rather than too narrow.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,211

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    The statement that combs in the wild are periodically renewed because of die-outs and wax worms is not necessarily true. I cut a bee tree about 33 years ago that had comb easily 50 years old. It was so hard that I had to either cut it with a saw or chop it out with a hatchet. The comb was fully used with either honey or brood. The brood cells tended to be soft with a very hard midrib and the honey cells tended to be brittle and very thick. The combs would break almost like tough glass. I suspect but could not prove the colony had died out one or more times in the past but had been readily re-occupied by swarms. My point being that the combs had not been destroyed in a very long time. I've worked with combs that were 30 years old in my colonies. The combs in this bee tree were definitely older, thicker, and harder.

    DarJones
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    Well, that's nature for you. Anything you think is true, there are always exceptions.

    Just as a side thing, when I moved to Arkansas and left my bees in Oregon for 2.5 years under the care of a local sideliner, he noted enthusiastically that wax moths much quicker went after my untreated comb than after his treated comb.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Remsen, NY, USA
    Posts
    367

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    Thanks gang,

    That's what I love about this forum. When ideas flow like this we all learn something.

    Steve

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
    Posts
    2,692

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    Mr Bush said:

    Yes. After 20 years they will be small cell.

    I agree. Alot of our comb seems to be around 3 times older than 20 years(we have a batch from 20 years ago, they look new). How many frames do you see with top bars that are narrowed on the ends to a 3/8th tip(as seen from the top)?

    Yes, they will eventually chew them down to the midrib and redraw the cell walls.

    Crazy Roland

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    686

    Default Re: Brood Comb Transition To Small Cell

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    I cut a bee tree about 33 years ago that had comb easily 50 years old. It was so hard that I had to either cut it with a saw or chop it out with a hatchet.

    DarJones
    haha that is too cool. If it was possible, i personally would have saved it.

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