Friends of the Bees
Natural Beekeeping International Forum
low-cost, low-impact, balanced beekeeping for everyone

 Forum FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileYour Profile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 


Please use the Facebook group UK TOP BAR BEEKEEPERS for information and discussion of top bar beekeeping.

Please support Friends of the Bees

Small Cell Foundation

Post new topic   Reply to topic    beekeeping forum -> Treatment-Free Beekeeping
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
New Bee

Joined: 25 Dec 2019
Posts: 4
Location: England, Reading, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2020 6:39 pm    Post subject: Small Cell Foundation Reply with quote

I have kept bees on small cell foundation for the last 8 years now. I published an article in BBKA News last June that described what I have been doing. Since 2012 I have not treated for varroa and have lost only one colony to varroa. I have lost other colonies but for other bungling beekeeping reasons! There is a growing cohort of local beekeepers where I am, that I know personally, that have gone down the small cell route. There is even a seasonal beekeeper I know that does likewise though the NBU party line, alas is to treat, treat, treat.

I came to an agreement with Thornes a little while ago and they agreed to start producing small cell foundation in the UK, so it is now readily available in all frame sizes.

For me and for many others small cell works. For some it does not work. As I said in my BBKA News article what is there to lose by giving this a go? A change of foundation cell size (and subsequent bee size) and time is what is required.

I have come across 3 natural/wild bee colonies that I have found and had an opportunity to measure the cell size or allow them to build their own foundation. All have all been 4.9 to 5.1mm. I know that proves nothing but it did make me wonder how they are able to survive without human (beekeeping) interference?

David Heaf wrote a very good review of small cell in the Beekeepers Quarterly back in 2011. Overall, I would say his critique was very good. The evidence he reviewed showed that the balance of published scientific evidence so far was not favourable towards small cell. One of the longest running studies that found against the concept, a four-year study by Dahle, still used oxalic acid each winter which I thought was very corrupting because the bees never had a real chance to demonstrate the efficacy of small cell. Other studies were very short and as in my article I have stated that it takes the bees much more time to adapt

Small cell does not require an exclusion area, does not require breeding for particular behaviour traits, is independent of the drones that are mating with your queens – it can be determined by us individual beekeepers, through our choices in husbandry, regardless of what our beekeeping neighbours are doing. It. But it does require a willingness to try it!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Site Admin

Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1063
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must admit that I have not tried small cell foundation, preferring to let the bees build there own comb wherever possible, especially in top bar hives.

If you find that it works for your bees, that's good, but have you done a side-by-side test against "normal" foundation? That's the only way to know for sure. I don't treat, but I do use standard foundation in some of my conventional hives, and it doesn't appear to affect survivability.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
New Bee

Joined: 25 Dec 2019
Posts: 4
Location: England, Reading, UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I began to think there was something in this concept of small cell foundation I transitioned my hives across to small cell

I keep my colonies in two locations: our garden and our allotment

I made sure that I left one colony on each site on regular foundation (5.4mm) to test the hypothesis you mentioned. Nothing scientific about this as the numbers were very small: 3 in our garden and 6 to 8 on our allotment

As I began to see the bees managing the varroa load I also did not want them to be in a varroa free or varroa light area. The 5.4mm hives had high varroa loads throughout and I wanted the small cell bees to tough it out as there would be some drift and drone movement back and forth.. They seemed to make it ok

Once I satisfied myself that this worked for me I transitioned the remaining 5.4mm to small cell.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    beekeeping forum -> Treatment-Free Beekeeping All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Quality Top Bar Hives by Andrew Vidler

Conserving wild bees

Research suggests that bumble bee boxes have a very low success rate in actually attracting bees into them. We find that if you create an environment where first of all you can attract mice inside, such as a pile of stones, a drystone wall, paving slabs with intentionally made cavities underneath, this will increase the success rate.

Most bumble bee species need a dry space about the size a football, with a narrow entrance tunnel approximately 2cm in diameter and 20 cm long. Most species nest underground along the base of a linear feature such as a hedge or wall. Sites need to be sheltered and out of direct sunlight.

There is a spectacular display of wild bee hotels here

More about bumblebees and solitary bees here

Information about the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

Barefoot Beekeeper Podcast

Now available from

Now available from

Now available from

4th Edition paperback now available from

See beekeeping books for details and links to ebook versions.