Yard Report – May 2012

The Idea

small cell size plastic brood frame

Excellent brood pattern on small cell sized comb.

Five 3 lb bee packages were installed in single, conventional, 10 frame Langstroth hives. These were filled with plastic small cell frames and a division board feeder.

This is the first step in establishing 3 story deep body hives with each box approximating a natural broodnest’s structure.

Along the way I’ll compare this new small cell plastic frame based experience with my decade old wax foundation based small cell experience.

Despite the cold and windy May weather, the bees continued to draw small cell size comb and raise brood.

The Details


I wanted to approximate the cell size and comb spacing found in a natural broodnest. So some Mann Lake’s small cell size plastic frames were cut to 1 1/4″ width.

  • a division board feeder was placed at one side
  • 6 Mann Lake PF-100 frames cut to 1 1/4″ spacing were placed in the center
  • remaining space filled with PF-100 frames at 1 3/8″ spacing
  • the feeder was kept filled with 1:1 sugar syrup

My ultimate goal is to have 3 story hives with each brood box setup as follows:

  • 5 central small cell frames at 1 1/4″ spacing
  • 4 large cell frames at 1 3/8″ spacing
  • 2 drone frames on the outside edges
  • medium sized honey supers will be filled with large cell size comb

That’s the long range goal. But first, how will those large cell bees draw out small cell comb when given no other choice. To find out, the singles were filled with all small cell size plastic frames. Beside the fact that I had unopened cases of them left over from my small cell work a decade ago. 🙂

The Bees

After a quick inspection to verify queen acceptance, the hives were left alone to minimize disruptions.

  • feeders were filled once a week
  • commercial pollen patties, ignored by the bees, were removed
  • all queens were accepted
  • the bees quickly occupied 5 central frames
  • perfect small cell size comb was drawn

Despite the lack of moisture, abundant early spring forage was available. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. It was windy and cold which greatly limited bee flight during May.

 Small Cell

I’ll be watching:

  • how the bees draw out all small cell comb when given no other choice?
  • and will comb spacing make a difference?


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4 responses to “Yard Report – May 2012”

  1. Chris Inch says:

    I’m having a tough time understanding what you mean by cutting the frames to 1 1/4″ width. Do you have a picture of this or can you explain further? I’m intrigued.

    • -bW says:

      Hi Chris

      If you measure the width of most frame sidebars, they measure 1 3/8″. So, when a frame is assembled, each comb is center at 1 3/8″.

      Lots of beekeepers, including myself, have measured comb spacing and find that it varies depending upon the type of comb. The 1 3/8″ spacing is a compromise that works in most situations. Broodnest comb is actually spaced at 1 1/4″ and the spacing gets wider the farther away from the broodnest a comb is found.

      So, what I do is saw 1/16″ off of each edge of a frame’s endbar. That makes them narrower and the combs are centered on 1 1/4″.

      In a top bar hive it’s easier. I just make the top bars 1 1/4″ wide and then use spacers between the top bars when the bees want a wider comb spacing.


  2. Hi Dennis,
    what are those plastic frame foundations I see in your photos (I even saw them on beesource too)?
    And why do you use those and not top bars? Just wondering, thank you.


    • -bW says:

      Hi Che

      I had several cases of them leftover from my commercial beekeeping days and decided to use them in a test. I want to see if I can replicate the positive results I had using small cell size foundation a decade ago.

      Then I will reconfigure the hives using commercially available frames/foundation to replicate a natural broodnest. It’s a test I’ve wanted to do since 2002. But my top bar hives took me in another direction.


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