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I know that in the wild, bees tend to make cells of different sizes, even in the same frame, and there are some that believe that natural cell sizes seem to make it easier for bees to fend off pests like varroa mites. I also know that there are small cell foundations that are made in an attempt to try to get the bees back to their natural way of doing things. Also, bees living in warmer climates seem to make smaller cells than those in cooler climates too, which means the diameter of the small cell foundation cells is apparently not appropriate for all cases. These things lead me to ask a couple questions.

Why don't people use blank foundation in their hives and let the bees make cells of varying sizes on their own in the brood frames instead of using small cell foundation? I know that some people do this, but I'm trying to address the necessity of small cell foundation at all. It seems to me that if nature makes healthier bees, in terms of cell sizes at least, we should let bees do what comes naturally to them in those terms.

My other question is, if bees are bred back to making whatever cell size comes naturally to them, does this hinder their ability to use larger cells for things like the frames in honey supers, and does their smaller size limit their honey production or viability as pollenators in any way?

This is just something I am curious about. I'm not sure that I am interested in running out and starting small cell frames any time soon, but I do wonder why the need for small cell foundation unless bees can't be bred back down to the smaller cell size without it for some reason.
 

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Cell size and foundation period is a lot like clothes style. We have been going through the same cycles for over 150 years. The only benefit is they can sell us more stuff. Read L L Langstroth's Hive and the Honeybee, third edition, My wife gave me a copy for my birthday. He mentions foundation size, foundationless and experiences around the world. We are retrying the same ideas today. Top bar hives too! If we could just build a better mouse trap.
 

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"Why don't people use blank foundation in their hives and let the bees make cells of varying sizes on their own.."

Do you mean foundation with just a flat smooth surface? >> That was probably tried at one time but doesn't work very well. Bees incorporate a part of the base of each cell into the base of a cell on the opposite side of comb. If a frame is missing next to the wall of a hive, the bees won't build a single layer of cells on the inside wall of a hive. They will try to build a full comb that has cells on both sides in that empty space, or a lot of bridge comb at a right angle to the wall of the hive.

Even with foundationless the bees need an edge of some kind under the top bar like a starter strip of wax, a popsicle stick, or the apex of a triangle shape cut into the top bar. This needs to be in the center of the underside of a frame, so as the comb is built down it maintains bee space so the hive is workable for the beekeeper.

In that sense, 'blank foundation' to a beekeeper is actually, 'foundationless.'
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Do you mean foundation with just a flat smooth surface?
Not exactly. I've seen where people put strips of flat smooth wax in their frames to give bees something to start with. I know it's not the most efficient way to do things, but it seems to work well enough for the bees.

Anyway, it has been done, but I'm talking about just brood frames, that way the honey frames can be full and able to withstand the rigors of extraction.
 

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>Why don't people use blank foundation in their hives and let the bees make cells of varying sizes on their own in the brood frames instead of using small cell foundation?

Some people do. But the bees don't accept it very well. Foundationless (some kind of comb guide) is easier to do and the bees build comb with much more speed and enthusiasm than blank foundation.

> I know that some people do this, but I'm trying to address the necessity of small cell foundation at all.

Foundation is not necessary at all.

> It seems to me that if nature makes healthier bees, in terms of cell sizes at least, we should let bees do what comes naturally to them in those terms.

Exactly.

>My other question is, if bees are bred back to making whatever cell size comes naturally to them, does this hinder their ability to use larger cells for things like the frames in honey supers

No.

> and does their smaller size limit their honey production or viability as pollenators in any way?

No.

>This is just something I am curious about. I'm not sure that I am interested in running out and starting small cell frames any time soon, but I do wonder why the need for small cell foundation unless bees can't be bred back down to the smaller cell size without it for some reason.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoursimplesteps.htm
 

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W/ all of the discussions on this topic lately I have kept an observation in mind, something I saw last week. It appears as though foundation may only bee a suggestion to the bees when it comes to cell size. What I observed was a Pierco frame that was drawn out 100% worker cells on one side and on the other side most of it was drone cell size. And not drone comb built beside the frame hanging off of the top bar, as sometimes happens, but built from the midrib of the frame just like the other side.

So what does that say about foundation influencing the bees to build a certain size cell because of the foundation? I don't know. Maybe someone else does.
 

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The bees build what they think they need. We use all crimp wired foundation and many of our brood frames have patches of drone cells. This happens even when a full frame of drone foundation (green Pierco frames) has been provided. You can't outguess these little boogers; might as well grin and bear it! :D
 
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