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In Brushy Mountain's catalog it warns that only experienced beekeepers should use small cell foundation. Why is that? What are the drawbacks to using small cell?
 

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When I tried small cell foundation, my bees didn't just draw small cell. They made what seemed like the ugliest frames of comb I had ever seen. I'm not sure that I got any small cells out of the half case that I tried. I've heard rumors of bees drawing it out okay, but in my case they never did. I still have the other half case of foundation. I had been keeping bees for 15 years by that time. They had that warning back then too. It was pretty frustrating for me and I'm guessing that they want to warn people that they might not get the nice frames of comb that they see in pictures. At least I never did. I do still have a couple of those frames (I dated (2007) and marked them SC), so some were usable.
 

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There is quite a learning curve to find out how to get bees to draw it the way you want it. Mean time you will have a lot of messes made as per Beeteedee.

Also, even after you've been through the learning curve you will still get screw ups.

One little hint of general issues with this, is the way you'll see small cell beekeepers saying their problem is a shortage of drawn comb. A lot of them have given up the idea of having small cell comb throughout the hive and just have it central brood nest, or use a blend of small cell foundation and natural comb in the hives.

Having said all that anyone can do it, I found converting bees to small cell a very interesting experience.
 

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a few beekeepers claim benefits but no researcher or university can not prove any benefits in their tests. there are followers but has yet to be proven.
 

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Queens are reluctant to lay in the small cells, my queens would go 3 to 4 weeks before they would start to lay. Queens that came from commercial producers acted the same way. The bees would supersede the queen and usually the queen the bees raised would lay ok. If you wanted new genetics in your bees or wanted to try a different race of bee, it was the same problem again.

My bees had to draw the third group of combs before they made comb that was to 4.9 mm standards, and I considered the % of worker cells below my standards. I used wax foundation to start regressing, they may not have had as much trouble if I had used plastic foundation foundations in 4.9. Nothing was as simple as it is stated to be on the internet.

The number of varroa produced by the small cell colonies was actually a little higher than the numbers produced in my standard size cell colonies. All colonies had varroa populations over the 4000 mark, that is the number at which point that they need treating in this area. None were given treatments, neither the standard cell or the 4.9 cell colonies. Each group of 20 lost 1 colony overwinter. At the end of three years both groups maintained about the same numbers of varroa, had the same amount of losses, but the standard cell had a little edge in honey produced. The small cell had many more queen supersedures and generally were still poor at drawing comb .

The bees that drew the best small cell comb were all daughters of a queen from Texas. They had the fewest varroa in small cell and in standard cell, although all were over 4000.

After the three years of playing with the small cell, I felt it was not doing as advertised and started phasing out the small cell comb. I can't recommend small cell, it just did not live up to the hype. I do intend to play with just one colony this year. I bought some of the plastic HSC combs in 4.9, and rather than let them sit in storage, I'll do 4.9 one more time. This time I'll not expect much, so I won't be disappointed.
 

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I use the PF series from Mann Lake. I have had very little trouble getting them to draw it out well, if you only give them those frames to start. Some times you do have to scrape the frames a little, but it is not a big deal. When I have tried mixing frames (which is my standard setup 75/25% SC/foundationless) usually have issues if I start with foundationless and add the SC later. If I start with the SC and add the foundationless later I have had few problems.

I do not know if it helps with mites, but I am sure it does not hurt.
 

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Michael bush would say none and it is the only way hes found to run a substanable apairy, otherwise colonies succumb to varrao and the diseases they vector.

I run standard cell, never tried small cell. From what i've read...if you decide to go the small cell foundation route, you'll need to buy small cells bees or use natural foundation and regress them yourself. Regression will take several years and you'll need to cull out "good" large cell comb. :-( Eventually you will have small cell bees that will readily draw out 4.9mm foundation instead of standard 5.2-5.4mm.
 

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Queens are reluctant to lay in the small cells, my queens would go 3 to 4 weeks before they would start to lay.
I had some that never would. All of the hives I started on 5.1 as per the regression instructions then. They all did that well. Most struggled with 4.9 producing a hodge-podge of small, drone and distorted. Several hives could never get it done. I put frames that were drawn as well as any in the hives that couldn't figure it out. Several of those queens couldn't lay in it. None (0) thrived. All had mites and were in full collapse when I threw in the towel.
 

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I used some of the Mann Lake PF 100 series last season and they drew it out reluctantly with a few sqiggly ridges but still acceptatble. That is plastic foundation though; with all 4.9 mm wax foundation they can easily do some creative reworking if they choose. This may depend on nectar flow and hive temperatures. Perhaps bee breeds makes a difference in what ones experience will be.

I think a beginner often has enough on his plate the first year or two without contending with whole hives of exclusively small cell. I would test the waters depth with one foot!;)
 

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For me they built them out nice why the flow was on but when feeding syrup then made some crappie comb that I had to scrap and start over but I have most my brood deeps on 4.9 took 2 years and I still have to a few frames that are LG. cell going to switch them out this year.
 

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In Brushy Mountain's catalog it warns that only experienced beekeepers should use small cell foundation. Why is that?
Send them an email and ask them why they issue this warning. I would be very interested in hearing "their" response to your question, and please post their reply here if you don't mind.
 

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Here is what Mann Lake says in the description of their small cell foundation.

"Small Cell Foundation

Some believe that the 4.9 mm cell impedes the Varroa Mite's ability to reproduce and that it helps to breed a more mite resistant bee. Scientifically, these claims have yet to be confirmed. Let us know how it works for you! Most bees will need to be introduced to this foundation gradually. For the best results use a wedged top bar and split bottom bar."
 

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Introducing different sized foundation gradually is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. I do find that some colonies take to them right away and some won't do a good job of drawing any foundation. Any colony draws foundation best when they need the room to raise brood or store honey and pollen.
 

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I've had no problems if you know and accept that it will take a little work. I currently am working with all wax foundation but will start with the Mann Lake 4.9 this spring now that most of my hives are converted.
1. If I have a caught swarm, they go immediately into 4.9 frames. They draw them out quickly and with no problems.
2. When coverting standard 5.4 hives, it's a frame or two at a time. I run 9 frame brood chambers. I start with 2 frames in the 4 & 6 slot. Once these are drawn out, I place 2 more frames in the 5 & 7 position. After 5 & 7 are drawn, there's no particular order for new frames. Just one or two at a time. This first round will result in funny looking comb sometimes. The cells are now 5.1 in size with some awkward looking, out of line, additional cells that may be drone.
3. Once all 9 are drawn, I then start the process over. This round all frames come out nice and universal 4.9. I will keep one frame of either 5.1 or even 5.4 in the #9 slot for easier drone production.
4. Because I sell a few nucs each year, these "leftover" frames of 5.4 and 5.1 have been my nuc sales frames during the conversion. Now that I have converted almost all of my 30 hives over to 4.9, I will start to sell all the nucs as "Small cell" bees. Last year, I was able to get $15 more per nuc for my actual 4.9s. Hey, that's an extra $600 in my pocket per year once they're all coverted.

Conversion to 4.9 is doable with patience. It's not going to happen immediately if the hive is already well established. It will take all summer to convert, 2 frames at a time. I've even had to feed while converting. But they will do it. I have had no problems on purchased queens immediately into 4.9 as some have claimed here.
 

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as some have claimed here.
An interesting choice of words. I suppose I could have said mine didn't go smoothly.....as some have claimed here. But I didn't because that sounds unnecessarily confrontational. Many have different experiences....which to my thinking is what the op asked. Just sayin'.
 

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The reason I use it is all the feral cutouts and swarms I catch are already small bees and draw brood comb in the 4.7 - 5.1 range to begin with.

I've found with sc that 1 1/4" frame spacing in the brood nest works a lot better.

Don
 

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>In Brushy Mountain's catalog it warns that only experienced beekeepers should use small cell foundation. Why is that?

When I first read that same warning, I had been keeping bees for 27 years and I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to know that a beginner wouldn't. Now I've been doing small cell for 13 years and I still don't know what they thought I would know that a beginner wouldn't...

>What are the drawbacks to using small cell?

Other than the issue of what a large cell bee will do with 4.9mm wax foundation, none. The problem, which they apparently don't want to try to explain in the catalog, is that bees build cells based on their body size and their body size is determined by the cells they were raised on, so bees raised on large cell sometimes don't wan to draw small cell. Using the PF120s and PF100s from Mann Lake I have had no trouble with them drawing it. Less trouble than I've had with other plastic foundation anyway. Bees are never real fond of plastic. The quickest and cheapest way to get bees down to small cell is to put them on the PF100 series. It will also eliminate all those issues with wiring, crimping, embedding and crumpled or sagging foundation and eliminate building frames...
 

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As shown by this thread, the only drawbacks to small cell center around getting the bees converted to small cell. Once they are on fully drawn frames, they use them with no more issues.
 

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And from a different direction. What is the advantage that beekeepers have found from using small cell? I know MB's answer. But what about everyone else. How many beekeepers with 5 years or more of sc no longer have any problem with varroa?
 
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