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  1. #1
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    Default Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Last week I did a swarm cutout and measured the brood comb. Details are here:

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...076#post799076

    I salvaged enough of the brood comb and wired it into three medium frames, putting it in the center of a medium brood chamber with SC foundation filling out the remaining frames. I looked into it for the first time yesterday and was happy to see the queen.

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...016#post801016

    One thing I noticed right away. All the brood comb from the cutout was uniform in cell size, 5.08. The comb they have made on the 4.9 foundation is not uniform. There are transition cells all over the place. The foundation was made using the Lusby's mill. Dee has always made her foundation with only the bottom rhombus and no cell walls. It's a very shallow imprint as she wants to allow the (her) bees increase or decrease the cell size as needed. I have never had any of my bees draw out cells on this foundation anything like what her bees do, where a whole frame would be uniform 4.9 cell size. I get patches here and there. Here are bees that drew out uniform comb of 5.08 cell size, and yet when put on foundation, they can't do a very good job of going 1.08 smaller.

    Once they get established and a cycle of brood has gone through, I'll take some pictures of the comb. I'm wondering if the cell imprint of the foundation is an issue here. I don't know of anyone else here who has used foundation milled from Dee's mill. Seems like everyone else is using foundation that has a more prominent cell imprint.
    Regards, Barry

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Hmm... That's quite a puzzle.

    I noticed it's a real beauty of a queen and a very italian looking bee. Probably a bit different than Lusbees, do you normally use her foundation?

    Was ALL the brood nest in the wild hive 5.08? Maybe there's some larger bees in there also?

    Other than that Barry this small cell stuff is still very much a learning curve for me, so I'll be interested in what light others can share on this.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #3
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    Nashville, TN., USA
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Even though it hasn't as of yet been mentioned, I suppose it must go without saying that the swarm thats comb is being measured here evedently had swarmed out of a 5.4mm hive somewhere, and not been in the wild long enough to have naturally regressed. Bees that are not 4.9 cannot build 4.9 comb. I realize that bees that have already regressed are not going to all be uniform 4.9 in size, but they will be able to uniformly draw out 4.9 comb on 4.9 foundation. If I am mistaking here I'm open for correction.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    "Bees that are not 4.9 cannot build 4.9 comb."

    Then how do bees that are 5.4 build perfect 5.08 all on their own with no imprint to help them? This doesn't make sense to me. Besides, this swarm had already raised several cycles of brood, so basically they are 5.08 bees now, already regressed.
    Regards, Barry

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    What happens when you have always used a British ruler to lay out floor tile and then all the tiles are now sized metric. You do the best you can and then when you notice you are incrementally running off you start making adjustments. The bees were use to making cells on a 5.08 repeat and now you have given them a new floor plan. Give them some slack. Don't give them foundation and then complain they did it wrong. They are adapting to what you are doing.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    do you normally use her foundation?
    Yes, I still have quite a bit of it. I took all my wax with me when I went to visit them and we milled it all.

    Was ALL the brood nest in the wild hive 5.08? Maybe there's some larger bees in there also?
    All the brood comb look pretty uniform in size. All the drone comb was being filled with honey. Of course all the honey comb was much larger, but still uniform. This is the only brood comb I didn't wire in because it had been filled with honey.

    Regards, Barry

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Ace, I think you're missing my main point. I find it amazing that bees that were probably from a managed hive having built comb on 5.4 foundation can swarm and just like that build near perfect "wild" 5.08 comb! So they built near perfect 5.4 comb with a guide, 5.08 without any guide, but having trouble with 4.9 using a guide.

    Here is a frame taken from one of my older SC hives. This comb was drawn out a few weeks ago. I'm making splits from this hive!

    Regards, Barry

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    It seems to me that the bees just haven't regressed down as far as 4.9 at this point. Apparently they have regressed down to 5.08. Small ajustments are eayser to make than large ajustments. From what I understand, it takes quite a long time, many brood hatchings of bees for a 5.4 colony to regress down to 4.9 naturally by building their own comb even (not on foundation). However, with forced regression, the 1st hatching of bees will emerge as 4.9s. I have a forced regressioin experiement going on myself right now too. I certainly dont claim to be an expert on bee cell size anyway but trying to learn all I can and I think I got a ways to go. I also understand that bees in the wild that have long sence been regressed fully if they ever even needed to be, their cell size is varied, perhaps even reaching as big as 5.4mm.; but fluctuating close to 4.9. I suppose maybe if bees have cell size specifications with tolerances in their blueprints, 5.08 is withen the tolerance range for 5.4 bees. 4.9 is not. I have also accounted for the fact that several generations of hatchings have came about sence you installed these bees as you did mention.
    Last edited by LampBurner; 05-23-2012 at 10:38 AM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    When bees make a single cell do they go inside it? If I were building a hexaganal shaped wall with bricks I could build the entire thing without going inside, maybe it's the same with the bees.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Barry I've now had a similar experience, around a couple of months ago I purchased 120 sheets small cell wax foundation, so I can get my first small cell nucs started. Been putting it in the hives to start on drawing it, and they've been doing a CRAP job, much of it enlarged to drone cells as well as larger worker size. This is in fully regressed hives on almost perfect sc comb, so I was at a bit of a loss to understand what was happening.

    Anyhow, took a close look at the foundation under a magnifying glass, and some of the cell walls were non existant, plus the cell bottoms seemed to have other patterns stamped in them. I rang the guy I bought it from, and it turns out they had some technical problem so ran the sheets of wax through a 5.5 cell foundation machine, then straight away through the small cell machine. At first glance it looks like normal foundation, but on closer examination, there is still a cell edge imprint inside the cells, from the different cell size. This, combined with the lack of some cell walls, gives the bees total option to build larger cells using the different imprints, if they want. So a small cell, could easily be made a drone cell, by expanding it to the nearest imprint in the next cell.

    So, what to do? Done two things and it seems to be working, but it will take a while to get all combs drawn. I'm just feeding the foundation into the hives one at a time, central brood nest. Outside of central brood nest, small cell is just not going to happen, on this particular batch of foundation. Also, I've removed all drone comb from the hive and this may be why they are wanting to build drone comb. So I've given each hive 3 full drone combs. Seems to have worked they are now building only worker cells.

    So what I'm doing now is letting the bees build a comb, and the queen to lay in it. Then it gets moved towards the outside of the brood area and a new frame of foundation put in the middle. The reason to let the queen lay in it is to get a cocoon in each cell so the bees will not enlarge the cells later. As I'm adding new frames to the centre, I'm pulling frames from the outside of the box to make room. All brood has hatched by the time it's got to the outside of the box.

    Likely a similar situation to your Lusby foundation, with the cells being less well defined and allowing the bees to do what they want. Anyway that's what I'm doing, let's know how it's going.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    Barry
    Excuse my dilettante question: how do you know that measured "natural" comb is recent "brood comb"? I do not see any larva in your pictures. I measured the old comb, which looks very similar to yours and it was 5.4mm even it was foundationless... I think, proper measurement would be to measure the cells with larva to ensure that it is a current "brood comb". Sergey

  12. #12
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    Jul 2012
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    Blount County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    The post below was in another thread but I figure it relates to this discussion so I will post it here also....

    An intersting study done with Foundationless and Small cell (4.9mm) foundation can be found at the link below:

    http://rosecombapiaries.com/2012/02/bee-research-2009/

    In this study the bees still built the foundation the same size as standard foundation and ignored the small cell print. Also, the study finds that most bees in the region tested used 5.2-5.4mm in nature, unless you are talking about German bees or africanized which will use closer to 4.9mm in nature. Anyway, I don't know too much but I found this study interesting. TIFWIW

    I would be interested to see what others find. If you currently use 4.9mm foundation and wouldn't mind actually measuring your built up comb and posting the results I would be very interested. I would suspect most would be built up larger as in this study.

    I am an engineer so I rely on data and facts so I love looking into studies like this one. If you know of any other studies and want to post that might be relevant to the discussion I would appreciate it. The study above was done by a person from the University of Tennessee with a person from the University of Georgia.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Natural comb perfection vs. foundation imperfection

    I have an interesting scenario that sounds like it belongs in this thread. I bought my NUC which I had thought was SC but the person selling to me said no. I had purchased SC plastic frames and put them on. Some of my SC frames are drawn out and look like well drawn comb, though comb has been slow to draw. I was blaming the bees, but now wonder if having the SC to draw slowed things down?? Also the queen does not seem to like the SC plastic frames and does not lay on them as well as on the original frames (which happen to be wood). Now I wonder if they drew 4.9 or drew larger.

    Dan

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