Natural Comb / Small Cell Transition

I wanted to closely document the transition to small cell to help others with the process, both backyard and commercial-scale beekeepers. If you are not aware bees raised on natural comb have a good track record of surviving without any chemicals in managed hives. A much better track record than commercial or backyard beekeepers that use chemicals currently enjoy. The fact that feral bees are surviving in natural comb without chemical should be obvious. It seems to be a point on which advocates of conventional beekeeping are in complete denial in spite of enormous evidence to the contrary.

Natural comb in a conventional frame without foundation

This is natural comb in a conventional frame without foundation. Please note the very technical starter strip made of two large Popsicle sticks/tongue depressors. Simply hold two together and press them gently but firmly into the foundation grove on a conventional frame. The frames I use are from Rossman Apiaries www.gabees.com. I cannot vouch for there being such a perfect fit on frames from other sources. Some sources recommend painting the starter strip with melted wax to encourage the bees. I did not because the bee drawn wax is stronger and I did not want to create a weak link in the frame at the attachment point. Clearly, the bees had no trouble figuring things out without a wax coating.

Close up of a frame that has been drawn to about a third of the frame
Close up of a frame that has been drawn to about a third of the frame

This is a close up of a frame that has been drawn to about a third of the frame. The golden area is cells filled with honey. The frames are not fully drawn and the bees are already packing in honey. The photographs do not do justice to the absolute beauty and perfection of natural comb.

A beekeeper, his bees, and a frame of freshly drawn comb
A beekeeper, his bees, and a frame of freshly drawn comb
Close up of a nearly full frame from the brood chamber
Close up of a nearly full frame from the brood chamber
Nearly full frame of natural comb from the brood chamber
Nearly full frame of natural comb from the brood chamber

All of these photographs were taken three weeks after the introduction of open frames with starter strips into the hive. All frames shown are deep frames.

You too can save the world, one beehive at a time!

2 Comments on “Natural Comb / Small Cell Transition

  1. Hello Kevin and Nathalie. I have been reading your articles this afternoon for the first time. (Happy discovery for me) I have my first colony of bees since July this year. I am a member now of a conventional bee club and my mentor has his hands and probably his hair too full of my backward beekeeping wishes. I did not give my bees sugar water food in autumn but made a tea using nettles then adding rose hips and apple cores with some sage and a bit of salt then apple cider vinegar and then stirring in some summer honey I bought off one the beekeepers at my club. He thought that was a shame it was for the bees but I answered “They made it, didn’t they?” and he agreed to that. Also my bees have had one round of 60ml formic acid drops on the top of the frames which is what my bee club does against varroa in autumn. I had in all 27 mites in a weeks time so they didn’t get any other chemical treatment at all. My mentor is okay with this but has told me that new beeparents who have been involved a year longer than I am lost the majority of their colony last year even though their colony had few mites in Autumn they were innundated in sprintime and almost all died. My bees are in a loaned polystyrene hive. That is what my club provides them in when I was given them. I have bought two new red cedar hives and they are coated now with liniseed and tung oil. I have my spacers so that from heart to heart the measurement will be 35mm.There are to be 11 frames in a box. But I have not yet nailed them in. I want to let my bees make their own foundation and I have bought some triangular wood today so that the bees may be encouraged to work downwards from them. My question is when the bees in the polystyrene hive become active after the winter (I hope anyway because I am also scared that I lose them) I want them to move hives to my own new ones and the club can have its loan hive back. But the frames will be empty. What do you advise me to do so that there is some naturally drawn foundation available for the new bee home. Can I do your method of adding two frames in a full box of the polystyrene hive during the winter resting period which would mean disturbing the bees which is not the right theing to do. Will you advise how to get something started for the otherwise totally bare bee hive Or is this alright and they will just start from scratch?

    • Hi,
      Thank you for the comment.
      What you want to do is move the frames in you Nuc over to your new hive. Give the club back fresh empty frames with foundation. Alternate the filled frames from you Nuc with empty foundationless frames. Rotate the old frames up and out as described in the post. Your goal is to get rid of the old nasty frames by rotating them out, but you don’t want to lose any brood and stores while trying to get the hive going in the spring.. So move over, rotate out. The best thing would to have had foundationless frames in the Nuc, but it is easy to repair with patience.
      Regards,
      Kevin

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