Small Cell Bees

What compelling reasons do Hobby and commercial beekeepers have to use small cell foundation in there beehives?

It’s a debate that has been around for over 100 years since the introduction of larger cell size foundation and today the debate surrounds the bee’s ability to control disease vectors without dying and with little or no chemical imputes on small cell foundation.

Let’s forget for a moment about small cell and disease control and look at one aspect of small cell bees and why the home hobby beekeeper and the Commercial beekeeper would want to have small cell foundation in their hives.

Firstly just to be clear for everyone that no study of any type has ever found any detriment to having small cell bees in their hives. Only arguing about if it can or cannot be used for disease control!

So why have small cell Foundation in your hive i.e. cell size of 4.8mm, 4.83mm, 4.9mm, 5.0mm to a maximum size of 5.1mm are all considered small cell sizes for foundation whilst current large cell size commercially available foundation ranges from 5.3mm, 5.4mm 5.5mm 5.6mm up to a whopping 5.7mm and some even bigger!!!!!!!!

$MONEY$ yes small cell bees make more $MONEY$

This can’t be true you say but hey there have been quite a number of people who have stated this long and loud but nobody was listening………… “Are you listening Now”………. It’s not the first time I have made this argument and it won’t be the last time.

How can small cell bees make you more money compared to large cell bees?

Some important facts to understand about bees!


Bees make a number of different cell sizes and the deeper the combe the smaller the cell size gets and natural small cell bees usually start around 5.1mm and go down to 4.7mm and smaller



The size of the cell effects the time it takes for a bee to hatch and the difference can be up to 2 days earlier hatching on 4.8mm cell size bees compared to 5.4mm and larger cell size bees



Small cell bees of 4.8mm to 4.9mm size foundation live longer from 8 to 12 and often up to 16 weeks compared to a general 6 weeks for large cell bees on 5.4mm or above foundation size.



Knowing and understanding these three pieces of information should be enough for most people to see that you are going to end up with more bees in your box and in simple terms more bees equals more honey equals more $MONEY$

Just how many more bees are we talking about??????????????

Under normal conditions with a good queen she will lay around 2000 to a generally accepted 3000 eggs a day. If the bees normally only live for 6 weeks during the summer then that’s between 80,000 to 126,000 bees in the box!

If the bees live longer by just 2 weeks we end up with a hive of 112,000 to 168,000 bees in the box and that’s up to double the number of bees and you can easily expect an increase of 20% to 50% more $ honey $

More bees equals more $honey$ so if the bees live for an extra 4 weeks compared to large cell bees then you can expect a colony size that’s very large from 140,000 to 210,000

And if by some accounts the small cell bees can live for up to 6 weeks longer than large cell bees then you could end up with 168,000 to 252,000 bees in your box. That’s a tripling of the number of bees and $HONEY$ compared to large cell foundation bees.

Smaller bees are faster flyers and more agile and able to escape predators so more bees return to the hive faster and less predation on the colony and they eat less with more frequent return journeys. The older a bee is the smarter it gets and can pass this information onto other bees so having longer living bees!!! has many advantages.

Now if the bees hatch just 1 to 3 days quicker this makes for a much smaller more compact brood chamber that’s easier to manage and keep warm and requires less bees to manage it and this frees up bees for other duties like cleaning the hive and foraging so more bees are able to go out and collect $honey$ and pollen.

What’s the catch? Why doesn’t everyone use small cell foundation in there beehives.

Until recently it simply was not generally available to purchase in most places around the world because the 5.3mm and 5.4mm where the accepted norm dating back around a 100 years when people believed having a bigger bee would allow it to have a longer tongue and thus access more flowers but this simply does not happen i.e. it’s not true.

Today the debate rages over small cell bee’s ability to fight disease and survive Varroa destructor and once again completely misses the point of small cell bees.

Now with small cell foundation being relatively easy to purchase or make yourself it’s easy to make the switch but bees have now been manipulated to be bigger for around 100 years and some bees take time to epigenetically re-adapt to the smaller cell size of 4.8mm or 4.9mm but most bees are fine with 5.1mm but true epigenetically small cell adapted bees takes around 5 years and a little patience but most people see a big difference in year 3 of this process with a 30% plus increase in honey production and after 5 years you are getting all the benefits of small cell bees.

Am I saying this just because I have small cell foundation for sale…NO. and I am not the only person with small cell foundation for sale I am sure. I have been talking about the benefits of small cell foundation for a long time before getting any foundation equipment of my own and anyone willing to do just a modicum of research will come to the same conclusions.

If you want to know more just give me a call. Or you could read my other articles about why small cell bees and why they are the way of the future for beekeepers around the world.

one very good article about cell size can be found here  and here