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Author Topic: Small cell small bees?  (Read 427 times)
Jow4040
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« on: November 25, 2014, 06:59:12 PM »

Hi all,

After doing a bunch of reading i have started myself down the small cell path. I am really enjoying watching the bees building what they want and like the idea that it may also be keeping bees more to their natural size.

I have read that larger cell produces larger bees. I have been looking for pictures of bees from large cell next to those of small cell to compare their difference. i have one hive on large cell foundation and a few hives that are foundationless but they have just started this season and its going to take a while for the bees to fully revert.

Does anyone know of pictures showing the size difference? I am very curious to see the results and cant wait the time it is going to fully revert my hives to compare them myself.

Thanks,

Joe.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2014, 08:09:25 AM »

I don't keep both, just the small, but the size difference is dramatic.  Baudoux did a lot of measurements and recently Mullen and Brown did as well.  Basically a large cell bee is 150% of the volume of a small cell bee.  In other words, half again as big.
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Michael Bush
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AR Beekeeper
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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2014, 12:10:38 PM »

According to Baudoux's table showing cell size and worker size the body length for a bee raised in a 5.96 mm cell is 16.00 mm and the length for one raised in a 4.925 mm sized cell is 12.82 mm, a difference of 3.18 mm.   A bee raised on a 5.21 mm cell has a body length of 13.77 mm, a difference of 2.23 mm between the standard sized cell and the largest cell Baudoux used. 

The difference between a standard cell bee and the small cell bee in body length is 0.95 mm.  It will be hard to tell the difference between them, they will look like bees loaded with nectar and those that are empty.  Baudoux was trying to improve nectar gathering by increasing tongue length and honey sac capacity, and he claimed a 30% increase in nectar gathered.  Other researchers were not able to make the same increase when they repeated Baudoux's work. 
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Culley
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« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2014, 05:26:30 PM »

I've been using foundationless for about four years. I haven't done any deliberate regression, just put foundationless combs in. Quite a few of the original foundation combs have been destroyed through SHB and extracting. But a lot of the original foundation frames are still in some of the hives.

I have split the hives quite a bit too though. Some hives would be almost all foundationless.

With this kind of ad hoc transition to foundationless, how long before an observable change in cell size and worker size? How many cycles of completely changing all the brood combs?

There seems to be a bit of variation among the worker sizes - one hive in particular has smaller workers and a couple of hives have noticably larger workers.
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AR Beekeeper
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2014, 07:18:31 PM »

Here in the U.S. the natural size range for worker size cells of Italian bees goes from 5.1 mm on the small side up to 5.4 on the large side.  The average worker cell is 5.2 or 5.3 mm.  Your bees will naturally build comb with worker cells in these ranges. Cell size is not the only thing that determines the size of the bee, genetics and food supply during the larva stage will make a bee larger or smaller than the average.  Bees from warped comb have been reported as being as small as house flies, this I read in old issues of ABCs & XYZs of Beekeeping.

Most of what you read about bees being enlarged because of foundation cell size and then regressing would only pertain to your bees if you used the 5.7, 5.8 mm cell foundation like Baudoux did in Europe.  Any beekeeper would consider that size outside of worker cell's natural range.  Your bees, if well fed, will probably stay in the 5.1 to 5.4 size when they build comb for the brood nest.

According to those that practice small cell beekeeping, regression will start in the second or third season of comb building.  Put your foundationless frame between two brood frames in the center of the brood nest.  When the bees have drawn the comb measure 10 cells in the center of the comb to get an average cell size.  What is the average size of the cells in the foundation that you use?  I use plastic with 5.25 cells and my bees naturally draw foundationless no smaller than 5.1. 
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Culley
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2014, 06:09:28 AM »

I don't know what size the cells in foundation are. I took over looking after the hives, and didn't use any foundation, mainly because I was too cheap to buy it.

I have seen patches on really old combs where the cell walls have become so thick the bees no longer use those cells for anything.
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jayj200
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« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2014, 09:34:50 AM »

very interesting
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OldMech
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« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2014, 09:52:09 AM »

Hi all,

After doing a bunch of reading i have started myself down the small cell path. I am really enjoying watching the bees building what they want and like the idea that it may also be keeping bees more to their natural size.

Joe.

   Natural cell or small cell?

  Small cell would be giving them foundation with 4.9 mm cells stamped into it..   Natural cell would be building what they like.

   It sounds like you are doing natural?  If so, when they have a frame well drawn out, take it out and look at it.. the cells closer to the center of a brood frame will be smaller than the surrounding cells. It can be seen with the naked eye..   
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39 Hives and growing.  Havent found the end of the comfort zone yet.
thewhiterhino
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2014, 09:56:53 AM »

I have seen patches on really old combs where the cell walls have become so thick the bees no longer use those cells for anything.

This causes me to wonder if contaminated combs might weigh into the drive to swarm or absconding.
If combs are sensed by the bees to be unusable maybe a new home is in order in order to get fresh uncontaminated combs.
If that is the case comb harvesting should become a regular thing.
Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: November 27, 2014, 11:03:22 PM by thewhiterhino » Logged

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Jow4040
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2014, 05:21:04 PM »

Hi all,

After doing a bunch of reading i have started myself down the small cell path. I am really enjoying watching the bees building what they want and like the idea that it may also be keeping bees more to their natural size.

Joe.

   Natural cell or small cell?

  Small cell would be giving them foundation with 4.9 mm cells stamped into it..   Natural cell would be building what they like.

   It sounds like you are doing natural?  If so, when they have a frame well drawn out, take it out and look at it.. the cells closer to the center of a brood frame will be smaller than the surrounding cells. It can be seen with the naked eye..   

I'm not using foundation at all in most of my hives but i have one hive on foundation which i am not sure of its size. i will have to check next inspection.
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OldMech
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2014, 09:11:04 AM »

I have seen patches on really old combs where the cell walls have become so thick the bees no longer use those cells for anything.

This causes me to wonder if contaminated combs might weigh into the drive to swarm or absconding.
If combs are sensed by the bees to be unusable maybe a new home is in order in order to get fresh uncontaminated combs.
If that is the case comb harvesting should become a regular thing.
Any thoughts?

   I cut out the old comb and drop the frames back in so they can rebuild them at 3 to 5 years..   I live in the heart of neonic country so its important to do this.. but I also do not use pesticides in my hive to kill mites, so that gives me a little more leeway than most have when it comes to build up of toxic chemicals in the wax.
   As I have read it;  It is the combination of chemicals that are absorbed by the wax that becomes the most problamatic to the bees..  If they are bringing back neonics, fungicides, pesticides from peoples gardens and flower beds AND your using mite strips, gels etc to control Varroa mites...  ALL of those things combine in a toxic soup that can be many times more deadly than any of the single chemicals in and of themselves..
    Replacing the drawn comb every 3 plus years DOES make them use resources I would prefer they were storing for MY use, but it also insures that they do not have to fight the combination of chems that slowly build up.
   An added advantage; In the spring, when I cut out those old combs and checkerboard them back into the hive.. it puts them to work and makes them think about something other than swarming..
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39 Hives and growing.  Havent found the end of the comfort zone yet.
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