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Artificial foundation was developed shortly after the invention of the removable frames. The first foundation frame was invented by Johannes Mehring in Germany (Graham, 1992). But as more people began producing artificial foundation for Langstroth hives, beekeepers began experimenting with different sized cells.  Fast forward to today; we see both small cell and standard comb, but why is that? Well, that is the topic of part 2 of this 4-part blog series.

  1. History of comb management- https://beeinformed.org/2017/09/14/comb-management-part-1/
  2. Cell size: why so much variation between producers?
  3. Management strategies of foundation
  4. Benefits of replacing old comb

In part 1, I wrote about the history of comb management. In part 2, I decided to write about cell size. Cell size is a highly heated and debated topic that I, as a former commercial beekeeper, did not know of until recently. As a commercial beekeeper, we would buy foundation in bulk, which had a “standard” cell size (5.2mm to 5.4mm). I had zero concept of small versus standard cell size, and I became curious about why beekeepers would use small cell instead of standard cell. So I did what any eager millennial would do- I googled it. I found Michael Bush’s (http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm)  and Randy Oliver’s post (http://scientificbeekeeping.com/trial-of-honeysupercell-small-cell-combs/) about small cell size (and I went down a few other rabbit holes), and I instantly became fascinated about small cell size. I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In 1857, Johannes Mehring produced the first comb foundation (Graham, 1992). His goal was to provide bees with a template, which would encourage bees to build worker comb in the frames. From that day forward, artificial foundation became a part of beekeeping. However, beekeepers began to experiment with different cell sizes. In 1927, Baudoux hypothesized that larger cell sizes would produce larger bees, and based upon anecdotal evidence from his own colonies, he claimed larger bees produced higher yields of honey. Without scientific evidence, manufacturers in Belgium and France began to produce foundation with larger cells. These manufacturers asserted that bees raised in larger cells produced more honey and this concept took off (Grout, 1935). Those fallacies faded into history as cell size become standardized at 5.2mm-5.4mm.

Read full article with more detailed pictures here: Comb Management Part 2: Comb size — Bee Informed Partnership