Regression to small-cell

Discussion in 'Organic Beekeeping' started by Bigwig, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. Bigwig

    Bigwig New Member

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    I have some questions regarding regressing bees from standard wak brood foundation to small-cell comb built by bees on starter strips. First, here's what Michael Bush says on the subject,

    ‘To regress, cull out empty brood combs and let bees build what they want (or give them 4.9 mm foundation)
    After they have raised brood on that, repeat the process. Keep culling out the larger combs.
    How do you cull out the larger combs? Keep in mind it's normal procedure to steal honey from the bees. It's frames of brood that are our issue. The bees try to keep the brood nest together and have a maximum size in mind. If you keep feeding in empty frames in the center of the brood nest, put them between straight combs to get straight combs, they will fill these with comb and eggs. As they fill, you can add another frame. The brood nest expands because you keep spreading it out to put in the frames. When the large cell frames are too far from the center (usually the outside wall) or when they are contracting the brood nest in the Fall, they will fill them with honey after the brood emerges and then you can harvest them. You could also move the capped large cell brood above an excluder and wait for the bees to emerge and then pull the frame.’


    Here's my setup: I started my packages in deeps with 5 frames of wax brood foundation centered in the middle of the box, surrounded by 5 more frames with homemade starter strips. In the upper hive bodies, which are also deeps, I placed one frame of foundation in the center while the rest were all starter strips. The bees have done an amazing job of drawing out both the foundation and building their own comb. Both boxes are nearly 90-95% fully drawn, and I have honey supers in place, also with starter strips.

    My question is how, as Mr. Bush describes, "cull" out the frames with foundation. Should I simply pull them and replace them with empty frames with starter strips? Should I rotate them out to the edge? Either way it seems at this point I’m going to be dropping in empty frames. I would imagine it would be prudent to only do this with one frame at a time.

    Thank you in advance for your help
     
  2. Bigwig

    Bigwig New Member

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    *wax brood*

    not "wak brood".
     

  3. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    First, you are talking about natural comb, not smallcell. Smallcell only comes with smallcell foundation, which is just as un-natural as largecell foundation.
    Second, Jennifer Berry, U of Ga. did 2 or 3 experiments with smallcell and found more mites on smallcell than on largecell comb.

    Now, what Micheal is saying is, place an empty in the center of the broodnest. Harvest the outer frame and remove the comb. Continue to do this and, according to him, they will continue drawing smaller and smaller cells. Many prominent names in beekeeping disagree with his thoughts on this.
     
  4. Bigwig

    Bigwig New Member

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    If small-cell is just as likely to have more mites as large or standard size cell, then what would the arguments against the method you describe be? Or is the argument whether or not the bees actually build smaller cells to begin with?

    Thanks as always for your thoughts, Iddee.
     
  5. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    The naturalcell described above is what most non-largecell beeks are going to. Smallcell foundation is being used less every day. Naturalcell is fine, if you want to use starter strips. Foundation, wired and cross wired, just has fewer instances of cross comb, so us old timers use it and recommend it. The bees probably prefer to draw their own, so they can add drone comb and off size honey comb.

    Smallcell= 4.9 MM. Largecell= 5.6 MM. Naturalcell varies, but brood is approx. 5.1 MM.
     
  6. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    I want my bees to draw natural size cells, but I am easing into it in no big rush, because I had to start as a new BK with no supply of nice new comb that was already drawn.
    So I chose to start with all deep brood boxes with full wired wax foundation (regular/large cell). I also had some ancient (icky) frames from one old deadout, but I wanted to rotate those out soon. This, my 3rd year, I am up to 5 (soon to be 6) colonies, and as I add deeps I make 1/3 of the frames empty with popsicle stick guides only. These I am now sneaking/swapping into the hives and nucs as i make them up, being sure to place them in between two already fully drawn frames. The nucs seem particularly quick about filling up a foundationless deep frame with comb and brood, and I keep swapping more of those empty frames in to let them work on, so they won't swarm out of their 5 frame nucs. :Dancing:

    Since I will not be extracting the brood deep boxes or nucs, I don't bother with wires either for the brood deep frames (it's also way less hot than say texas here!). Lots of folks use some wire or fishing line to help keep the wax from coming out if extracted or searing hot weather.

    This year, of my 2 new deep 10 frame boxes and 3 nucs that I've added to the mix about 1/3 of those new frames were completely foundationless and are being drawn out just fine and straight. I've also tossed about 12 very old funky deep frames into the trash, along with their ancient yucky plastic foundation or black crusty brood comb (save a couple in plastic bags for swarm lures!). Next year I anticipate dumping another 10 or so ancient nasty brood frames and adding more new foundationless replacements.
    I have medium honey supers made up and ready to go with only popsicle guides since I plan to do crush and strain on any honey I might be lucky enough to get. (i've been splitting so much I doubt I'll get much of any, but who knows maybe a couple of frames?)

    Yes you can slowly move the frames you want to remove out towards the sides. Put a new foundationless frame right by the edge of the brood nest (don't divide the brood nest in half with it though) and make sure it's between two fully drawn comb frames. The old frames on the sides will eventually wind up with no or little brood, and you can cycle them out slowly and do what you want with them, use them to feed nucs, etc.

    I think the key to doing this without fuss is to be in no big rush.
    In a couple of years from now most of my frames will be natural size comb. In 6-8 years or so all of it will be if I continue this path.

    I can always tell which ones are my foundationless because they have no wires, no metal strips holding ancient plastic foundation, no foundation anchor pins on the sides, and no fishing line remnants! ;) Once frames are over a year old they all start looking pretty used so it's good to see the little telltale signs. Or, (duh) you can mark them, which I am always too forgetful or lazy to do!
    I hope this helps. :)
     
  7. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    an Iddee snip..
    First, you are talking about natural comb, not smallcell. Smallcell only comes with smallcell foundation, which is just as un-natural as largecell foundation.

    tecumseh:
    speaking only from personal experience.... my bees draw out foundation however they might wish, I have no task master on hand that cracks the whip on them if they decide to draw cells of whatever size, no matter what the size of the cell it is natural for the bees in that particular box.

    all this talk of natural and small cell simply sounds like nonsense to me. did you ever notice that snake oil salesman have always found the magic cure for everything.

    logically the cell size originally constructed in a hive does change over time. some time along the periphery of a frame drone comb is constructed, brood comb decreases in size as each new generation of worker bees issues from that comb. at some point this old comb is left to decay and the bees start all over again. by starting with small cell you should get to this 'end game' much more rapidly than you wish.

    and now lets speak shortly to the term regressing. first beyond the term 'regression to the mean' I have never seen this term used in genetics (or breeding). regression to the mean suggest that no matter what the breeding program individuals tend to revert to some 'mean' (average) measurement. not small and not large, but some mean measurement. if you had the time and money and patience and could keep your bees alive long enough you could 'select' for a smaller bee or larger bee and breed a smaller or larger bee. even after all this effort some individuals would invariable 'regress to the mean' so this program of breeding (and culling) would need to be constantly monitored and maintained. <humm doesn't sound like 'less work' as some might have you believe.
     
  8. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Tecumseh, I know that some folks feel that natural cell and small cell issues are 'nonsense'. Yet there are other folks (including some experienced and respected BKs) who believe it is advantageous in various ways. Since Bigwig asked about the practical logistics of adding foundationless frames into his boxes one at a time, I figured he was simply seeking suggestions as to how to do exactly that. After all, this is the 'organic beekeeping' forum section. :) There are so many various ways to raise bees, I love that!
    To each their own... as is always the case in beekeeping, where you get half a dozen or more totally different pieces of advice for every question asked! :wave:
     
  9. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    my hands have bee appropriately slapped Omie. :beg:

    I do think terms like natural and organic can be very misleading and lend themselves more to good marketing rather than good bee biology or good animal husbandry. the bees brought to america (over the past 400 years or so) did come in a variety of sizes so why would anyone that wanted to rear a small cell bee not select for a small cell bee? the answer is pretty clear to me.
     
  10. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Hi Tecumseh, I don't want to be slapping anyone's hands, do forgive me. :)

    I totally agree with you that the terms natural and organic have multiple definitions depending on the person one asks, their point of view, motives, experience, and background. They are problematic terms for sure. but...I assume that anyone asking questions in the 'organic forum' has already decided they want to pursue that path, and are asking for help in doing that. They can always do things differently later if it doesn't work well for them.

    I have chosen a path for myself that incorporates some 'natural' beekeeping techniques. I'm no fanatic, and am trying various things while finding my own way slowly, while trying to avoid adding more nasty chemicals to our already polluted environment. All I can report on is what I have tried for myself in my short BKing career so far, and perhaps refer others who are seeking information to resources that have been informative and helpful for me.
    Of course one of those helpful resources is this very website, where experienced BKs are always so patient and helpful! I can only imagine how many of you must roll your eyes at what we beginners spout off about sometimes, and I am the first to admit I can be a big mouth... yet on this site you are all always willing to help us, and for that I am grateful! :wave:

    Bigwig- I find Michael Bush's site to be a great source of information too.
     
  11. Bigwig

    Bigwig New Member

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    Omie, at 750 posts I think you can claim to be less of a beginner than me...!

    Thank you all for your openess and willingness to share your thoughts. It's sites like this forum, and other's like Bush Bees, that make me realize just how little us first-years really know....but in a good way. I've learned so much just being a part of this forum, and much of it I think will still be sinking in sometime next year!

    My motives behind my question were to 1.) Get some advice on how to replace working foundation frames with frameless due to a desire to have only natural comb in my hives, and 2.) Understand what impact different comb sizes have on varroa populations now that the mite has made itself known in my hives.

    Thanks again everyone.
     
  12. 2kooldad

    2kooldad New Member

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    so hmmm...what are my ferals then...the comercial beek said they were the old stock small bees...they do look smaller than my carnys....my carnys arent all black...the beek i got em from open mates so thats that...those carnys that arent black (calling them carnys cause of the hive they come from) are itallian colored like the ferals...but next to the feral bees there is an obvious size diffrence...old stock bees hmmm...he said that commercial bees have...over time...gotton a little bigger by breeding selection an that feral bees that have been in the wild for generations are just smaller bees an that my other bees could probly fit there big butts into the smaller cells if i wanted to switch frames around....so does this say the ferals are of the ''mean'' size that Tecumseh speaks of....im not gonna bust out my micromiter an start measuring cells...id be there forever...they build all kinds of cells in there....the green drone perico frames i put in are (when drawn out) huge cells with extra thick walls...the old dark brood cells look extra small to me with all kinds of cells inbetween...i chose not to care about cell size...i mean unless its a queen cell or an over abundance of drone comb i just dont care cause they do what they want...should i care....i was wondering this...if i use the green perico drone frames in my honey supers will the extra large cells mean more honey stored or does the thick walls offset that.
     
  13. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    No, it just means I'm a blabbermouth! :lol:

    I think with beekeeping like many pursuits, the more I learn the more I realize I have to learn. That's good, because learning is what makes life exciting and keeps us young!

    My personal future goal is to let my bees make whatever size cells they feel is good for them, so for me that means slowly switching to foundationless, one frame at a time. I also like the idea of not having to buy or store foundation.

    As to mite control with small cell size- yikes what a hot topic- there is SO much debate about that, I have decided to not take a stand on it til more is known. Meanwhile, I feel the best way for me to control my mites (and we all have mites) is by doing the following things, -which admittedly may not be practical for commercial BKs:

    1) I keep a frame of drone foundation in every hive, and if i see it full of capped drone brood i scrape it open and put it right back. They clean it out, along with the immature mites that were attached to the drone pupae. Cornell U. is just one source that says this method can be pretty effective if done with regularity. I do it if I see big patches of drone brood anywhere. I leave the little patches for the bees to keep happy with.
    2) Splitting a hive can cut down on mites. Of course, by splitting you reduce your probability of a big honey harvest, but as a hobbyist i could live with a pretty modest honey take. They say a first year split/nuc typically has few mite overloads.
    3) interrupting the brood cycle. I've been reading how if you remove or dispose of the queen in early july (in the northeast), the hive will be broodless for about 30 days while they make a new queen from a cell or eggs/larvae. (this is not the same as requeening with an already mature queen) That 30 days is at a busy time of mite breeding and the mites will have nowhere to lay eggs for a complete mite cycle, and their population will crash. This means you'll go into Fall and winter with a low mite count and a strong young queen. This requeening stuff is just what I've read and I am trying out this year for the first time.
    4) I keep my screen bottom boards totally open all the time. This I feel makes it harder for mite that drop off to the ground to make their way back into the hive.

    All of these are simply ideas I've heard about that make sense to me and am trying them out for myself. Your mileage may vary.

    I used to give the bees mint, thyme oils in grease patties, but am rethinking that now unless I see a need.
    I don't do mite counts (yeah I know, lots of folks say tsk tsk!) and I don't do sugar shakes.
    Hope some of this helps.
     
  14. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Omie, did you mean sugar shake, or sugar dusting? A sugar shake is a mite count. A sugar dusting is a mite treatment.
     
  15. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Oh thanks Iddee, yes I meant sugar dusting. I keep confusing the two names.
    I myself don't do either sugar dustings or sugar shakes, but I can see how they could be very useful and helpful.
     
  16. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    2kool ask:
    so does this say the ferals are of the ''mean'' size

    tecumseh:
    my real points here 2 kool are:
    1) that in any population there is variation in sizes that typically fits into a bell curve (a normal distribution) so only a small number will actually tightly conform to some 'mean' (average) size definition. half will be larger and half will be smaller.

    2) of the bees brought to America long ago some were larger and some smaller. so when mixed together their 'natural size' variation was even larger. in scientific terms the standard deviation around the mean gets larger and the mean measurement changes.

    bees do seem to comply with certain aspect of being good economist so when they have limited resources (wax with which to construct cells in this case) they build with an eye towards being frugal. when they have plenty or resources (provide in the form of wax foundation by that kindly beekeeper) then they build something a little less frugal.

    bees in feral hives are smaller and construct slightly smaller cells. any statement that this 'smaller size' cell and/or bee will assist the bees themselves in the current onslaught of predators should read Brother Adam's statement concerning his observation of the Isle of Wright Disease. he observed the northern european bees (sometimes called German Black Bee which was relatively small) and the southern european bee (the italian which are somewhat larger) does not conform to the idea that a smaller bee translated into a hive's capacity to survive.
     
  17. 2kooldad

    2kooldad New Member

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    thanks tecumseh....ive been intrested in the origen these bees (feral) since i got them...i had only breifly read somthing about size an varroa mites an that wasnt clear....my intrest in their small size is because the inspector had mentioned that AHB were smaller bees...when i watched an AHB video on youtube i found out some intersting facts about AHB that i didnt know....oddly enuff the only bad thing that they had going for them is their temper....their varroa resistance (if i understood it correctly) was in their brood cycle....they come out of the comb a day earlier i think an i guess that doesnt let the varroa finish its life cycle alot of the time....niffty....if its true....in the game of evolution at some point with all this gene mixing there must be some bees that gain a good trait out of the mix without getting that particular bad one....an since my feral bees are good tempered and most florida bees are spose to have at least some AHB genes in them now....wellllllll....natures better bee....lol....its doubtful but a beek can dream right....its sneaky how they can take over a hive with a mini swarm....thats why i chose to mark my queens...anyways thats my intrest in the size thing :/