foundation wax and cell size

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hedgerow pete

Queen Bee
Jan 26, 2009
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UK, Birmingham, Sandwell. Pork scratching Bandit c
Hive Type
Later on this spring i am going to start to produce my own foundation sheets, mainly for my own use but some will be sold , i am thinking of using the ply wood sheet technique to get the flat sheets and then either foundation rollers or a home made job of fibre glass and an old mangle. my questions are what six cell i have heard of people having good resualts with drone cells in thier supers, or what about just using plain flat sheet in the frames and letting the bee's decide
How on earth do you find these gems Finman? If I can find a source of the materials required in France I will certainly give this a go
But this still does not answer the question what sixe cell and should i leave it blank or pressed, both the roller press and the mould sheets will be home made, there is just no way i can afford a £1000 set up to buy them but i have read several other differing ideas , one is 4.5mm all over other say up to 5.8mm all over.some people also suggest to leave it blank and let the bee's decide what they want and where, I also do not understand this revision idea of making the bee's breed in smaller cells would that not make smaller bees and would we not want bigger bees to collect bigger honey crops.
as for the press all i was thinking of was a laundry mangel and two shop brought plastic foundation sheets cut from the frames and stuck to two sheets of ply wood
Hi Pete,
I think the reason regards going smaller cell is because some think it reduces the chance of a varroa buildup in the hive.

We have a member Tony350i who can talk about it at length as he has been using small cell for a while now.
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hivemaker thanks for the offer, yes i would like to take you up on one of those herring foundation press.I can make loads of flat sheet wax but where i lack knowalge is should i pattern or not and if so what size , i was reading the dave cushman pages at work today and that has only servered to confuse. The idea of 4.9mm in the centre of the brood with 5.4mm else where with drone at 6.5mm. it is starting to get a little ott, and as for the ideas behind small cells in the centre of the sheet with the top corners at a larger size, now my head realy does start spinning, I am realy going for the idea of wiring my super frames and my brood frames and just making some sheets flat and plain at 5mm thick compress rollering them down to 3mm and just fitting them in unpatterned on to the wire
Just a heads up Pete that rolling sheets may not be as straightforward as you might think. I suspect they may well just break on you.

If you have the wax as seemingly you do why not take the easier route and trade it in for foundation.

Cell size. Really pretty straight forward. 4 to the 1" is Drone, 5 to the 1" is worker.

The small cell folks have a belief (not shared by many) that "regressing" the bees to smaller cells is a way to beat varroa. To my knowledge there has not yet been scientific proof of this. It may come yet and it may not.

Wiring super frames is a wise thing to do. That is using wired foundation and also wiring the frames too. Belt and Braces... ;)

I personally have never had any breaking problems,in fact you can fold the waste in half without breaking. that is of course that you don't intend to do it outdoors on a freezing day,or store it in the fridge. never breaks going through the rollers as its very soft. The trading in of your wax is the best way to go though,in exchange for new foundation,much less mess.
The small cell folks have a belief (not shared by many) that "regressing" the bees to smaller cells is a way to beat varroa. To my knowledge there has not yet been scientific proof of this. It may come yet and it may not.


PH is correct. However, there is an interesting argument behind regression and the reasons why foundations are the size they are today. If you measure natural comb
(no foundation) the sell sizes do get smaller to the middle and there are a number of reasons people claim this is the case.

As it has been proven that larger bees do not collect more honey than smaller bees, which incorrect assumption is the main reason behind the size of foundation is today, and as the bees themselves build a range of cell sizes for worker brood for reasons known best to themselves, I think it a subject worth trying to understand better and maybe adapt methods accordingly. Many beekeepers are adopting the practice of not supplying foundation with this in mind. Some will argue that not using foundation will affect your honey yield, but that also remains a matter of some debate.

Thornes now supply 4.9 foundation if you ask for it, but I did not much like the batch they sent me.

Cambridge UK
Would anyone else agree that Thornes Q Control slips at times?
I purchased some frames that should of been in the seconds bin last year.

As it has been proven that larger bees do not collect more honey than smaller bees,

I am not saying this is wrong but could you please furnish us with the proven facts?

I think I have read somewhere that the bees are larger in new cells than in cells that have been used by generations of bees. Also that the bigger bee collects more in weight per bee than a smaller bee. (Can't remember where I read that).

Hi Bcrazy

I believe there has be aerodynamic work done to prove that as a honey bee gets larger it's flight efficiency decreases, although I don't keep a list of references of everything I have read constantly updated and to hand, sorry.

Part of the debate that pushed the enlargement of foundation was bees could fly further and faster, carrying more nectar that would be collected quicker and from more flowers due to their bigger stronger wings, longer tongues and larger nectar sacs.

I think most entomologists today would not agree with such a victorian rationale though.

Cambridge UK
Ahh, also. While a bigger bee might collect more in one foraging trip, that does not necessarily mean it will collect more in a days foraging.

Similarly, although another topic, an italian colony in the UK may have more bees in it than an AMM colony, but collect less nectar.

I've wondered before if cell size also has something to do with more efficient heat retention in the cluster on the smaller central cells of natural comb. Must be 'snugger' in a small cell than a drafty old big one!
Thank you for that pdcambs.

I have now found what I mentioned in the previous post regarding size of bee.

There is scientific evidence to suggest that bees reared from larger cells will carry larger loads of nectar and produce more honey as a result.

From; The Hive and the Honey Bee Cell size and shape, p.554.

I have also read elsewhere that the bigger the bee the better flight muscles are developed to enhance the ability to fly longer distances for forage.

Just goes to show can we believe everything we read?


This is in regard to Apis mm.
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This is now returning to where i started from i have all ways used pre rolled foundation from thornes on a wax trade and want to now , expand my knowelage of bee manipulation, starting with bee cells, one of the bad things from the internet age is the abundance of ideas as well as the old the new new aswell. I am realy getting so much help its confussing ,over the years i have seen lots of wild comb and it does realy range in size, but I am trying to get a bit of a standard size going, and as for the wax becoming brittle ,stop reading books and have a go, we use a water boiler outside filled with water and the wifes old stew pot, this is just big enough to dip a ply wood sheet into it about 450mm by 350mm three dips gives me a sheet thickness of 2.5mm. it then gets dipped into the rain water butt another three dips and then we use a flat blade kithen spatular to scrap it off it is then stacked between news paper sheets and when we have enoughwe cut then up with an old pizza cutter and then we put them into the super frames
I also thick thornes is not the best of quality at times. you have to pick and choose, i know of several people who spent a very amount of money buying those cheep frames at last years spring show for a lot of them when the pack was opened the inside parts were broken. i started to use a guy called cottrill near leamington spa and his stuff is spot on. but then again i dont buy any seconds for my frames i only buy firsts they last for ages and i have no problems with them. I save money because i make all my own equipment and bee hive boxs
Pete you have got the best idea,make as much equipment as you can yourself,and if your allready good at making plain sheets of wax,then with the former you can turn out foundation as fast as you can pass it through your probs with being brittle at all.The only time you need stop doing your own foundation is if colony numbers go up and you need much larger ammounts,then exchanging wax becomes a better option,and gives you more time to make more hives.
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