No Regression to Small Cell

My bees aren’t behaving like they are supposed to.

To bring any new readers up to speed, I don’t treat my hives for mites.  I don’t use powdered sugar, essential oils, or anything else in my hives.  Do I have mites?  Yes of course.  Have I lost hives to mites?  Yes of course.  But, I don’t think I have lost any more hives than the beekeeper that treats their hives.  I have had hives overwinter with high mite counts.  In fact, I have even stopped counting mites, because I guess I just don’t care how many there are.

In my pursuit of finding the best management method that works for me, and to satisfy my curiosity, I wanted to see how a small cell hive performed.  If you don’t know anything about small cell, google it.  You will get tons of information both pro and con.  Take both sides with a grain of salt.  On the pro side you will find some that declare small cell is the answer to everything.  The con side will site studies that say it doesn’t work.  I think the answer is somewhere in-between.  I don’t think it solves all the problems, but I also think that the the studies that conclude small cell doesn’t work can be refuted.   If someone knows of a small cell study that is long term, genetically identical as possible, and uses survival-ability instead of mite count as it’s success metric, please let me know.

Discussions about taking bees down to a small cell, normally talk about regression.  This means that it takes a few tries to get bees that are used to drawing larger cell foundation down to the smaller cell size.

Last fall I purchased some PF-105 Plastic Frames with 4.9 cell size from Mann Lake.  I wanted to try small cell for myself.  I thought I would take a found swarm or shook swarm and put them on the brand new frames.  But, the opportunity never presented itself or the timing wasn’t right, so the frames sat there all summer.

A couple weeks ago I needed to super the nucs I started for overwintering.  I didn’t have any ready frames on hand, so I used the small cell frames.  I thought they could draw them out anyway they liked and I would worry about it later.

So I have nucs with large size comb and small size foundation.  One nuc started to draw the new frames, and they are drawing the small cell to the correct size.  The queen is laying eggs in the small cells.

So I find myself in the position where I will potentially have a hive regressed to small cell in a matter of weeks.  I will move out the standard frames and put in the small cell frames as fast as they can fill them.

They aren’t supposed to do that.  But I guess they didn’t listen.

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3 Responses to No Regression to Small Cell

  1. milapostol says:

    I have heard the pros and cons of small cell too. One thing that I noticed was that the first swarm we collected were very small already. They were crawling into the slot where we put our sticky board in the screened bottom board! Our first hive, the Italians, couldn’t do that.

    Have you thought about going foundationless and letting the bees build the size they want?

    • sweetacres says:

      I have some foundationless as well, and have been getting mixed results. I’m trying out all kinds of different equipment and methods to find what’s going to work best for me. My thought with the small cell frames was to get them used to that size, and then probably go foundationless.

  2. Like the philosophy of beekeeping here. We do treat for mites, but were are not into counting, microscopes. We just keep a watch on things when we do a hive inspection. I do believe in a little interference as possible. They generally know what they are doing, as I learned this summer! Small cell, a new one on me. Interesting.

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