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Advantage to small cell/natural comb or not?

  • I've been using small cell or natural comb for at least two years and see NO advantage to small cell

    Votes: 10 14.7%
  • I've been using small cell or natural comb for at least two years and I DO see an advantage to small

    Votes: 12 17.6%
  • I've been using small cell or natural comb, have nothing to compare it to, but AM losing hives to Va

    Votes: 5 7.4%
  • I've been using small cell or natural comb, have nothing to compare it to, but am NOT losing hives t

    Votes: 16 23.5%
  • I don't fit the categories of this study but want to see the results anyway.

    Votes: 25 36.8%
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I started out with plastic. 20 frames. Then I bought 50 sheets of small cell wax. These are all in various hives now. Once I found the bees worked foundationless first that's the way I went.

This foundation is spread over 9 hives now. Everything else is foundationless. I voted nothing to compare to but I've never lost a hive to mites.
I've never treated with anything
My bees are local ferel mutts.
 

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I am just finishing up my first year as a beekeeper so voted that I didn't fit but have my bees on HSC and PF100.... 3 hives.... Lost one to a laying worker in the fall and the other 2 (Carni and Local Mutt) seem to be doing well so far....
 

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I have been using small cell for four years and still find its efficacy against mites inconclusive is my category but I like the SC for additional reasons.
 

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I am in the 'dont fit the categories' bunch, clicked on that one just so I could see the results. I have nothing to compare, yet.

But, I do have a whole stack of PF-100 frames in the garage, and am intending to have a 50/50 split between small and large cell nucs by the end of the summer. I will admit, it wasn't my intention to do a side by side experiment, but it just worked out that way. I bought the cheapest plastic frames available to me, and they are 4.9mm. My current stuff is the more expensive variant, with 5.4 mm cells. But it will be an interesting side by side this winter, hope to have half a dozen on each cell size by the time fall arrives, all will be 2 high stacks of 5 frames. So far, our success over 2 winters with the 2 high 5 frame configuration is running at 100%, so I think it'll be at least a small scale real test. Other than the frames in them, all boxes will be managed exactly the same, and that does include a fall mite knockdown same as we've done in years gone past. All of the nucs will be queened with sisters that came from the same mother hive, so it should be a fair test in that respect.

If the first winter goes ok with them, then I'll start looking at reducing treatments for the small cell bees, and see how that goes. I have no intention of just jumping off the deep end and putting bees into boxes with a 'sink or swim' mentality. My first phase is trying to make it so that the cell size on the frames is the ONLY difference.
 

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And I wish we could have consulted on the questions before creating the poll. I believe there should also be some indication as to whether the keeper uses any actual mite testing as opposed to a subjective 'I don't lose hives to mites', for example. And a few other questions to add a broader group and more objectivity.
 

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Come up with the questions, I think they can be added. Or, we'll start another one with the way you want the poll to read.
 

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I don't think the two are linked. Perhaps small cell is just another step in the quest to treat less, or less invasively.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
>I assume anyone who uses small cell is also treatment free? It that a fair assumption?

No, not really. The two biggest suppliers of small cell bees right now would be Fatbeeman and Wolf Creek. Both use essential oils. I would guess you have others doing the same. It's hard to look at every combination of everything, so this is just looking at small cell/natural comb. The question I was trying to answer was Dan's. The reason for four questions instead of two was to try to be more inclusive of people who may not have much of a frame of reference other than losing or not losing hives to Varroa, while the top two are for people who have something to compare to e.g. experience with large cell bees or shared experience with other local beekeepers who have large cell bees.
 

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Why would you assume that just as my Father has many mansions, my toolbox has many tools. Pragmatism is a good thing. I am treatment free up until my colonies are facing threats they are not overcoming. You can't keep bees without having live bees.
I assume anyone who uses small cell is also treatment free? It that a fair assumption?
 

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I use natural cell, but my bees are not regressed, sooo I don't really fit any of this.

I also think that a large number of people who loose hives don't know why and randomly blame "Mites" "Moisture" "Starvation" without ever really seeking out a definitive reason. I recently saw an example of this: A new beekeeper called to order replacement for his dead bees, he stated that he would have to do something about mites next time. I encouraged him to submit samples to the Beelab and he emails me a few days ago stating that the results came back with <4% mite loads... So now instead of assuming mites killed his hive he knows that they didn't and can begin looking for other causes. It could also work the other way due to bias. If a small cell beekeeper looses a hive to mites they are apt to assume queen failure, or starvation and overlook mites as a cause.
 

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I wonder if a full pathologist lab like Beltsville could winkle out the absolute cause of death from most colonies. I think they would have very informed suppositions. Cell size is so immaterial to the whole immediate survival or loss question. My pet peeve is all these big colonies that "froze". That happens occasionally when bees fail to get reclustered in a sudden temperature drop in an unwrapped hive. Bu I bet thousands have been claimed frozen on this forum.

My chief love of Pf frames is that the bees build up fast on it because the colony can cover more cells of brood. It is also cheap and durable. When very experienced beeks claim it has other benefits, I just have to listen.
 

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Come up with the questions, I think they can be added. Or, we'll start another one with the way you want the poll to read.
I don't see any point trying dueling polls.
And, frankly I don't think we're going to get much traction but if I'd been 'negotiating' a joint poll with MB my first offered draft would have gone something like this.
My questions would have run
1 I've run small cell/foundationless for at least 4 years. While I don't do any formal mite testing, I believe that varroa aren't a problem in my hives.
2 I've run small cell/foundationless for at least 4 years. I use an objective mite testing method and my counts remain low.
3 I've run small cell/foundationless for at least 4 years. I don't test but also don't think that it makes a significant difference on mite loads.
4 I've run small cell/foundationless for at least 4 years. I test and my mite counts are high.
5 I tried small cell/foundationless but it didn't meet my expectations and I'm now using conventional foundation.

Truth be told....I doubt if we'd get much of a response. I would guess that there wouldn't be a single tester among the respondents for 1 - 4. I would also guess that there would only be one or two positives. And probably no negatives....I think many of those people no longer linger on beekeeping forums. Number 5....there might be one (me) or two (Oldtimer).
 

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I encouraged him to submit samples to the Beelab and he emails me a few days ago stating that the results came back with <4% mite loads... So now instead of assuming mites killed his hive he knows that they didn't
Those numbers would carry a lot more weight if they were premortem....in my opinion.
 

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I initially began using small cell plastic and beeswax foundations, because I hadn't yet, and it sounded like an interesting thing to try. I had been keeping bees in a combination of Pierco and 5.4mm beeswax foundation, for about a decade in my present location. I hadn't had any Varroa issues, then, or yet. I more recently began using primarily foundationless, for similar reasons - it sounds interesting, and seems like a way to avoid chemical pesticide build-up in wax foundation/combs.
 

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I'd have to agree wtih Dan on the miteload post mortem. Don't want to be harsh but I think mites play a big role in most sudden die outs, not to count out other factors but I think they can become huge stressors at times more than people like to admit. But you have a good point as well Bluegrass, most people don't take the time to observe what's going on with their bees to truly know what caused them to perish and sometimes it can be a complete mystery.
 

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I had 20 colonies on small cell for 3 years counting the first year of them drawing comb, also 20 on standard 5.2 worker size cells drawn on Pierco deep foundation. In August of the 3rd year I used formic acid pads on all colonies and counted the drop. All were over 4000 mites and small cell colonies were heavier infested than standard 5.2mm cell colonies.
 
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