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Author Topic: Controversial comment by Jennifer Berry  (Read 17215 times)
tillie
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« on: January 24, 2011, 09:03:50 PM »

At the Metro Short Course on Saturday, Jennifer Berry said (not an exact quote) "Don't let anyone tell you that small cell fights the varroa mite.  There have now been four studies and none of them showed that small cell made a difference." 

She also said that Dee Lusby has africanized bees in Arizona and she would therefore not have a Varroa problem - that it doesn't have to do with cell size but with the behavior of the africanized bee.  She said in the wild bees build cells from 4.9 to 5.3 mm.  From the back of the room another instructor said with his tongue in cheek, "But Jennifer, you didn't regress them properly."

So I throw this out there because I thought it was discouraging to new beekeepers and didn't help them keep their minds open.  I know Don K in Lula has his Varroa mites under control and all of his bees are small cell.  I also know that Michael Bush who doesn't use chemicals either, has small cell bees and no Varroa problem.

I'm sure all natural cell beekeepers do have some Varroa mites, but the bees are able to manage them, in my limited experience, when they can choose cell size.

I haven't made a conscious effort to regress my bees, but from year two I have only used foundationless frames and my bees are doing fine - if hives die at my apiary sites, it's because I made a clear beekeeper error and I usually know what it was - rather than that they died from Varroa.

Interested to hear what you all think,

Linda T in Atlanta
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2011, 09:19:03 PM »

here is my admittedly non-scientific observation on small cell.  it's bunk.

i'll expand a bit as i duck  evil

look at the people who have gone treatment free.  they all have some things in common.  they have allowed weak hives to die.  they have cultivated queens and stock that are proven survivors.  SOME have their bees on small cell.  many, and i'd guess most from what i have read, have gone to "natural"  cell,  doing as you have done, and allowing the bees to draw what they need/want.

in addition to the above, most of us don't do things like drone comb manipulation, etc.  

small cell is like all kinds of other neat ideas.  they seem valid, they cost more, they end up being more cost and bother than they are worth.   and yes, there was at least one good study done on small cell that said it made no difference.  it's the only one i am aware of and it as in bee culture (i think?) a year or so ago.  i think it was also reposted here.
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2011, 09:30:14 PM »

well come to think of it maybe small cell is a bunk idea. that;s why lot of people sneak around buying hives of small cell bees when there bees die. Lips Sealed funny I make my living -full time not part time off bees. but who am I to doubt studies that maybe chemical company's might give big grants for. yep your right don't work=don't use it. use what makes your bees happy. I stopped defending it 5 yrs ago. that's why I sell 4.9 mills to the open minded. rolleyes grin

Don
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2011, 09:50:13 PM »

And I, Don, am one of your most eager customers and talk up your bees all the time.....so I believe in what you are doing but was disappointed to hear Jennifer nay-saying so definitively.  If she had positively commented on natural cells or foundationless beekeeping, I would have felt better.

I have heard her say (and she did say this in another talk at the short course) that if you buy any foundation from anyone, including most organic beekeepers, it is laced with fluvalinate and other poisons.  She did a study at UGA that required that her control hive have foundation with no tracing of poison and in the end had to use popsicle sticks as starters because they couldn't find uncontaminated wax from anyone including beekeepers like Bill Owens who hasn't used chemicals ever in his hives.

Linda
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2011, 09:57:21 PM »

I've had smallcell for years.

And like some others, when they first came out with comments against it (or the overhype and promotion of over inflated claims), I have been hammered for years. Before smallcell, it was FGMO. Then smallcell. And lately, I have been hammered by Warre groupies who email me from time to time with colorful language.

Oh well. The studies supported what I said before they came along. Such is life. Beekeeping is funny. I think we will be having this discussion 20 years from now. Right along with conversations of why one should not kill off all swarm cells, and why placing your hives in the sun is a good thing. It takes a lifetime to change the chant that some repeat after running their heads up some beekeepers butts, following like sheep, and always wondering why the grass is greener as claimed by those on the other side of the fence. But it never seems to be once you really take a look after taking off the blinders.

BTW...the comments were not controversial. Perhaps to those who don't want to hear it. But not to those who agree with Berry, or found their own findings in line with hers.

Could of made lots off selling smallcell. But I didn't. I never sold one hive of smallcell. Maybe that says a bit more than the others who actually sell it to the hopeful sheep in line, holding the kool-aid cup.
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2011, 09:59:12 PM »

I have talked to ms. berry after the state bee meeting when she said small cell was bunk. I had offered her chemical free wax to use in here study. to say organic beekeepers would have harsh chemical in there bees wax is bunk======gotta watch who's toes you step on when your receiving millions in grants.

well I am off my soap box now====sorry afro rolleyes grin
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2011, 10:05:15 PM »

 F/B  do you also raise your own queens, avoid saving weak hives, and are you careful with your genetics?  i have not met anyone who has bought into small cell without also ending treatments and watching genetics. 

no offense, but when you say follow the money, that doesn't just apply to chemical companies.......
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2011, 10:24:51 PM »

None of the smallcell studies that have been performed even attempt to replicate what beekeepers that see success are actually doing.  As researchers, it is their job to figure out what studies to perform.

If I told you I had a balanced breakfast including a glass of orange juice, some bacon, a bowl of cereal, and a glass of milk, would you do a study feeding people orange juice and frosted flakes for breakfast in order to determine if my breakfast was balanced?  This is essentially what has been done in all of the studies I'm aware of.

Her position is not uncommon...Randy Oliver was quoted calling our conference "a cult meeting"...although his untreated HSC hives "refuse to die", he attributes this to offgassing of the HSC  rolleyes

Erik Osterlund gave a talk on the small cell studies at our conference last year (at some point I'll try to get this up online), and I have a few comments from Erik and Michael Bush on the subject posted at our website:
http://thecompleteidiotsguidetobeekeeping.com/index.php/beekeeping/articles/92-small-cell-studies

In any case, we certainly believe that small cell has helped us...we didn't have bees alive in the spring until we regressed.  Does it actually help?  What is the mechanism(s)?, Under what circumstances?  I don't know, but the data reported by the researchers thus far does not support their definitive claims.  I look forward to reading Tom Seeley's study.

Kathy, I've pointed out before, Michael Bush had success with small cell and commercial stock before he started breeding from survivor stock.

Don, we were told by another researcher that bees once regressed would not build 4.9 comb if given open (foundationless) frames.  We were to see her the next day, and asked if she would like us to bring in some 4.9 foundationless comb in a frame...she said "no".

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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2011, 10:30:17 PM »

What makes me sad is that taking an absolute stand on anything limits openness to the possibilities that there isn't just one answer to a question.  I watched the room of potential new beekeepers hanging onto her every word and that makes me sad.  I like Jennifer - have been at meetings where we all had a great time sitting together - but I don't think any of us should take absolute stands.

It's like the old adage - ask 10 beekeepers a question and you'll get at least 10 different answers - and that's what makes the field rich and interesting. 

Until we have a definitive answer about the varroa mite and its destructive abilities, then we should all stay open to possibilities and be willing to try variations on new things.

Linda T in Atlanta
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« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2011, 10:37:22 PM »

Tillie, i agree.  that's one of the things that has ticked me off about the religion of small cell.  i don't think there's anything wrong with small cell if that's what you want to do, but to many insist that it is the answer.  it's also more expensive and cost is often an issue with new beekeepers.  the management of varoa depends on many things, but if genetics are not stressed, all the other things we  might do are pretty useless.  there are a whole lot of us keeping treatment free bees successfully because we have taken the time to get and nurture that survivor stock.  we are not doing it on small cell. 

the popularity of small cell has declined as more and more of us realize it's the bees, not the foundation.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2011, 01:51:15 AM »

i use foundation and don't treat just like kathyp is talking about.  when it comes down to it they could be very right small cell is bunk.  here is the one factor that nobody takes into consideration that when you decide not to treat and/or go small cell you as a beekeeper are willing to go where others aren't.  you actually care about your bees and what's going into them.  be it genetics or choosing areas where pesticides aren't used.  that being said your going the extra mile for your bees in the end that's what counts.  any idiot can throw chemicals in the hive weather it needs to be treated or not and alot do.  know a guy that treats for tracheal mites twice a year.  to the best of my knowledge even commercial beekeepers running huge operations don't treat for tracheal just not a problem anymore.  also if you read the old bee books the wax moth was the varroa 170 years ago.  in the end it's about the fact of people that are having sucess keeping bees without all the toxic chemicals no matter if it's done on foundation or small cell. 
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2011, 10:45:03 AM »

Tillie, i agree.  that's one of the things that has ticked me off about the religion of small cell. 

In all fairness, a good portion of the "small cell" religion as you and I see it, is in defense of comments like Jennifer Berry.  When you have something that works for you and someone else tells you it doesn't work,  it becomes personal real quick.

This is the same debate that was had decades ago with essential oils.   I can remember being one of those folks that it didn't work for and taking heat for not getting on the essential oils bandwagon.    Then it was food grade mineral oil,  first in drip bottles with a pipe cleaner at the entrance, then on the frame tops and finally with the fogger.  Then it was Thymol in FGMO, .......   What happened to these methods that where "the answer" of the times.

Now let me say,   I don't know if small cell works or not, but it is not the silver bullet that some claim it to be.   I have some hives on HSC and some hives on Large Cell foundation,  and a lot in between - all treatment free.  I see no difference between them in my apiary.  I'm with Kathyp in that I believe genetics has a lot more to do with it.   I was never successful trying to step regress hives.   So I did attempt to single step a bunch of hives with HSC.   I also stopped all treatments at the same time.   However, there was a time early on that HSC was on backorder and I had more feral removals than HSC,  so I just put them on 25 yr old large cell comb that I had.   Low and behold,  they all survived.   Since that time,  I have not purchased any new HSC,  and have been using large cell.   I'm going on 5 years without treatment and have only had 1 hive crash due to varroa. That was a swarm that moved into an empty stack of hive bodies I had sitting on a trailer, which put more creditability to my genetics belief.

Being open minded doesn't mean buying lock, stock, & barrel into someone else's beliefs.

The bottomline is if you have something that works for you stick with it.  If something works for you, it doesn't mean it will work for others. AND,  just because something doesn't work for you, doesn't mean it does not work for others.

I have to say,  Jennifer Berry has lost credibility in my book with her statement.   As a researcher,  she should know that you can't prove a negative and she just showed her personal bias with those statements.


No disrespect for Don, because he obviously has his act together and is successfully producing outstanding bees, but I don't see how you can definitively tie your success to small cell.  It is my understanding that small cell is not the only thing that separates your management from the traditional beeks. You claim chemical-free foundation and I know at one time you used FGMO and perhaps other natural remedies.   At best,  I see small cell as accountable for a portion of your success.   But making claims just begs questions from others.   Do you have any customers that have bought bees from you and are successfully keeping them on commercial large cell foundation?
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2011, 11:10:45 AM »

thanks, Robo.  i think everything you said is dead on.  it just makes me sad when i get emails or calls from people who have heard about smallcell as a cure for mites.  the conversation is usually something like "i'm going to buy packages and put them on small cell foundation so i don't have to treat for mites.  what do you think?".  that same person might buy from fatbeeman, or MB and keep bees on small cell successfully, but you know darn well that when they dump that package on small cell and don't treat, the bees are probably not going to make it into a second season.

the people who encourage small cell need to explain clearly the entire system they use so that new beekeepers can evaluate the variables, or at least have a clear idea that small cell is part of the system and not the magic cure.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2011, 09:22:47 PM »

I can only say I never succeeded at keeping them alive without chemicals until I went to small cell and have had no problems since.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beessctheories.htm
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« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2011, 09:58:37 PM »

Hi Michael, 

I just read your page (again) on small cell and appreciate so much your chiming in.  I have felt so comfortable as a beekeeper because I've felt willing to listen to you, and Sam, and Don and count all three of you as my mentors (and Wyatt Mangum).  It's hard to be in a beekeeping community where the predominant opinion is to do it the old-fashioned way, although many of my Atlanta beekeeping comrades are not using poisons.

When my friend Julia and I do hive inspections for the Metro club and hold up our foundationless frames and show the beautiful comb the bees build; when we talk about working with the bees instead of trying to control the bees; when we talk about working WITH the hive instead of working ON the hive, I try to channel you, Sam, Don and others to make me feel grounded.  At the end of the inspection when the participants see our gentle bees and find that they don't need to be smoked to open the hive, I always feel like I've gained a little ground.  Or when someone says they read my blog and have tried some of the more natural ways to approach the bees, again I feel like I've gained a little ground.

We showed a movie that we made on how to harvest honey both without an extractor (crush and strain) and with an extractor at the Metro course.  In answering questions more than once, respected beekeepers and presenters said to the audience, "Well, that's just how Linda does it," with an emphasis on Linda because in that arena, I am seen as a renegade beekeeper.

So I will be keeping on with my natural cell approach to my bees, but it is disheartening to hear presenters at a short course with more than 100 participants take such a stand on "renegade" approaches to beekeeping instead of keeping an open mind.

Linda T in Atlanta
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2011, 09:59:10 PM »

the people who encourage small cell need to explain clearly the entire system they use so that new beekeepers can evaluate the variables, or at least have a clear idea that small cell is part of the system and not the magic cure.


Hi Kathy,

It seems to me that there are 5 that are the most visible proponents of small cell, and all of them have presented their approach quite publicly.

Dee Lusby:  Wrote "The Way Back to Biological Beekeeping", available for free on beesource.  A bit tough reading, but it is there and it is rather complete.
Michael Bush:  http://BushFarms.com/Bees/ is about as complete a beekeeping text as exists anywhere, and it clearly outlines what he is doing.
Dennis Murrell:  http://beenatural.wordpress.com/  I admit that I've been remiss and have not read all of what Dennis has at his site, so I won't claim to know the details of what is there.
Don "Fatbeeman":  http://www.fatbeeman.com/  although i don't think don is completely "treatment free", he certainly has great bees with very little in the way of eo's and such.  He teaches classes, has utube videos, etc
Us (Dean Stiglitz and Laurie "Ramona" Herboldsheimer):  We run an extensive conference every summer for treatment free beekeeping with over 100 attendees every year, and top notch speakers from around the world, and we wrote "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping" as a complete treatment free approach in 244 pages.

I'm not sure how much more clear or in depth we could be.

I will say that there is a pattern of people picking up the "small cell" concept, deciding it is a magic bullet that will succeed regardless of what other management practices are being used, speaking very loudly and with misplaced authority to beekeepers that have actual experience.  

But this pattern is part of beekeeping, we see a similar thing with Walt Wright's "checker boarding" method.  In order to prevent swarming, he suggests placing alternating frames of foundation and drawn comb ABOVE the active broodnest at the specified time.  Most people seem to hear about this without getting the details right, and takes 5 frames of bees/brood and alternates them with foundation....there are never enough bees in this situation to do something like that without really stressing the bees, probably chilling some brood, and really setting them back.

This doesn't make Walt wrong or a bad guy in any way....he is very clear about what he recommends.  Nonetheless, I expect hundreds or thousands of hives are subjected to this every year out of misunderstaing and misplaced authority (I've heard people recommend this to new beekeepers).

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« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2011, 10:01:11 PM »

but there is a difference between natural cell and small cell.  i use natural cell also.  i figure the bees know what they need and i let them draw it.  that's a far cry from forcing them onto one size, either large or small.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2011, 10:05:11 PM »

i am only familiar with 3 of those people.  all of those do things other than small cell that can account for their success.  that's really my main point.  i don't care if people use small cell, but i submit, and many of us can back up this submission, that it is equally possible to keep treatment free bees without small cell.  if you can remove one piece of a management and still get the same results, that one thing is not responsible for success.  i suggest also, that if you do not have the right genetics, you will fail on small cell just as you will fail on any other size comb.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2011, 10:42:13 PM »

I've been doing small cell/foundationless for 2 years now.  This year I had a yard of 10 hives that were started as packages this year, or splits from packages.  These were all first year queens from Wilbanks.  I am not fully regressed, but I tried to have the core of the broodnest in all hives of PF small cell or foundationless frames.

New Year's weekend the weather was nice enough to look at them.  5/10 hives were dead, with plenty of honey remaining.  Hives with small cell were dead right beside live hives with small cell.

When I looked at all 42 of my hives, I had 7 of 15 Wilbanks hives die.  My only other losses were 3 weaker nucs that I was trying to overwinter.  My other hives were from last years overwinter hives, swarms, or headed by queens I raised this summer from my best overwintered hives.

There are roughly 300 hives in my county according to the list of registered apiaries.  I talked to owners of over 170 hives.  I could only find one who had treated their hives with any mite treatment, and that was a first year beekeeper who treated because he thought he was supposed to.  I talked to a local guy with a bee supply business, and he told me that almost no one in the county has bought any mite treatments in the past 2 years.  I live in an area that has minimal exposure to migratory bees.

I can't say if small cell/foundationless makes a difference.  At this point, it appears that not treating and local stock makes more of a difference.  (I recently read a study that found that non-native bees had a harder time digesting local pollens, and bees from warmer climates were not as adapted to making body heat.)

With that said, I like small cell if for no other reason than having more worker brood per frame.  Simply by having a higher density of cells, any given cluster size can cover more brood on small cell than they can on large cell.  In cold climates, this is important during early spring buildup.
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« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2011, 08:47:09 AM »

>but there is a difference between natural cell and small cell.  i use natural cell also.  i figure the bees know what they need and i let them draw it.  that's a far cry from forcing them onto one size, either large or small.

But natural cell is still resolving the underlying issue, which is cell size.  I have done a lot of both and see the same end result.  Bees that have no Varroa issues.

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