if we need to be able to explain (or even understand) the mechanism of why something works before we can use (or talk) about it, i'd like someone to explain gravity to me (not just what, but why and how) so that i can continue to stack boxes and have them stay on top of one another.
there are lots of things that are different when the size of the cell is reduced.
1. brood (and bee) density s increased.
2. (and i think this is most important): when one looks at similar insect populations (and airplanes) of differing sizes, there is a clear cubal (geometric) relationship between length and weight (mass). when bees are enlarged via using larger cells, the weight increases proportionally (not geometrically) with respect to length. in essence, this means the bee is bigger and heavier (by about 30%), but the flight muscles (which are used for flying and heating in the hive) are the same mass. if this were applied to an airplane (longer plane, longer wingspan, more cargo/passenger room) and the engine stayed the same size, no one would expect the larger plane to perform as well as the smaller.
when i first heard some of the small cell claims, i was pretty skeptical.....the claims (from various sources) indicated it would help with any problem...this sounded like snake oil to me. if, however, we look at humans that are 30% overwieight, we will see increases in almost any imaginable disease (diabetes, cardiovascular, mental illness, cancer, orthopedic problems, reproductive issues, etc), and more of an impact in the individual from these diseases.....any doctor looking at a sick "hive of humans" (an overweight family, community, or population) that is also 30% overweight would prescribe weight loss for all, especially for anyone with obvious health problems...even flu complications are worse in obese people.
yes, i know bees aren't people, but they have tasks to perform (which includes flying with a payload), and making them bigger and heavier but not stronger makes all these tasks more difficult.
i'm also a big proponent of natural comb (we were using foundationless before we even heard of small cell), but in our experience, lc bees, when placed in a foundatinoless situation, draw about 5.1-5.2. bees use their own bodies as guages to determine what size cells they are building...and bigger bees build bigger cells.
badeaux (who was the one to start experementing with larger cell sizes) was a lamarckian, and used the fact that bees enlarged only because they were given large foundation didn't draw small comb when given the chance (shaken down) as evidence of lamarckian genetics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism
now, we know that large bees will draw slightly smaller cells when given the chance, and we know that if we keep shaking them down, the cells will get smaller still. there is nothing natural about enlarged bees, and there is nothing natural about "letting them build what they want" if they are doing this from the perspective of enlarged bees.
this is to say, yes, there is a big difference between "sc" and "natural cell", but "natural cell" built from lc bees is different from "natural cell" from sc bees (or bees that have been on natural comb for many years). it would be nice simply going foundationless from lc bees quickly led to the same "natural cell" that sc bees make, but it is simply not the case.
our own experience in this was that lc bees didn't regress fast enough...and we lost the colonies before they "regressed themselves". by first regressing the bees to small cell _then_ letting them build what they want is what we changed in our operation that allowed us to keep bees without treatments, and have them overwinter successfully. so, although the terms "small cell" and "natural cell" refer to different things, there is a such thing (and, imho, a reason) to "regress to sc" before adopting "natural cell".
wrt the term "regression", yes, "regression to the mean" is a statistical term (not necessarily a genetic one)...but the word "regression" simply means to "move backwards". the idea that you can add two words to a term, change it's meaning, and then claim that the use of the original single word is indicative of some kind of suspect marketing is absurd....the two terms are as (or more) different as "hive" and "hive tool", "bee" and "bee fly", "honey" and "honey house", etc.