Small Cell Experiment

The sun came out for a week (amazing here).  Thus another busy week: supering hives, removing queen boxes from the nucs I installed, adding brood boxes to some of those; cleaning more boxes, tops & bottoms for more queens that are coming and – here’s the interesting part:  I started a Small Cell Experiment.

Honeybee with lots of pollen : Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA                                                                Happy Honeybee



Small Cell and Commercial Cell foundation Side-by-SideSmall cell foundation has always fascinated me.  It would seem to make sense: the smaller the cells, the shorter the sealed period for the larvae, the less time for mites to breed.  I’ve since learned that the smaller bees also have a tighter area between plates so that the mites have a harder time grabbing on.  (If I’ve got that wrong I am sure a small cell advocate will correct me).

Here’s the downside: all the information on using small cell starts with : Replace all your foundation.  Well, that’s just not going to happen. I run about 50 hives and have enough foundation to run 80.  I’m not going to toss that.  So what’s a Bean to do?

My friend Clyde – a small cell person – suggested that I try just putting small cell into the brood area and use my other foundation in what is usually the honey area.  I figured it would be worth a try.

He gave me 20 sheets of small cell foundation and I went to work. Clyde works deeps.  I work in westerns only.  So the foundation had to be cut down.

Small Cell Foundation being cut to fit western frames :Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA                                                           Cutting Down The Sheets

Once the right size, I popped them into my western frames.


Western bee boxes with small cell foundation                                                        Hung, Marked, and Waiting

Then I marked them.  The “SC” is pretty self-explanatory.  The arrows need a bit of background.  Clyde is also a proponent of Housel Foundation Positioning (this link goes to an excellent, in-depth explanation by Dee Lusby)

The leg of the “Y” in each cell faces down and that side of the foundation faces out. There’s a really good image of this in the above link.

As long as I was going to experiment, I figured this is the moment to try Housel placement.  It is said that the bees prefer this configuration and will build the comb faster.  It can also help solve a myriad of other issues, according to the article by Ms. Lusby.

Anything that helps us move things along in our short honey season sounds good to me.

I’ll be placing the small cell foundations in this week.  I’ll let you know what happens.

Disclaimer: What I’m doing is not what people usually do with small cell.  Most small cell proponents would say that this will not work. They suggest replacing all your foundation, and further, if you’re moving from commercial size to small cell, they suggest you do an intermediate foundation size.

For more information on small cell (and more) check out:

Dee Lusby’s site

Michael Bush’s information on small cell foundation

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington.  I’ll let you know what happens with this experiment.   Are you trying anything new this year with your hives? Please share…we can all learn.

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