Do you want to regress your bees back down to a more natural cellsize in the broodnest? It can take some time and sometimes it’s a little bit tricky. Most often they fail to directly from what’s been most common for years now, about 5.4 mm, or 54 mm over 10 cells over the parallel sides. Down to what’s often talked about – 4.9 mm. There are many different stories. Without mentioning any other way down I go directly to the very quick and thus the cheapest way.
Mann Lake Ltd – http://www.mannlakeltd.com/beekeeping-supplies/page19.html – has a standard frame, their cheapest plastic frame, a good sturdy frame, in yellow or black, in full depth Langstroth or medium size. It happens to be below 5.0 mm, almost 4.9 cellsize. And its cell walls are high enough to be very difficult for the bees to override. So – take your ordinary package bees or whatever bees and give them waxed PF100 (Full depth) or PF120 (Medium). They will follow the pattern and draw nice 4.9 (almost) combs. Anyway I havn’t heard of anyone who has failed yet. After a couple of broodcycles you can add wax foundation if you want to, or use foundationless frames if you want to try that. This beekeeper did that – http://www.eccentricbeekeeper.com/hives/medframe.html – he used glued popsickle sticks as starters for the bees to draw comb.
You can use a mold to make your own foundation of 4.9, buy it – http://www.swienty.com/shop/default.asp?catid=1121 http://www.alfranseder.de/Foundation-Mold.html – or make your own mold – http://www.resistantbees.com/guss_e.html – or buy a roller mill – http://www.swienty.com/shop/default.asp?catid=1120
You can buy wax foundation from Dadant – http://www.dadant.com/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=foundation&search_in_description=1&sort=2a&page=4 – another good source is Biredskapsfabriken in Sweden with low residue wax – http://www.biredskapsfabriken.se/en/lista.php?kid=14-33
If you live closer to Sweden than Mann Lake Ltd, you can buy their plastiv frames from here – http://www.hoglandetshonung.se/?page_id=58
Another good reason for using plastic frames or foundationless is that you can be sure the wax is (almost) residue free. Chemical residues can be problem if it it’s more than just a little. One of parameters behind the complex that kills our bees.
Two weeks after the first check after winter ( a week ago) I visited Karin again and checked the colony. See the first post on this subject for a background. But this colony has been on its own on two boxes since autumn 2007. No Varroa treatment for example. The entrance is on the top end of the photo. The cluster is sitting closest to the entrance but in the top box.
Two weeks ago There was brood on the first three combs. The bees covered almost four combs. On the fourth comb it was a small circle of brood at the bottom on the side to the entrance. This day it was capped brood also on the fourth comb to the upper right. The fifth comb, full of food, which had been under the feeding hole, was moved two frame back to become no 7. The two rear combs, one good drawn 4.9 cell size, and one good draw 5.1 mm cell size were moved to become no five and six. They had only little food. The rest (two – not so good drawn 4.9, the replacement combs after harvesting two frames autumn 2012, the first management since autumn 2007) were moved to the back. They were half full of food.
The rear two combs and the bottom box will be replaced in another two weeks after this visit.. No sign of any mites or viruses or any other diseases. One thing was noticed. The capped brood had a shot gun pattern. It is not due to a failing queen – the colony is expanding well. As no sign of mites or viruses were seen it’s unlikely but still possible the mite population is so big the colony is heavily cleaning out mite infested brood. A more probable explanation may be that the queen has mated with quite some drones from this same colony. The colony is quite alone in the neighbourhood. But on the other hand the entrance whole was very small between the bottom queen excluder and the soft polyurethane plastic box. The bottom excluder was a surprise and of course removed two weeks earlier. It made the survival of the colony still more surprising – or was it contributing to it?
This is a too long story to be told in one post here. But I have to start somewhere. I first visited Brother Adam and Buckfast Abbey in 1983. I was allowed to look into his pedigrees for his bees and his world of beekeeping started to unfold. I returned several times. I learned his way of breeding, brought breeding material back to Sweden. In the picture he is sitting in his mating station at Shirburton up on Dartmoor, with his six drone producing colonies and all the mating nucs with virgins or newly mated queens.
Everyone, including me, never thought any different thought than what Brother Adam was doing, was what he thought and we should think, that the way he did it, was the way we should do it. No one asked him what he thought about what would be best for us. What he did evidently was what he thought was the best way for him. Beekeepers started to copy his way of breeding with material they got from him and mating virgins at isolated mating stations with sister queens producing drones. Looking at the mother colony of the drone producer queens as the father in the pedigree. And the mother colony as the mother colony
And those that didn’t copy his way of for example mate the virgins and still call their bees Buckfast were looked upon with suspicion. They weren’t true Buckfasts. And no one asked Brother Adam what he thought about it. But he supplied all those that wanted breeding material, including Weavers in Texas, who didn’t used isolated mating stations the way Adam did. Now Adam is dead so we can’t ask him.
But I ran into a hobby beekeeper who visited Brother Adam in 1981. Hans Samland, now a retired firefighter, was humble enough to ask him what he thought was the best way for him as hobby beekeeper with 15 colonies to do his breeding work. Adam knew of the Swedish Buckfast breeding program with isolated mating stations with material from Buckfast. Adam didn’t even suggest Hans to start with imported bees from him. He didn’t say anything about that. He just answered Hans’ question.
– Every year you decide which half of your bees is the least good one. In those colonies you shift queens. You get the queens to put into those colonies by making a daughter queen from each and everyone of the colonies in the best half of your colonies. Let the new queens mate in your apiary.
It’s simple and it was the best way for Hans, according to Adam. Was Adam right? Probably!
Stephan Braun on the island La Palma in the Canary Islands shows us how he has aquired resistant bees against the Varroa mite. Read his website and learn how he is doing. He works with the native Canarian bee, which might is a variety of the Iberian type.
After he took his bees down on small cell size, 4.9 mm, the bees behave in a more harmonius way and they behave in a much more calm way, so he doesn’t need all the protection utilities he needed before. Of course selecting and breeding have made contributions here.