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  1. #1
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    Default How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free program?

    I went back and read some of the threads in 2003 when Dee was posting here. One of the main topics of discussion at that time was "regression." How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free program? Even before this forum was here, I ran another email list called BioBee, for a few years. This was an off shoot from Bee-L, where those of us interested in discussing the Lusby's methodology could do so in much greater detail. Even then, it was obvious that this was an area of great tension, dealing with regression. Dee was pro regress and let the chips fall where they may, while other's felt there was a place for soft treatments while one was fading out LC and switching to SC through the regression process. In the end, Dee drew a hard line and decided to start her own group where she could set the discussion rules. So be it.

    Today there doesn't seem to be much discussion about regression. Not like it use to anyway. I guess with available use of some small celled plastic foundation, some of the hair-pulling work of shakedowns in regression can be avoided.
    Regards, Barry

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    To do this, you should clearly state an objective, not just how to regress the bees, but how and when it will be done. I will post my thoughts on how to do it and others can chip in with their ideas.

    Objective: to move bees onto small cell combs within one growing season. Presume that all treatments will be stopped as soon as the bees are on small cell brood combs.

    The first hurdle is to get some known varroa tolerant queens. We really should put up a list as a sticky of places to get them. I will suggest Purvis since I have tried his stock and know it works. The queens can be switched out pretty much at any stage during the regression. The reason for the tolerant queens is that it gives a safety factor for the regression.
    Suppliers:
    http://www.purvisbees.com/
    http://ziaqueenbees.com/
    http://www.glenn-apiaries.com/


    Select the type foundation you want to use. Mann Lake sells PF100 and PF120 which is a fast easy way with plastic. I chose to do it the hard way by going with wax. I ordered my small cell wax foundation from Dadant in 2005 and worked on converting the bees that summer. I got at least 6 good brood combs in each of my colonies. The way I did it was to give them 3 frames of foundation which they drew out and mucked up pretty bad. After a cycle of brood in those frames, I gave them 3 more frames which they then drew out very well. Each year, I give them 3 more frames in the brood nest and cycle out the oldest 3 frames. With perseverance and possibly some feeding, all the frames in a brood nest can be small cell after one summer.
    Small cell suppliers:
    http://www.dadant.com/
    http://www.mannlakeltd.com/
    https://kelleybees.com/
    http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/

    Select the colonies to be regressed. These colonies should have a large worker population. Start by moving any poor quality combs to the side of the brood nest. These combs will be removed to make room for the small cell frames. This can be done sometime in very early spring when the weather cooperates and hopefully some pollen is available.

    As an aside, I use 11 frames each 31 mm center to center in a brood chamber. While this is not necessary to regress the bees, if you choose to convert, now is a good time to do so.

    Prepare the small cell frames. Either buy, build, or clean up and wire enough frames to put 3 frames with foundation into the center of the brood nest. This is one place where the plastic frames from Mann Lake can save time. The bees will more readily build small cell on them than they will on wax. If you prefer as I do to avoid plastic, then be prepared to see a lot of comb built that is anything but small cell. When the main nectar flow begins, insert wax foundation if needed and put the frames into the center of the brood nest. If you are running double brood chambers, this will probably be in the top brood chamber. The objective is to put the foundation where it can be used and where the bees will want to fill the open space very fast. This seems to ease the process of getting them to draw out small cell.

    Wait 2 to 3 weeks, then check the frames to see how the bees are doing at building out the foundation. If a colony is really mucking it up, mark the colony and leave the frames alone. You are looking for the 10% of colonies that will draw small cell with few problems. When you find one, remove some of the good frames from the brood nest and add 3 more frames of small cell foundation in the center. Please remember that the main flow will probably be on so you may have a LOT of heavy lifting to do. Take the built out small cell frames that look decent and add them one at a time to the colonies that mucked things up really bad. Take the removed mucked up frames and other old frames and clean them out and get them ready for another round. The removed frames may have quite a bit of honey in them. I cut them out into a storage bucket so I can feed it back to the bees in the summer.

    Wait 2 to 3 more weeks and repeat the process of removing frames, adding good built frames, and cycling the bees through so the brood nest is all small cell. You may have to let the bees raise some brood in the mucked up frames which should have at least some cells properly built. Once that brood hatches, they will naturally draw out small cell foundation.

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

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    The way I did it was to give them 3 frames of foundation which they drew out and mucked up pretty bad. After a cycle of brood in those frames, I gave them 3 more frames which they then drew out very well. Each year, I give them 3 more frames in the brood nest and cycle out the oldest 3 frames.
    Please give more detail about placement of these frames. Did you place them all together, inter spaced them, etc.
    Regards, Barry

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    Well done Mr. Jones. Thank you.

    This reminds me of my progress, though I started with packages. Having a timeline would seem to me to help nicely. I was also quite money, equipment, cash, honeyflow, and money limited.

    To further address the OP, what sort of treatments ought one to use whilst one is in the fade? Certainly we should suggest the things we here already consider manipulations like striking drone brood, screened bottom boards, splitting and the like. We want to keep the wax as clean as possible. I wouldn't know anything about actual treatments.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    Is it commonly felt that there is a hereditary factor that affects the tendency for some bees to more readily draw sc or is the tendency to draw it strongly affected by the current sizes of the workers.

    My question is along the lines of "does regression depend upon waiting till the right hereditary cards are dealt" or does pupating in a somewhat downsized cell result in a physically smaller bee that will have the right sized measuring stick to build the next smaller cells? Trying to get my head around the mechanics of the process.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    The method that was recommended to me by the Lusby's was to do shakedowns, where a LC colony has all bees shaken into a hive filled with SC foundation, using a queen excluder on the bottom until the queen was laying. Tough on bees. Of course no treatments were used after that as everything was clean. To do a regression method over a period of time, keeping the bees from crashing is far more important. This is where I can see the usefulness of some treatments to get over the hump.
    Regards, Barry

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    In the small cell studies thread there was criticism to the building of frames in honey supers to be used for the study. I have never used small cell so I would have probably done the same.
    Why isn't the foundation drawn out properly? Does it depend on wax vs plastic foundation. Would it work once the hives are regressed or should frames only be built up in the brood chambers?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    JD,
    Small cell foundation is the size for brood comb. The bees don't seem to want to draw it to store honey like they will for larger foundations. Like Dar said, they draw it in the brood nest, and only in limited quantities each year. This closer approximates natural comb production where bees when they enter a new cavity build a certain amount of brood comb and then start on honey comb.

    If you put small cell foundation in a super, you will get some really messed up comb and much of it will be drone or honey sized. I haven't had enough plastic frames drawn to be able to say how well they do it, but the half dozen or so that have been drawn look nearly flawless so far. More to report next year.

    My honey comb is mostly poorly drawn regular comb or older comb which has been torn out and replaced with pretty large sections of drone. Every year, I try to add two new frames to each brood box and I usually end up melting a couple dozen of the most poorly drawn frames. If you are using foundationless or a combination, you can get good solid honey comb in the supers and leave it up there. I try to space out the honey combs to nine frames per box and brood frames to 11 per box.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    How many SC frames need to be drawn out by the end of the first season? I run singles so would it be okay if only the centre of the brood was SC (4-6 frames) or would it be better to have all the frames changed over?
    Just wondering if there is any drawback to having a mix of LC and SC.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    In my experience, there are no drawbacks to having a mix of small and large cell given that the core of the broodnest is on small cell, however, I made a point of having both varroa tolerant queens and small cell at the same time so there would be a safety margin. Even with this effort, my commercial Carniolan queens all died out from varroasis.

    Maybe I should expand on that. I had queens from 3 sources at the time I moved to small cell. There were about 3 commercial Carniolans, 5 feral swarm caught queens, and 9 queens from Purvis. Of the bees that successfully made the transition to small cell and survived over the last 6 years, one was an exceptional but very hot feral queen, 3 were from the Purvis stock, and none made it from the Carniolans. From the feral queen, I raised enough queens and mated them with drones from the Purvis stock so that I could make splits and rebuild to 16 colonies as of 2008. At this point, my bees are about 60% derived from the feral queen. She turned out to be exceptional both in honey production and in varroa tolerance.

    In 2008 and 2009 I deliberately let about 50 or 60 swarms get away. This was my way of re-stocking some resistant genetics in the area around my 3 apiaries. As of this past season, I kept all of my bees from swarming and focused on honey production. My best colony produced 5 shallow supers full of honey which in round figures would be about 200 pounds.

    Barry, I put all 3 frames with foundation in the center of the broodnest and all of them together. I don't think it would have mattered to the bees one way or another if I had spread them out. Most of the combs were badly mucked up on the first round. I had 2 colonies that did a decent job of drawing them out. From those two colonies, I harvested enough combs to seed the broodnest of several more colonies on the next round.

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

  11. #11
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    If I were doing it today, I'd just buy the PF100s (or PF120s in my case since they are mediums) and feed them in as you can. Pull all the pollen and honey frames out or above an excluder as you go. Once things are warm enough you can even pull the capped brood above an excluder to get it out. I would guess you could, in a typical year, regress a hive altogether without ever taking their brood. If you don't like plastic, then just do natural comb and accept that there will be a couple of turnovers of comb at least and maybe even three turnovers. Anyone could do this if they are following the typical advice of replacing their combs every five years they would have their entire operation converted in five years with no additional labor and only the cost of the inexpensive PF100s. You could, if you have wax, just cut the center of the comb out and throw it away and put the frame right back to get natural comb. Much easier than putting foundation in and wiring it, not to mention it's cheaper...

    A package, of course, is even easier. Just put them on the PF100 series frames or the HSC.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    "Why don't bees draw out small cell properly in supers?"

    This takes a bit more answering that you would expect. Honey Bees build a range of cell sizes from very small in the center of the brood next expanding gradually to the periphery where they often switch over to building drone cells. The bees instinctively store honey away from the brood nest in the larger cells. So if you put small cell foundation in a honey super, the instinct of the bees to build larger honey storage cells overrides the guide that the foundation should provide. The result is severely messed up combs. There is also an effect where bees that mature in small cell tend to accept and work small cell. That means you need to get hatching brood from the small cell combs as fast as possible. The only way to do so is to put it in the brood nest where the bees will use it.

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

  13. #13
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    If the queeen isn't restricted to the brood nest and lays in the honey supers would all that brood then not be small cell? If I super at the end of june and the queen spends a couple of weeks laying in those supers will that have an affect on the varroa population going into fall?
    Also the climate map shows cell size for my area of 5.0-5.2. Can I use any foundation in that range?

  14. #14
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    Default Re: How does a beekeeper, currently treating on LC, move to a SC treatment free progr

    JD, The question re size for your climate is not really relevant because the bees you have available were most likely produced from large cell foundation. You can get bees adapted to using 4.8 mm up to 5.5 mm for worker cells. Outside those ranges, you would have to get some exotic subspecies that we don't have in North America. I would suggest using 4.9 mm foundation and working with the bees until they will use it properly. You might lose a small amount of body size, but you will get the bees back to a normal size cell.

    I can see one potential advantage to larger bees in a cold climate. They are just a tad less likely to get chilled when flying on cold winter days. There is a similar effect where darker bees have an advantage in more northern climates.

    In my experience, it is best to give the bees brood comb to raise brood. I rarely see brood in my supers. I am using 11 frames per brood chamber with 2 brood chambers on each full size colony.

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

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