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Author Topic: Why did my bees become small?  (Read 871 times)
Bee Curious
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« on: October 10, 2013, 12:50:52 PM »

First year beek here.  When I got my package this spring of 'small cell bees,' I didn't think they looked much smaller than the honeybees I've always seen in my yard.  Many generations later, many of my fall bees are much smaller than the bees I had earlier.  Also, in September, many of the drones were HUGE--much bigger than they'd been earlier.  Can anyone explain this to me?
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sawdstmakr
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« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2013, 12:55:34 PM »

It all depends on the size of the cells in the brood area. Bee size is controlled by the cell they are raised in and their food supply. Once they hatch, they do not grow any more. Per Michael Bush, their abdomens can swell a bit but that is the extent.
Jim
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"If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper you are misinformed."--Mark Twain
Michael Bush
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2013, 07:05:06 PM »

What size is your foundation?  Or do you have foundation?  On their own (no foundation) I often see cells as small as 4.6mm and sometimes as small as 4.4mm.  Also newly emerged bees do look smaller because their abdomens have not swelled yet.  Huber made that observation more than two centuries ago...
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
Bee Curious
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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 07:41:52 PM »

What size is your foundation?  Or do you have foundation?  On their own (no foundation) I often see cells as small as 4.6mm and sometimes as small as 4.4mm.  Also newly emerged bees do look smaller because their abdomens have not swelled yet.  Huber made that observation more than two centuries ago...


I went foundationless, and I have a wide range of cell sizes.  They started out big and crazy and gradually got more even and smaller as I "repaired" the wonky comb.  I have some perfect even normal depth comb and I also have some giant honey-filled comb that I call "double wides".  My hive produced a lot of drones this summer, so there are plenty of big cells around the edges of frames.  Or maybe I had a lot of drones because the cells were big?

Tell me more about this abdomen swelling--is it lengthwise or crosswise?  Some of my mini bees look like their wings cover the length of their abdomens.

« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 09:33:20 PM by Bee Curious » Logged
tjc1
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« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2013, 08:58:07 PM »

I just noticed this same phenomenon in my hive. Changing the feeder (bucket in an empty deep on top) the large number of bees up there were very small looking, while the bees coming and going at the entrance looked the usual size. This hive is all standard foundation (albeit in its second year of use - I read that the cells get smaller with age what with the cocoon material that builds up).
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BlueBee
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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 09:39:40 PM »

I do both small cell bees (Mann Lake PF frames) and regular sized bees (Pierco frames).  My small cells are noticeably smaller, but I haven’t seen any I would call very small yet.  It might still happen, who knows.  I have raised silk moths for a number of years, and their size really varies quite a bit on nutrition.  Seems plausible a similar effect might occur with bees.  Where I am, something is almost always blooming (carbs and protein) all season and maybe that abundance results in a more consistent sized (albeit smaller) bee. I dunno   
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2013, 08:32:29 PM »

My bees are very small and that is obvious from looking at them.  I would say your natural comb is the cause of your small bees.  The abdomen swells somewhat in all directions but mostly in length.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
Bee Curious
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2013, 07:15:36 PM »

I guess my bees just wanna be like Michael Bush's beez!   I know there are certain advantages to small cell bees, but are there any disadvantages when it comes to wintering them?  They look so...little.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2013, 08:32:15 PM »

No wintering disadvantages.  The winter well.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
T Beek
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2013, 05:19:16 AM »

No wintering disadvantages.  The winter well.


They eat less and take up less room......................
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marshmasterpat
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2013, 12:41:27 AM »

If they are really small and you have a plastic safari style bee suit hat that Danant sells with a long horizontal vents on the top be careful if they get mad.  Their abdomens can fit inside the hat and if you are a fat head like me, they can reach the sides of your head.  Took 11 stings to the side of the head during a late summer cut out. 
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Bee Curious
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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2013, 03:21:33 PM »

If they are really small and you have a plastic safari style bee suit hat that Danant sells with a long horizontal vents on the top be careful if they get mad.  Their abdomens can fit inside the hat and if you are a fat head like me, they can reach the sides of your head.  Took 11 stings to the side of the head during a late summer cut out. 

Whooeee!  That doesn't sound like fun at all.  You bring up a good point, though.  Smaller bees can fit in smaller holes, like the ones in my jeans, or if I'm not careful to zip my veil (fencing style) all the way shut.  I already installed a tab of extra fabric behind the end of the zipper, because it didn't seal as well as I would want if I had angry bees coming after me.  I try not to make the girls angry, but you never know.  Thanks for the heads up.
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