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Hi all.

So, this is not my first venture into beekeeping. As a teenager, I worked in an Apiary for a few summers while I was in school. That gave me a taste for beekeeping. In 2016, I got a pair of nucs that I built into *great* second year hives. However, their second summer ended up with us moving, a bear encounter (knocking down and tearing up some of the boxes / frames) and me re-building the colonies in a thunderstorm the next morning.

After all that stress, those two hives became very aggressive - you started getting bumped at 10ft, and if you opened up the hive, you had a swarm all over you no matter the weather or how you applied smoke. This was a real change as before, I could manage the bees barehanded and in shorts without concern. It was forecast to be a long and cold winter, so I left extra honey on the hives to winter them. However, I believe I left them more space then they could heat, and both colonies died during the winter.

I'm now preparing to try again, with some slight revisions to the plan based on experience and research:

  1. I want to go with all medium equipment - would have saved a lot of trouble after the bear demolished more deep frames in the brood chamber than I could replace.
  2. I want to go foundationless, and try to regress my bees to small cell. I'm hoping that will lead to better mite control.
  3. I'd like to move towards treatment-free beekeeping. This is a long term goal that isn't worth considering until #2 is attained and my genetics are more oriented to local feral stock rather than the import queens I'm getting, so I'll cross this bridge in a year or two.

I have lots of drawn comb on large cell frames if I want to use it.

Now, the nucs I've ordered are going to be 8-frame mediums with standard large-cell foundation in them. They will be ready near the end of May.

Question 1: How would you recommend I begin transitioning to foundationless?

My initial thought was to place my 8 nuc frames into a medium box, and place the two foundationless on the edges of the brood nest to start with. Once drawn and hopefully laid, I would move them to the center and eliminate the outer large-cell frames, then slowly add foundationless frames to the middle of the box, pushing the large cell frames to the edges and (eventually) out.

I would also add a second medium box with alternating frames of large cell drawn (to act as a guide) and foundationless. As the foundationless gets drawn, I would start moving the large cell foundation to the edge of the box, with the intent of hopefully moving it out completely as well.

I'm assuming that I will need to repeat this process next spring to complete the regression.

Does anyone have any suggestions about how I could do this better?

Question 2: Should I let them use my existing drawn large cell comb for honey storage?

I feel hesitant to tear down all the large cell drawn frames I have if it could be a positive resource. Given my goal of trying to get to 100% small cell / foundationless, should I consider using my existing drawn comb for honey storage? It would save the bees work, especially when the flow is on! However, would this be counterproductive?
 

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>Question 1: How would you recommend I begin transitioning to foundationless?
>My initial thought was to place my 8 nuc frames into a medium box, and place the two foundationless on the edges of the brood nest to start with. Once drawn and hopefully laid, I would move them to the center and eliminate the outer large-cell frames, then slowly add foundationless frames to the middle of the box, pushing the large cell frames to the edges and (eventually) out.

Basically, yes, that's what I would do at first if they aren't too well populated. If there are enough bees to quickly fill the gap, I would add the empty frames to the middle of the brood nest. One at a time.

>I would also add a second medium box with alternating frames of large cell drawn (to act as a guide) and foundationless. As the foundationless gets drawn, I would start moving the large cell foundation to the edge of the box, with the intent of hopefully moving it out completely as well.

If you are trying to regress I would never add empty large cell comb or large cell foundation. I would leave the large cell brood etc. so as not to stress them by stealing their brood. But as soon as I have five or six frames of small cell, I would move the large cell brood above an excluder and remove it after the brood emerges.

>I'm assuming that I will need to repeat this process next spring to complete the regression.

However long it takes without stressing them too much. Play it by ear.

>Question 2: Should I let them use my existing drawn large cell comb for honey storage?
>I feel hesitant to tear down all the large cell drawn frames I have if it could be a positive resource. Given my goal of trying to get to 100% small cell / foundationless, should I consider using my existing drawn comb for honey storage? It would save the bees work, especially when the flow is on! However, would this be counterproductive?

If you are going to use an excluder you can use the large cell above the excluder for honey.
 

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Maybe I am wrong, but it's my understanding that to "regress" the bees you're going to be forced to buy foundation. Simply giving them foundationless areas to draw comb will #1 give you an increase in drones. More drones usually results in more mites and less honey. The second thing i wanted to bring up is that i'm not sure that simply giving "large cell" bees foundationless combs will result in any "regression". As I understand it they build new combs in relation to their own size. So a large cell bee builds mostly large cells and "small cell" bees are going to continue to build small cells.
If i'm wrong on this sorry i'm not trying to mislead or anything. My understanding of it though says your current plan won't get you to "small cell" bees. Good luck though and i'm glad you're giving it another try.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Maybe I am wrong, but it's my understanding that to "regress" the bees you're going to be forced to buy foundation. Simply giving them foundationless areas to draw comb will #1 give you an increase in drones. More drones usually results in more mites and less honey. The second thing i wanted to bring up is that i'm not sure that simply giving "large cell" bees foundationless combs will result in any "regression". As I understand it they build new combs in relation to their own size. So a large cell bee builds mostly large cells and "small cell" bees are going to continue to build small cells.
If i'm wrong on this sorry i'm not trying to mislead or anything. My understanding of it though says your current plan won't get you to "small cell" bees. Good luck though and i'm glad you're giving it another try.
My understanding is that they will build something in between their 'bred' size (5.4mm or whatever) and their 'natural' size (somewhere between 4.5 and 5mm). So it will often take a few passes of regression to get the down to their natural size again.
 

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Are you in touch with others in the area that have been able to keep bees alive by going small cell and treatment free? It is going to be difficult in that area to control your genetics and robbing is fierce. General varroa background levels are high.
 

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>Maybe I am wrong, but it's my understanding that to "regress" the bees you're going to be forced to buy foundation.

Not necessarily, though that may speed things up.

> Simply giving them foundationless areas to draw comb will #1 give you an increase in drones. More drones usually results in more mites and less honey.

My experience is that I do not end up with more mites or less honey. According to a study by Page & Metcaff the more drones you have the more honey you get. See ABJ Oct 2017 pg 1095 article by Keith Delaphane titled "How many drones are enough?"

>The second thing i wanted to bring up is that i'm not sure that simply giving "large cell" bees foundationless combs will result in any "regression".

In my experience it will.

>As I understand it they build new combs in relation to their own size. So a large cell bee builds mostly large cells and "small cell" bees are going to continue to build small cells.

There is a certain amount of this that is genetic and a certain amount that is body size. But after a few turnovers of comb you will be at what is normal for those bees.

http://bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm#whatisregression
 

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I would also add a second medium box with alternating frames of large cell drawn (to act as a guide) and foundationless. As the foundationless gets drawn, I would start moving the large cell foundation to the edge of the box, with the intent of hopefully moving it out completely as well.
I have not transitioned my hives to small cells, so I am not commenting on that part.

I have mixed drawn and empty frames together in one box. I ended up with several wonky frames that ended up drawn really deep and the ones next to them barely drawn out. I think you would be better off adding one foundation less frame at a time into the middle of the brood chamber. If you add an empty frame between 2 frames of completely capped brood it will be drawn out to the correct width. I am not sure how to encourage the hive to draw it out as worker and not drone cells though.
 

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I am not sure how to encourage the hive to draw it out as worker and not drone cells though.
Until now I've been using nucs (who don't have any need for drones) to draw out worker comb - but - Oldtimer recently gave us a bl##dy good tip:

Save your drone comb - then - when you want worker comb drawn out, ensure that there's plenty of drone comb in the box. The bees will then know that they have plenty of that for their needs, and will draw-out worker comb instead.

A brilliant tip (wish I'd thought of it ...)
LJ
 

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yes good ideas from all. I am doing a couple hive the same with FL frames. I am also putting 18FL1 on the frames, these were "added in 2018 Foundationless, 1st generation" Some of the hives this year are getting the exact wood FL frames but they will have 19FL2 , added in 2019 FL gen 2. what I plan to do is get the whole brood nest to Gen1 then start in the center again with Gen 2. Not sure if needed but I may do a gen 3. I am doing this in 8 frame gear, 20% less frames. So I hope to get to the goal 20% faster. Consider in 2 or 3 years how will you know what frames were first second etc, so you can "progress" in a direction. Also I often extract full frames and if they are gen 1 or 2 they can be used if the fashion I intended, since they will be marked. All my original and gen 1 combs will end up in supers for extraction. the wonky ones get crush and strain, re-use the frame. be sure to level good side to side. let us know how it goes.
GG
 
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