curzio wrote: I've started my experience as a beekeeper last spring with two 3-pound packs and Italian queens. Starting with new equipment - plain wax foundation on 10 frames per box - I first dropped the packs in medium size and gradually replaced the med frames with small sized. FYI standard foundation measures 5.4mm - med 5.1 and small 4.9. Smaller foundation imprint leads to smaller cells drawn out. Eggs develop to adult insects in 19 days in small cell versus 21 in standard cell size.
At the end of the season I have all frames with small foundation but I guess that my bee population is now rather a mix of med - small bees. I'm following a small group of bee keepers who are trying to reduce the bee size, shorten the egg-adult development to disrupt the life of the varroa mite. As this parasite develops in the cell in 21 days and then rides on the adult bee until ready to lay more eggs in the cell after the queen has laid her egg. Smaller bees collect less pollen and may produce less honey ... but I have harvested 11 gallons of honey from two hives and certainly would not want more.
As a biodynamic gardener I'm keeping bees without any chemical. At the end of the season I've sprinkled powder sugar once a week for 4 weeks. As the bees lick the powder sugar off each other, the practice increases the grooming habit ... bees that groom remove more mites.
I'm very happy with my first season! I can report 2 very strong hives with lots of honey to go into the winter season (two deep boxes each) + experimenting with one additional super - picture shows hives as they went into winter.
Next year I hope to find a good survival rate and be able to split the populations to create local queens. I would be glad to keep in touch with other bee keepers that are interested in natural honey production (no chemicals) and local queen rearing with small-sized bee populations.